Ways to help keep Santa Clarita a safe city

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies investigate a recent robbery by a suspect who was released from jail hours earlier, and then re-arrested by deputies a short time later. PHOTO BY BOBBY BLOCK / THE SIGNAL
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The city of Santa Clarita has worked with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station to keep its residents as safe as possible, even gaining national recognition in the FBI’s ranking of safest cities for its low crime rate.

However, despite the efforts of deputies and city officials however, everyday there are reports of property crimes, whether it’s from organized crime or random targeting by criminals.

Recently, in fact, a sergeant with the Major Crimes Bureau recently warned about an international crew of Chilean thieves who’ve been targeting cities throughout the world with a plan that’s proven hard for law enforcement officials to counter: An organized criminal organization in Chile has groups of thieves who come here on a temporary visa, steal from people’s cars and houses and then, if they get caught and arrested, they leave the country before facing justice, frustrating any efforts to make them accountable for their alleged crimes.

What’s even more frustrating for residents is that the Chilean thieves are organized and target locations where the residents have a false sense of security, like when they recently pulled up next to a gated community by a golf course in Stevenson Ranch, posing as a landscaping crew, and then stole from a number of homes.

Despite criminals’ organized and brazen targeting, there are things that people can do to make themselves less likely to be targeted, according to Sgt. Mike Maher, who works with the Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Bureau, which investigates serial residential and commercial burglars. The city also has a number of new ways to try and help residents be as safe as possible.

Securing valuables

For weeks, SCV Sheriff’s Station officials have seen an uptick in property crimes, particularly with respect to catalytic converters.

This part found on the undercarriage of nearly every car usually has a valuable metal inside that thieves can steal and then re-sell. These types of thefts are reportedly up about 400% this year, so in an effort to combat these thefts, the city is suggesting that people have their catalytic converters engraved with their license plate.

While this may not prevent thefts, sheriff’s deputies recently served four search warrants at four different locations, which resulted in 19 individuals being arrested, $750,000 in materials collected and about 250 catalytic converters recovered. An engraving would not only discourage theft, but in that operation, it also would help the owner recover their converter if it’s stolen. 

Sheriff’s deputies released the following tips for residents to help prevent you from becoming a victim of theft:

Park in well-lit areas with surveillance cameras

Weld the bolts on your catalytic converter shut

Engrave or etch the license plate number onto your catalytic converter

Always report suspicious activity — if you see something, say something

Friends in the neighborhood

Another step Maher noted, which can be invaluable, not just for your safety and piece of mind, but also to help investigators, is to make friends with your neighbors. 

While more and more people are keeping up on social media groups oin order to watch crime news, share alerts or just find out what’s going on, there’s no real substitute for having a neighborhood where people look out for each other, Maher said.

While you don’t necessarily need to have a neighborhood watch, it can only help to have a neighbor you can trust to ask to keep an eye on the outside of your property while you’re on vacation. It’s also a great idea to have a Ring doorbell camera, which is a home security device that films anyone who approaches your doorstep. The city is such a strong supporter in fact that the city has offered several rebates in order to encourage people to buy them.

Staying alert, know your surroundings

Catalytic converter thefts are not the only type of crimes to be careful of, and officials also are always reminding people of scenarios in which they should be especially careful so that they don’t make themselves more likely to be a target for criminals.

Aliong those lines, the city created the #9pmRoutine hashtag, as part of its effort to remind people to lock their homes, garages and cars up, making sure they’re as difficult to get into as possible for would-be thieves. As Maher points out, cameras are great to have, and it’s vital to share any footage you might get after a crime with detectives — but at that point, there’s already been items stolen.

The city’s latest version of that is its “Guard that Auto” campaign, which is a play on the extremely popular video game “Grand Theft Auto,” to encourage people to: keep car keys inside the home and out of the car; keep vehicles safe by parking in well-lit areas; keep vehicles safe by using a theft-protection device (another of the city’s past rebate programs encouraged car owners to buy a club; keep a spare key on hand, not in a car that can be stolen; and keep valuables out of vehicles.

Change your routine

There are a few more crucial tips that, if heeded, might prevent a number of crimes that deputies frequently have to investigate.

First and foremost, being aware of your surroundings is probably the No. 1 way to decrease your odds of becoming a victim. It’s probably not a good idea to use an ATM if the parking lot is not well-lit and there’s no one around and you’re alone late at night, for example. Similarly, if you’re meeting a stranger to complete any type of online transaction, the Sheriff’s Station has a safe place where you can meet someone, which also has cameras, for your safety.

Another important thing to remember: If you see something, say something.

If you have any information about a crime, you can contact the Sheriff’s Station at (661) 255-1121. Anonymous tips can also be submitted through “LA Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or on www.LACrimeStoppers.org. 

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