‘Lock It, Keep It’ | Police Department Warns of Rise in Car Thefts

South Pasadena police officials remind residents to lock vehicle doors and remove all valuables from their cars

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Chief Joe Ortiz of the South Pasadena Police Department

A warning is going out to South Pasadena residents from the South Pasadena Police Department officials following a rash of car break-ins over the past week.

Thirteen thefts from unlocked vehicles were reported, noted South Pasadena Crime Prevention Officer Richard Lee, who stressed the importance of locking doors and concealing or removing items inside. “Thieves walk down the street looking into vehicles and randomly pull on door handles,” he said.

South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz added the theft of a person’s property “during these uncertain times, is troubling.”

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Why the increase in car thefts? “Many people are home and facing difficult health and financial issues,” explained the police chief. “These types of crimes are unacceptable in South Pasadena and the police department has dedicated all of our available resources to prevent and catch those who think they can prey on our community.”

Under the current circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ortiz said a significant number of people are “facing some type of financial or psychological stressors,” he added, talking about the rise in car burglaries. “More people are home, which means more cars are parked on the streets. A majority of these thefts occurred from unlocked vehicles, where valuables were left in plain sight. Thefts such as these are crimes of opportunity and the police department encourages residents to lock their cars and to ensure valuables are not left inside.”

Ortiz says theft prevention starts before individuals leave their vehicle. “There are several simple tips residents can take to keep their cars safe from intruders,” he explained. “Park in well-lit areas. The last thing a thief wants is to be seen or filmed with a cellular telephone. Ensure the car windows are rolled up and doors are locked, making it harder for someone to enter.”

He stressed the importance of not leaving valuables inside a vehicle, saying: “If you have no choice, make sure that they are out of sight. If you have a car alarm, be sure to turn it on when you leave.”

Ortiz stressed the best prevention from car thefts is an engaged community. “Get to know your neighbors and keep an eye on each other,” he said. “Nobody knows a neighborhood better than those that live there. If you see someone suspicious, call the police. We are happy to come out and investigate.”

With the upswing in vehicle thefts, Ortiz wants to assure residents “South Pasadena is an exceptionally safe city,” he said. “However, that does not mean we should not take precautions to protect our families and property. The police department is extremely proactive in preventing crimes and has one to two minute response time for emergency calls. However, we cannot be everywhere at once. We depend on our partnership with the community to help. Engaged communities that know their neighbors and participate in prevention programs, such as Neighborhood Watch, are statistically safer and have less crime. We encourage residents to call the police if you see anything suspicious.”

Local police officials say the city has experienced a rise in gardening equipment thefts from gardeners as well. “Usually when the gardener is working in your backyard, the suspects drive up and take lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed whackers from their truck,” said Lee.

“We are happy to answer any questions, provide tips, or conduct sight inspections,” said Ortiz, adding he’s pleased to pass along information about the department’s Neighborhood Watch Program. “We are happy to provide resources and contacts for your area.”

Community members with questions or concerns regarding crime or safety in neighborhoods are urged to contact the South Pasadena at (626) 403-7297.