While the fact that violent crimes were seven percent higher and property crimes four percent greater in the Fallbrook area for the first half of 2012, compared to the same time frame last year, isn’t a good thing, it should be noted that they are lower than the respective nine percent and eight percent increases found in the countywide average. The new data, detailed in the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) report, Crime in the San Diego Region Mid-Year 2012 Statistics, released Aug. 29, is recorded for each community countywide.
“The six-month crime report is really a snapshot,” explained Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Bouvet. “There has been a little increase in crime, but during the first six months (of 2012), we had some series of crimes that caused numbers to spike and in the next six-month period, those numbers should drop, since we now have a lot of people in custody relating to those crimes.”
Violent crime numbers in Fallbrook January through June 2012 included one homicide, four rapes, nine robberies, and 61 aggravated assaults. Numbers in all categories except aggravated assault were the same or lower than the previous year. Mid-year 2011, there were 51 aggravated assaults recorded, which meant an increase of 19.6 percent was realized this year.
Bouvet said cases of aggravated assault are one of the most difficult categories to effect change in for law enforcement.
“The reason for that is that almost two-thirds of the reported aggravated assaults are related to domestic violence and those numbers fluctuate depending on different factors,” he said. “That is the case countywide and it is not something that can be prevented by extra street patrols.”
Property crimes recorded in Fallbrook January through June 2012 included 64 residential burglaries, 39 non-residential burglaries, 93 reports of larceny over $400, 122 cases of larceny under $400, and 40 vehicle thefts. No cases of arson were recorded for this time frame. Categorical increases in property crimes over mid-year 2011 numbers were: residential burglary (12 percent), non-residential burglary (30 percent), larceny over $400 (2 percent), and vehicle theft (48 percent).
Bouvet said there is a significant correlation between property crimes and drug use.
“Drug use always creates theft and property crimes, because drug users usually have to steal at some time to support their habit; we definitely have those situations up here; every community does,” he said.
While some crimes may be unpreventable, Sheriff’s Dept. crime prevention specialist John McLelland said there are key things residents can do to help protect themselves from loss.
In discussing residential burglaries, McLelland said, “Generally speaking, ease of accessibility invites a burglar.” He explained that often means a window left open, a ladder left visible near a house that can be used by a burglar to gain entry through a high window, or “easy picking” locks.
“Lock those windows and doors when you leave, even if the weather is roasting hot,” he added. “Also, if it appears that no one is home, the house is inviting to a burglar. I advise leaving a radio on that is tuned in to a talk show station and anything else that would make a house look occupied,” said McLelland.
Vehicle burglaries, in many cases, are also crimes of opportunity. Situations that invite a thief are unlocked vehicles and valuables that are left visible when looking in the windows.
“No one has a 100 percent clean car, but the more you put away out of sight, the less targets you are leaving out to entice a burglar,” said McLelland. “It is also important to roll up the windows and lock the doors when leaving a vehicle; so many people don’t take the time to do that.”
Bouvet said his staff has ramped up interaction with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in addressing some problems that have led to vehicle burglaries.
“We are working with Camp Pendleton sources to let the military personnel know they should not keep duty gear visible in their car when they park it somewhere; some of that stuff is very expensive and can be sold on the open market for good money,” said Bouvet.
While the Sheriff’s Dept. adjusts their methods to fight crimes as different trends present themselves, McLelland said residents can also make an effective difference in how safe a community is.
“I recommend that residents be proactive in every facet of their life, not paranoid, but proactive,” he said. “Also, they should feel comfortable getting the Sheriff’s Dept. involved. The Sheriff’s Dept. can’t help people if they haven’t been notified.”
McLelland said it is vital to report all crime, but also encourages residents to “call the department when something just doesn’t look right because that call can prevent a crime from happening,” he said.
“The greatest thing a citizen can do is be a great pair of eyes and ears in the community,” said Bouvet. “When you have a gut feeling, there’s a good chance it’s right.”
“We would rather that people call us with what they have observed and give us a chance to investigate the situation,” he said.