LA County Sheriff 2021 reports: crime up 17.5 percent in Malibu, nine deaths on PCH

The Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station in Agoura Hills. Photo by Samantha Bravo.

The 2021 report from the LA County Sheriff’s Office, on the agenda of Feb. 7, Public Safety Commission meeting, indicated some startling increases and decreases in Malibu crime compared to 2020— particularly when it comes to “grand theft auto.” In the pre-pandemic year of 2019, there were 23 car thefts in Malibu. In the pandemic year of 2020, there were 19. In 2021, that number tripled to 60. (“Grand theft auto” includes the theft of any car worth over $950 and may result in a felony conviction.)

Simple assaults almost doubled—from 16 in 2019 and 22 in 2020 up to 40 in 2021. Burglary of locked vehicles increased; from 93 incidents in 2020 up to 112 incidents in 2021; however, it’s still not back up to the level of the pre-pandemic year of 2019, when there were 156 burglaries of locked vehicles. In addition, grand theft (property worth over $950) increased from 44 cases in 2020 to 53 cases in 2021—back to the pre-pandemic level of 50 in 2019.

There was also some good news—residential burglaries were down by almost half, with 40 incidents in 2019 and 45 incidents in 2020, decreasing to 25 incidents in 2021. 

Lt. Chad Watters from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station is now designated as the official liaison to the City of Malibu. He takes over for Lt. Jim Braden, who is reportedly experiencing health issues.

Watters reported there had been nine fatalities on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu in 2021, including one suicide, seven homeless individuals, and one construction worker. There were three fatalities in each of the two previous years. He hopes that ongoing work to get housing for the homeless will decrease the 2021 number.

Sadly, there has already been one pedestrian fatality on PCH so far this year. Last week, in front of Moonshadows Restaurant, a female in her 40s going to dinner was struck and killed by a motorist. The driver was not cited. Similarly, another female pedestrian was struck and killed by a limousine in front of Moonshadows back in 2013.

Watters implored the City to look into doing something, like putting up signage at Moonshadows, and Public Works Director Rob DuBoux said he’s already coordinating with Caltrans to get something done.

The Sheriff’s department is still taking an aggressive stance against RVs and other camping vehicles parked illegally overnight in Malibu, writing 40 to 50 citations per week for the past few months. One RV was towed.

In other actions, Watters wants to hold more “Coffee and a Cop” events in town. He also spoke to Caltrans about possible safety measures during Southern California Edison’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs to include battery-powered flashing red lights at intersections.

Public Safety Commission Chair Chris Frost told Watters there’s concern about street racing and street takeover incidents that took place in Malibu recently; Watters said LASD is meeting with LAPD next week to coordinate action on these issues.

Frost also informed the group that an increasing number of semis (18-wheelers) and car haulers are driving illegally through Malibu, but they are being ticketed.

Public Safety Manager Susan Duenas and her department set a long list of goals to achieve in 2022. Near the top of the list is applying for grants to help residents defray the expenses of hardening their homes against fire. She’s hoping to get rebates of up to $5,000 to individual homeowners for implementing the home hardening recommendations they get from the City.

Because so much attention has been paid to fire preparedness since the Woolsey Fire, Duenas wants to get back to also looking at earthquake preparedness. Her goal is to do an assessment of “soft story structures” in Malibu this year and determine whether any retrofitting is needed. (These are multi-story buildings with a weak first floor, like a garage, that can’t carry the weight of the upper stories in an earthquake.) 

She also wants her staff to get out into the community on a weekly basis driving specially marked “Community Public Safety” cars, doing field checks of problem safety areas and PCH issues.