Several cities and counties in the San Francisco Bay area have been experiencing a sharp increase in property theft in recent years. Although a handful of cities have encouraging news to report, most in the region have cause for concern, with increases in burglary up almost 43% in Oakland, more than 23% in San Jose and a whopping 63.8% for Gilroy, according to this article.
Property crime in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda and San Francisco counties jumped by a combined average of 17.5 percent from 2011 to 2012, totaling 261,207 incidents over the past two years, according to data collected by this the Bay Area News Group. In 2012, that amounted to one property crime in the five-county area every four minutes — and it is continuing to surge in the first few months of this year.
Budget Cuts May Be to Blame
As residents have fretted and seethed, law enforcement officials and criminal justice experts have debated the cause. Many point to police budget cuts, which have forced strapped departments to focus on battling higher-profile or violent crimes. A number of police chiefs also blame the state’s efforts to reduce prison overcrowding by sending felons to local jails, where they serve shorter sentences and get back on the streets faster. However, no comprehensive data is available to prove the chiefs’ theory.
The Habits of Burglars
Dolores Bojorquez, of Campbell, drove to the store to do some grocery shopping one morning this past fall. When she returned home an hour later, she found that thieves had climbed in through the kitchen window of her locked house and taken at least $10,000 in jewelry — including her wedding ring — as well as two new TVs.
While jewelry, cash, and any small, valuable item holds special appeal for burglars, we’ve also seen many reports on burglars making off with the family pet. As Dolores from the article says, often the treasures you lose to burglary “can’t be replaced.”
The shocking burglaries spike in Oakland, in particular, generated another article, focusing on problems in that city’s police department.
The Oakland Police Department has been so ineffectively structured that only one part-time investigator was assigned to handle 10,000 reported burglaries last year, a stunning deficiency revealed Thursday [May 9] by police consultants hired by the city to develop a crime-fighting plan.
… because of low officer staffing, the Police Department has said it cannot respond to burglaries that are not in progress. The combination has infuriated many residents, who have believed that the inadequate police response has contributed to the rise of burglaries.
I bolded one phrase in the quote above, because it highlights an important point: the police will respond if the burglary is in progress. And how do they know it’s in progress? It’s likely that the home has an alarm system. We know for a fact that alarm systems are an effective deterrent to burglary. You probably already know the stat: burglars are three times less likely to target a home that’s protected with a security system. But if the thief gets bold – or desperate, as many are when motivated by drugs – the police will receive almost instant notification of the crime in progress if you have an alarm system. Of course, you must remember to arm that system.
In these days of rampant budget cuts, it’s more likely than ever that your city could experience the same frightening crime spike that these Northern California towns are seeing. The problem is certainly not exclusive to that region; just last month I reported on a similar problem in Deerfield, IL. FrontPoint frequently publishes lists of security tips, such as this one citing the Top 10 Things Burglars Avoid. The couple minutes you spend reviewing these tips may be a very worthwhile investment.
And besides reminders like lock your door or arm your alarm system, we must also point out that the cops will never know you’re in trouble if they don’t get the message. Unless you have a safe cellular alarm system, like the one from FrontPoint, you can’t count on the alarm signal to reach its destination. Crooks are getting craftier these days, and have learned their way around the vulnerable landline-based systems. Luckily, FrontPoint’s wireless, interactive system is even smarter. Maybe that’s why FrontPoint is ranked #1 more often than any other security provider.