Part one crimes in the Toppanga area are down overall, reported Capt. Tom Brascia of the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga Community Police Station at an area town hall meeting Thursday. He did warn those in attendance, however, of specific crime trends.
Part one crimes are what community members might consider the major crime concerns and include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and auto theft. Overall, as of the end of September, violent crimes are down 13 percent over last year and down 37 percent over 2010, Brascia reported. The captain also said property crimes are down three percent from last year and down 12 percent from 2010.
"Crime in Topanga—this is our world—we're doing really, really well," Brascia said. "We work really hard to drive those numbers down, but it's getting increasingly more difficult . . . I think most of you are aware, every year for the last nine years, the Los Angeles Police Department has been able to reduce crime a little more, a little more, a little more."
Though some specific crimes saw a huge jump in percentages—like homicides, which has jumped 300 percent so far over last year—Bracia said to keep in mind when you're dealing with small numbers, any actual increase makes for a huge increase in percentages.
"Don't panic when you see the homicide number. Percentages are usually higher when the hard number is small. We are up 300 percent because we had four homicides vs. one for the year previously," he said. "All four of those have been solved and all four suspects are in custody."
Rape, auto theft and thefts from vehicles have gone up as well. The number of rapes has increased by 29 percent, auto thefts by 12 percent and thefts from vehicles by one percent. Robbery has dropped by 17 percent, aggravated assault dropped 16 percent and burglary dropped 10 percent.
Brascia also explained the rapes in the Topanga area have mostly been acquaintance rape, as opposed to stranger rape.
"And the common denominator usually is alcohol or drugs," he added.
Though thefts dropped overall, Brascia warned of two particular crime trends currently causing concern for the department.
One is a serial robber who had struck at a Starbucks as recently as the night before the station's town hall meeting. The suspect hits businesses at around closing times, coming in just as a coffee shop or restaurant is about to shut down for the night, convincing employees to let him in for one last sale. Brascia described him as a five-foot, four inch African-American in his early 30s weighing about 130 pounds and wearing dark framed glasses. The captain said, once inside, the man simulates having a hand gun. The suspect has struck at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and a Subway restaurant in addition to the Starbucks.
The other trend against which the station officers are warning are "third-row robberies" and involve people breaking into SUVs—usually by drilling into locks, Brascia said—and stealing the third-row seats. The thefts are occurring, especially, in shopping center parking lots and witnesses might not even realize a crime is being committed because it happens so quickly and the suspects appear to be vehicle owners just doing something in the back of their SUVs. Police suggest using a bicycle-style cable lock to secure the third-row seat in your vehicle and even posting a notice on the car that the seat has been secured (to avoid the damage of a break in).
Finally, Brascia said, if you suspect any criminal activity, even if it's just something that seems suspect that you're not sure about, call 911. He said the police department needs residents' help in keeping the community safe, a theme repeated throughout the meeting.
"There's only one way we can continue to lower crime. How is that? I need your help. It's very basic. You know your neighborhood better than I do," he said. "Let us know . . . even above that, it's participation with the police department . . . my challenge to you is be partners with us."