Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


Pass or Fail? LAPD Grades Drivers to Educate Them about Car Break-In Prevention

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

The LAPD faxed a copy to LAist | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist

The LAPD faxed a copy to LAist | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist
Through last week, there have been close to 18,000 reported car break ins within Los Angeles city limits, making it the city's most often-committed property crime. For someone involved in their community, this is not news. Officers at community meetings often sound like a broken record, telling residents to not leave stuff in the parked car, or, at the very least, not visible. "Lock it, hide it, keep it," is one slogan the department uses. In Sherman Oaks, Senior Lead Officer George Aguilar a couple years ago developed a campaign called "Leave It, Lose It."

Now in the Panorama City, officers are trying a new and very proactive technique. After a spike in burglary theft from vehicles, Lt. Mario Muñoz, who leads a safer cities initiative unit in a small square area of the Valley community, developed the "Vehicle Inspection Notice."

It's not a ticket, nor are any records kept; it's purely an outreach and education tool. On Tuesday, his unit headed up by Officer Kelli Pickart and a group of police cadets headed to the parking lots of 24 Hour Fitness and Wal-Mart. "We walked through the parking lot, looked into cars, thinking, 'if I was a bad guy, what would I be looking at?'" explained Pickart. If something is seen, she says "it's like begging [a criminal] to grab it."

Support for LAist comes from

Pickart also noted that the crime is "one of the biggest and most preventiable" in Los Angeles. And as NBCLA found out in an investigative report earlier this year, it only takes seconds for a criminal to break in, take valuables and escape in another vehicle.

Once a car was inspected by Pickart and her team, they would fill out a two-sided inspection notice (once side is in English, another in Spanish). If no valuables were visible, they'd check "Passed." If stuff was seen -- Pickart said she saw cellphones, a Louie Vutton bag, and other valuables -- they'd check "Failed."

Then a subsequent box would help explain why the car failed the inspection. "Valuables inside your vehicle were clearly visible instead of being secured in the trunk," one option read. "Vehicle unlocked, unsecured or windows rolled down," another says.

The third option relates to grand theft auto: "Your vehicle Make, year and Model are among the top vehicles frequently stolen in this area. Steering Wheel Locking Device is highly recommended, but not found in your vehicle."

Pickart believes the educational outreach will help decrease the type of crime in the area.

It probably will. Once in Sherman Oaks when Senior Lead Officer Nate Banry -- he's now a Sergeant in the West Valley -- saw a neighborhood hit by multiple car break-ins over a period of time, he did a personal door-to-door education campaign about not leaving stuff in parked cars. After that he saw the crime trend dissipate.

It's just like Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."