The Los Angeles Police Department cautioned tourists and visitors to Griffith Park to beware of auto burglars who are targeting vehicles with valuables left in plain sight.
In a news conference on Aug. 23, Capt. Gary Walters, commanding officer of patrol operations for the LAPD’s Northeast Division, said the message is “lock it, hide it, keep it.”
“Car thieves are targeting the most popular areas of the park. Be safe. Lock your cars, hide your valuables,” Walters said. “Do not leave credit cards, IDs or passports in your vehicle. If you see something, say something, and together we can all be safe and enjoy everything that Griffith Park has to offer.”
Detective Mike Ventura, supervisor of the Northeast Division’s auto burglary unit, attributed an increase in break-ins to the park being a “target-rich environment.” More tourists have been coming to places like Griffith Park this year as the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, and thieves know it, Ventura added. From Jan. 1 through Aug. 23, police have recorded 121 auto break-ins in Griffith Park, with 63, or more than 50%, occurring from May through August.
“During the summer months, when people come here, the thieves come too. Since the leveling out of COVID, some of our property crimes have increased,” he added. “They know what they are looking for, things like purses, handbags, wallets, laptops and electronic devices. Leave those in the hotel room or the Airbnb, or in the trunk. Having something like this happen can ruin your vacation.”
The auto burglaries have been occurring in all portions of the park, including near the Griffith Observatory, Fern Dell, Crystal Springs Drive and Travel Town. Ventura said they are crimes of opportunity that involve both local perpetrators and suspects from out of town. Officers have previously arrested suspects from the Bay Area who came to Los Angeles to commit burglaries, and they continue to work with the city of San Francisco and Oakland to identify potential suspects. Ventura said license-plate reading cameras are strategically located throughout the park and have previously helped identify vehicles driven by suspects involved in the burglaries.
“We continue to use the cameras to solve crimes,” Ventura said. “We use license-plate reading cameras to see what cars are traveling through these canyons.”
Ventura said the suspects frequently target rental cars and vehicles with out of state license plates. In addition to hiding valuables, he advised people to avoid parking in secluded areas and to look for people acting suspiciously.
“We are here to try to reduce these incidents of crime in Griffith Park,” Ventura added. “We want people to know that we’re here for the users of Griffith Park and we want to make sure everybody is safe.”
Authorities also highlighted the LAPD’s Citizen Volunteer Patrol, which is comprised of volunteers who drive and walk through the park and serve as a liaison between the public and law enforcement. Volunteers receive training on police protocols and how to use radios, but are unarmed and are not involved with responding to crimes.
Anyone seeking information about volunteering with the Citizen Patrol in Griffith Park is encouraged to call (323)561-3218.
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