Property theft and auto theft are on the rise in Golden Hills, say the Kern County Sheriff's Office.
Local residents gathered Tuesday evening at the Golden Hills Community Services District to get the latest information on crime statistics and prevention, including the Neighborhood Watch program, presented by the Kern County Sheriff Crime Prevention Unit.
Crime Prevention Specialist Elvie Martinez said the purpose of the unit is to give presentations to the public and explain the benefits of having a Neighborhood Watch program.
"Crime is like those roaches that you can't get rid of... it needs preventive measures. You have to 'spray' and stay on top of it. If you let it go, that's when it invades," said Martinez.
Martinez went on to say that is up to the residents of each neighborhood to band together and protect themselves and their personal property by communicating with each other and basically watching each others' backs.
According to Martinez, all crime has a triangle of components: a victim, a criminal's desire and opportunity.
"There is nothing we can do about taking away a criminal's desire, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but we can take away the opportunity. That's what Neighborhood Watch is — taking away the opportunity," she said.
With the passing of AB 109 and propositions 47 and 57, Martinez said, law enforcement hands have since been tied in preventing the "revolving door" of arrested offenders.
According to Sgt. Mike Dorkin of the Kern County Sheriff's Office, offenders who once served several months of jail time for certain crimes are now "back on the street before the report is done" due to voters passing the aforementioned laws.
With less to deter criminal behavior, the number of incidents have subsequently been on the rise.
"Neighborhood Watch is the way to go to protect what is ours," Martinez said.
To set up a Neighborhood Watch in your area, residents should first form a group on their street. The Crime Prevention Unit is available for in-home presentations.
Next, find someone willing to serve as block captain or co-captains. Report any and all crime to law enforcement, even it seems insignificant, by phoning 911 for emergencies or 861-3110 for non-life threatening situations. Those who prefer to make a report online can to do so by visiting kernsheriff.org. The KCSO report desk can be reached by calling 391-7471.
"We need everyone's eyes looking out for us," Dorkin said.
Residents should be vigilant of suspicious activity, including:
• A person running from a car or home;
• A person screaming;
• A person going door-to-door in the neighborhood;
• A person looking into windows and parked cars;
• A person loitering around the neighborhood;
• A person asking for past residents;
• Unusual or suspicious noises that you cannot explain;
• Vehicles moving slowly without lights or any apparent destination;
• Business transactions conducted from a vehicle. This could involve the sale of drugs or stolen goods;
• Offers of merchandise available for low prices, which may be stolen;
• A person removing property from a closed business or unoccupied home;
• A stranger entering a neighbor's home when it appears to be unoccupied; and
• A child resisting the advances of an adult.
"Anything you see that is suspicious, go ahead and call it in," Martinez said. "It's helping us help you because we don't live where you live and we don't know what is supposed to be there and not be there… Our stats are driven by reports. If you don't call in, there was no crime."
Martinez went on to offer the following home security tips:
• Lock all gates to side and backyards;
• Keep bushes and trees neatly landscaped;
• Use good door locks with deadbolts;
• Install a peephole;
• Secure sliding doors and windows with broomstick, dowels or lock devices;
• Keep your property well lit; and
• Secure your garage door and don't leave it open during the day.
"It's these layers of protection that keeps your property safe," said Martinez.
Residents are also advised to register their security cameras online at kernsheriff.org.
Dorkin emphasized the importance of engraving your personal property.
"It's the only sure way to return it to its owner after recovery," said Dorkin.
The Sheriff's Crime Prevention Unit can be reached by calling 391-7550. Code Compliance can be reached at 1-800-522-KERN. Narcotics Hotline is 392-6003. Secret witness is 322-4040.