There’s been a rash of burglaries in Ocean Beach. During a roughly three-week period between Christmas and mid-January, eight residences or cars were broken into, with victims reporting their belongings riffled through or stolen.
But when they’ve taken reports, it turns out the crimes were probably preventable. Police have been quite baffled at the seemingly lax attitude from victims that has allowed the thief to be successful.
“We ask (the victim), ‘How did they break in?’ And the response is, ‘They opened the door,’” Surwilo said to the standing-room-only crowd during the monthly public meeting of the Ocean Beach Town Council on Jan. 28.
It was the largest crowd in recent memory – also due to the first visit by District 2 City Councilmember Lorie Zapf – with more than 160 citizens taking every seat available at the Point Loma Masonic Lodge No. 620 and even lining the walls and spilling into the rear exit.
The crimes bear similar circumstances, Surwilo said. They’ve occurred roughly between 3 and 5 a.m. and have resulted in the loss of readily available valuables: laptops, visible money and small items.
Not having to break in with the use of force, the thief enters and exits quickly through open windows and unlocked doors, Surwilo said.
Police have called in extra resources to catch the thief and help citizens avoid becoming victims. The squad that services the entire division during the peak crime hours of 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. has been temporarily deployed to Ocean Beach, Surwilo said.
The squad, known as the division’s Crime Suppression Team, is lead by Sgt. Romeo De Los Reyes. Its members will work foot patrols in the areas hit by the crimes, especially Spray Street, where the thief has struck more than once.
“They’ll be going around contacting anyone they can: in the street, in the alleys, or just out in general,” Surwilo said.
The squad has also been on the lookout for residences with obvious vulnerabilities – even to the point of waking people up when they note things like open doors and windows.
Surwilo warned against becoming complacent when it comes to crime prevention in laid-back OB.
“You live in an urban environment. You have to lock and secure your homes.” Surwilo said. “You can’t believe what (police) are observing.”
Surwilo, who is active on social media and has posted recent alerts on a site dedicated to Ocean Beach hosted by NextDoor, said he’s aware of demands for a higher police presence. Given budget constraints, it’s not likely, he said.
“How? We don’t have the staffing,” he said.
Despite the recent burglaries, crime doesn’t appear to be increasing in Ocean Beach. Surwilo brought data indicating burglaries and car prowls are occurring at a normal rate in the 614 neighborhood – the area that roughly makes up Ocean Beach.
Next month, the board of directors will present information on forming neighborhood watches, Town Council President Gretchen Newsom said. The meeting will take place 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Point Loma Masonic Lodge No. 620, 1711 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
In other Town Council news:
nLorie Zapf, who two months ago replaced Ed Harris on the San Diego City Council representing Ocean Beach and the rest of District 2, made her first visit to a Town Council meeting.
Zapf, who handily beat Sarah Boot and two other opponents in last year’s election, asked citizens to list their priorities for the upcoming budget. She said she favors an expanded library and a new lifeguard station in Ocean Beach and listed those priorities in a recent budget memo.
nReasoning that nothing goes together better than public libraries and Dr. Seuss, supporters of an expanded Ocean Beach library showed up dressed like the Cat in the Hat to make their case to Zapf directly.
“The time has come to bring the library into the 21st century,” said Judy Collier, president of OB Friends of the Library, noting the library turns 100 next year. The group was “cheered like rock stars” when they marched in last year’s Christmas parade, she said.
nMore than $2,000 was collected from businesses that hosted receptacles for the Town Council’s annual Food and Toy Drive over the holiday season, recording secretary Marin Green said. Some 90 families and seniors benefited from the community’s generosity, she added.