Improving Public Safety

I’ve asked that the Council discuss ways of improving public safety with our police chief, Greg Rothaus, in light of the recent uptick in home and car burglaries. It’s been scheduled for the February 8, 2016 Council meeting.

At that meeting I plan on introducing a number of ideas. Because you can never have enough good ideas, I’d also appreciate hearing your thoughts as well. You can email them to me at, or simply leave them as a comment to this post.

Here’s my list. It’s a mix of steps that both the city and residents and businesses can take. Because, as every law enforcement expert I’ve talked to has said, making a community safer from burglaries requires both law enforcement and an alert, engaged community. Neither party can do it alone.

In no particular order…

Title Description/Comments
Supplemental Law Enforcement Resources Additional funds which the Chief could spend as he sees fit so as to take action faster than would be possible with the traditional annual budget cycle or special Council request.
Home Construction Safety Home construction site burglaries are a rapidly growing problem in the Peninsula. The typical construction site, even if locked at night, is relatively easy to get into. Since typically no one is living on the site, burglars don’t have to worry about evading homeowners.

This would involve amending our building code to require all projects above a certain size (or perhaps all projects where no one is living on site) to implement an acceptable form of monitored security system. This would create a deterrent, notify the police if there was a break-in, and possibly provide photographic evidence which could be used to track down burglars.

New Home Protection The building code contains many elements which improve the health and safety of our community over the long term (e.g., roof clips to guard against rarely-occurring hurricanes or tornadoes). This idea would build on that concept, and set minimum required standards for a monitored security system that aids law enforcement in identifying and prosecuting burglars (e.g., through high resolution video or photographic surveillance).
Surveillance Grant Program Burglar alarms provide some protection, but nowadays most burglars know how to counter them by getting into and out of a home faster than the police can get there after the alarm is tripped. However, alarms which include high resolution video or photographic monitoring are a different matter. Such systems pose a greater risk to burglars because they increase identification, capture and conviction rates. They have also come down in price significantly in recent years.

This idea would look to encourage homeowners to install systems with useful surveillance capabilities by subsidizing the purchase and installation cost. People who have already installed such systems could also apply.

Simple Security Grant Program Burglars prefer to break into homes from the sides or rear, so they are not visible while doing so. A home can be made a less attractive target by putting locks on gates, because then burglars have to climb over or knock down fencing to gain privacy. They generally won’t do that.

This grant program would set aside funds to help subsidize the cost of purchasing and installing these kinds of simple security measures.

Tracking of Burglaries The City’s website would provide information on burglaries within San Carlos. The information provided would be limited as necessary, at least temporarily, in order to increase the chance of catching and prosecuting criminals.

Details to be provided could include:

  • the nature of the burglary (e.g., construction site vs occupied home);
  • when it took place (e.g., time of day, whether it was during a vacation absence);
  • the security measures that were in place (e.g., alarm, gate locks)
  • initial response time by law enforcement
  • status of investigation (and contact information for tips/leads)
  • information on suspects
Building the Community Safety Team One of the oddities about the relationship between law enforcement and the community it serves is that many people hesitate to contact the police with information unless they think it’s “vital”. People who have contacted the police about issues sometimes wonder whether anything was done as a result.

We could encourage a closer, and more effective, relationship between residents and law enforcement by making it easier to provide information, tips, leads, ideas, and to request follow-up information. Given Chief Rothaus’ commitment to being open to talk to anyone this would be relatively easy to do, by creating a special section on the City website. We could also set up systems so that people could tweet, message or email information, or pictures they’ve taken (e.g., that SUV that always speeds past your house at 3:45 PM) more easily to law enforcement.

2 thoughts on “Improving Public Safety”

  1. Vishal Verma

    These are great ideas and I’m glad the city council is getting involved. I would also like to add the license plate readers – seems like they aren’t that expensive and if the police think they are effective, we should get more, both mobile and fixed.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Good point about the license plate readers, Vishal. They aren’t a panacea, but then again, no one thing is. Thanks for suggesting them.

    – Mark

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