Making San Carlos Safer

This is the text of the remarks I made during Council member comments at the January 11, 2016 public meeting.

Last Wednesday evening Chief Rothaus and his staff did an excellent presentation on residential burglaries in San Carlos. I’d guess a couple of hundred residents attended. I urge everyone who couldn’t make it to watch the presentation, either on the local government cable/satellite channels or via the City’s website (http://www.cityofsancarlos.org/depts/pd/press/default.asp).

It’s natural to feel threatened when you hear a friend or neighbor has been burglarized. After all, we want to feel safe in our homes. Nowadays, thanks to social media, we can all learn about every home burglary in San Carlos, almost immediately, something which would’ve been impossible just a few years ago.

There have always been home burglaries, and, unfortunately, likely always will be. As the Chief explained, while 2015 saw more than the immediately preceding couple of years, there have been other years, within recent memory, which saw a similar number of break-ins.

That doesn’t mean we should shrug our shoulders and take no action. But it’s important to realize this has happened before. If you felt reasonably safe in San Carlos during that time, then you should not feel unsafe today.

Not overreacting is important, because there are those among us who, perhaps out of lack of experience, or because of how they view the world, will go to great lengths to try to scare us. Fear is infectious, it spreads rapidly, and it leads to bad decisions…if we choose to let it. So let’s not.

Instead, let’s get answers to our questions. Find out what has been done, and is being done, by law enforcement to deal with home burglaries. Take the time to understand why law enforcement does certain things and not others. They’re smart and talented professionals, dedicated to keeping us all safe.

Most importantly of all, though, learn what you can do to reduce the chance of having your home burglarized. The Chief was clear as to why law enforcement cannot, by itself, prevent home burglaries. For one thing, the bad guys strive to get in and out in just two or three minutes, quicker than the police can show up, even if the house has a burglar alarm.

But by taking a few steps – such as remembering to lock your doors and yard gates, working with your neighbors to report suspicious activity to the police, perhaps tweaking your landscaping to eliminate hiding places and installing an alarm system — you’ll make your home much less of a target. If enough people in San Carlos take steps, our entire community will become less of a target.

I don’t mean to imply there’s nothing more the Council can do. There are additional steps I believe the City should take. I’ve been vetting my ideas with staff, and I look forward to sharing them with my colleagues when we take up the subject in one of our next meetings.

I said earlier that I don’t believe we’ll be able to eliminate all home burglaries. But by keeping our heads, not succumbing to fear, and taking steps both individually and as a community, I’m confident we can make San Carlos even safer than it already is.

5 thoughts on “Making San Carlos Safer”

  1. We live up in the hills on Coventry Court off Crestview. As you know, there have had several burglaries in the recent months in this part of San Carlos. I hope that the City of San Carlos will please put in Security Cameras at the intersections of Coventry Court and Crestview Drive AND also at the Normandy Court and Crestview so that license plates can be photographed. Between the installation of these cameras and signs warning potential burglars that they are in place, I feel the City would be doing the right thing to protect us. We have lived in this house for 35 yrs and until now have always felt safe….no longer do we feel safe. We pay tax money every year and hope you’ll use some of it to keep those of us up on the Hill safe….PLEASE….
    Thank you.

    1. Barbara,

      License plate readers are a useful investigatory tool, but they aren’t a panacea, for a number of reasons. In addition, they can create an “invasion of privacy” issue because they monitor everyone’s comings and goings, not just criminals. That said, they definitely have a role to play, and I’ve asked the Chief to consider what additional locations we should cover with them.

      – Mark

  2. Michael Taylor

    My name is Michael Taylor and I think there is definitely something more the Sheriffs can do. Like making more of a presence around town. When we had our own police force, I would see at least one officer come down my street a day. Now, I may see one officer come down my street a week or two. Not good enough. Then, when they do come down my street, it’s in a car that looks like it’s from the 70’s. It’s also driven by an officer that looks like he belongs in the 70s. We need the presence like we had with our own police force. We also need to have alarm systems and camera systems in our house. You cannot just rely on the police. We also need to be watching out for our neighbors.

  3. Michael,

    When I joined the Council in 2011 I was curious about the impact on policing of the city’s decision to outsource its police function (the decision to do so had come before my election). In looking into it, I learned that by all the important metrics — the most important one being what I call “boots on the ground”, the amount of time law enforcement personnel are actually out in the community doing policing work rather than attending to administrative work — we are getting more enforcement than we had with our own police department.

    That’s mostly due to what in the business world would be called economies of scale. As part of that we also get access to tools & resources that we could never afford to acquire on our own, because they’d be sitting idle most of the time (e.g., the sensor-equipped plane the Chief referred to in his presentation, which has been instrumental in catching a number of bad guys).

    I encourage you and anyone else who wants to learn more about how policing improved through outsourcing to contact Chief Rothaus directly. He’s very approachable, quite analytical, and appreciates the opportunity to explain how our law enforcement system works.

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