This post was updated Nov. 20 at 9:07 a.m.
Thefts in Westwood Village have been on the rise in recent weeks, despite a decrease in other crimes, according to a senior lead Los Angeles police officer.
Officer Christopher Ragsdale broke the news to the North Westwood Neighborhood Council during its monthly meeting Nov. 6. Although crimes such as retail thefts, shoplifting thefts and personal thefts were up, other crimes were in decline, he said.
“Crimewise, we’re doing very well – significantly well. Down to every category except theft, … (that’s the) one category that we’re up. We’re up 44 crimes as of this week,” Ragsdale said. “A lot of that is … concentrated here in the Village.”
NWWNC President Michael Skiles said the council is more concerned about violent crimes, such as armed robbery and assault, than thefts. He added he was pleased to hear these numbers have gone down. However, he also acknowledged the importance of protecting property to safeguard stores from losing profits.
Despite the recent increase of theft in Westwood, Skiles said he thought the prevalence of theft has not affected the atmosphere of the neighborhood.
“I don’t think that this increase in theft, while there is a decrease in other categories, is enough to create a new climate of fear in the community,” Skiles said.
Some UCLA students’ comments supported Skiles’ assessment of the community sentiment toward theft and general safety.
Calvin Chen, a third-year mathematics of computation student, said he felt safe walking around Westwood at night.
“I have not personally experienced or seen theft, so it is not a concern for me,” he said. “I can walk around at 2 a.m. and not be worried (about) being mugged.”
Maan Alhamdan, a third-year civil and environmental engineering student, also concurred with the general opinion of safety in Westwood.
“I generally find Westwood to be safer than other places,” he said. “I feel safe living in Westwood, and I have never experienced theft living here.”
May Myat Noe Tun, a third-year cognitive science student, transferred to UCLA from a community college in the Bay Area. She said living in Westwood seemed safer to her than her experience living in San Francisco.
“It is mostly university students here, so compared to other cities where there are more of other age groups, Westwood is safer,” she said.
Skiles also pointed out a new initiative the neighborhood council has taken to increase safety in Westwood – one that increases the patrol of police cars.
“We urged the Los Angeles Police Department to send more patrols into Westwood and they did that after the month of September, which I think probably contributed to the lowering of the other categories in crime,” Skiles said.
However, Skiles said these new patrols may be less effective on stealth crimes such as theft because it is considerably more difficult for police to catch thieves in the act. Nevertheless, he added the increased frequency of patrols could help reduce theft in Westwood.
“When someone has something stolen from them and they got a suspect, then the police can be made aware of what the suspect looks like. And when they go on patrol, they can see that there is someone that matches the description of the suspect,” Skiles said. “That’s when they can go to question them, search them and detain them if necessary.”
Skiles added residents and businesses should take preventive actions to play a part in reducing thefts.
“We want to feel like we are completely safe but if we leave an opportunity, unfortunately, we are in a big city with people desperate enough to take advantage of our not being vigilant,” Skiles said.
Skiles added that residents and stores can combat theft by remembering to keep personal belongings in places that are difficult for pickpockets or thieves to access.
“So that is what we call on individuals to do – lock their car doors, their apartment doors,” Skiles said. “And of course, for stores that have a lot of thefts, some of them have gotten sensors that have alarms when they go off, some of them have security guards guarding the door – unfortunately, these things are needed to prevent loss.”