Pacifica gathers to discuss recent rise in crime

Pacifica residents meet to discuss the rise in crime.

By Marc Arguello/The Skyline View

Pacifica residents meet to discuss the rise in crime.

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Pacifica residents gathered together on April 15 to discuss the recent rise in crime afflicting their city. 

More than 60 people met at Saint Peter’s Church, including concerned locals, police officers and state officials.

“You can be the one who doesn’t allow burglars into Pacifica,” said Pacifica Police Chief Jim Saunders as he addressed the assembled group. 

Saunders said that the biggest tipoff that a homeowner can give to a potential burglar is to allow newspapers to collect in front of their house. Seeing this pile lets criminals know that no one is home. 

“They are pros.  They know what to look for,” Saunders said.

The recent spate of burglaries tended to occur during the day.  Pacifica is what is known as a bedroom community, meaning a good majority of residents live in Pacifica but go to work in another city. This means that their residences are the most vulnerable to invasion during the workday.

Saunders recommended that residents be on the lookout for suspicious individuals. He said that residents should call the police if they see suspicious individuals or believe that someone’s property might be in danger. 

“If it’s nothing, there’ll be nothing.  But if it’s a crime, than you can be the one to solve it,” Saunders said.

The meeting was organized by Pacifica resident, and Skyline student, Jim Wagner. He decided to organize the meeting after his home was burglarized, during which his motorcycle was stolen. 

“We need to be more aware and pay more attention to what goes on around ourselves,” Wagner said.

Wagner wanted to bring awareness to the community that there is a crime problem and that people should act as a community to combat it. 

The motives behind the rise in crime isn’t completely clear to police, but as a rule of thumb, harder economic times tend to bring more crime.

Captain Dave Bertini of the Pacifica Police Department, a lifelong Pacifica resident himself, said that generally, when the economy goes down, crime goes up. 

Bertini reported that since January 2009, Pacifica had suffered more than 70 motor vehicle thefts and approximately 80 burglaries. The motor vehicle thefts tended to occur more in the north side of the Pacifica, around Manor, and the outskirts of the city limits. Robberies occurred in the more residential parts of the city, which comprises the majority of Pacifica.

Bertini said that the majority of the burglaries followed the same pattern of the front door of the residence getting kicked in. Windows and back doors were also entrances. Burglars tended to focus on small, easy-to-grab valuables such as jewelry and portable electronics like laptops and game consoles.  Also, the majority of burglaries occurred in residences with an open backyard. Backyards that connected to the hills or a field offered burglars an easy escape route and a quick getaway. 

Bertini suggested that the problem is compounded by the fact that most residents simply don’t know their neighbors. Unlike past generations when it was typical for everyone in a town to know each other, today’s residents simply aren’t aware of who is who in their community.  Many crimes could have been stopped if residents were more aware of people in their neighborhood and if everyone pulled together to become more of a community.  Residents could offer to take turns watching their neighbors’ houses when the owners are away.

Bertini offered simple tips for motor vehicle theft prevention. These included taking valuables out of cars and locking them at night.  Residents were also told not leave garage door openers in cars, as burglars have stolen cars and returned later to burglarize residences through their newfound access through the garage door.

“We’re making it easy for the burglars when we leave our cars unlocked,” Bertini said.

Mary Ann Nihart, Pacifica’s mayor pro tem (vice mayor) was also in attendance during the meeting.  She provided information on what Pacifica’s government was doing to help the problem. 

The city of Pacifica will update its website to include features such as online crime reporting and a map of where crimes have been committed in the city. According to city officials, the new features should be available in a few months. 

Pacifica residents were warned that calling 911 from their cell phones connects them to Vallejo CHP, not the Pacifica Police Department. Residents were instructed to call 650-355-4151 to connect directly to local city police.