While Westlake Village and the surrounding area has some of the lowest crime rates around, property thefts are still a challenge. While some neighborhoods are talking about crimes in their area, the overall statistics are fairly similar to prior years — with a slight increase in burglaries. What makes the area susceptible is that it *is* very safe, and that means that people can get lax on protecting themselves.

While the Sheriff is continually making arrests, new thieves pop up in their place, and are generally coming from areas outside the Conejo Valley. Vehicle related crimes could be cut drastically if residents don’t leave desirable items in plain sight in their cars, and lock their car doors. Similarly for your home, not leaving your garage door open, and locking the doors to your house are also easy precautions that have a significant impact.

The Lost Hills station ranks among the best in LASD for solving crimes, but only if the community reports activities. Even if nothing was taken from a vehicle, or you suspect something, contact the Los Angeles County Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, (818) 878-1808. Filing a report can take as little as 10 minutes for something simple, and the Deputy will come to you (e.g., you don’t need to go to the station). Lost Hills station is taking special efforts to dedicate resources to locating and identifying criminals and returning stolen property, but that only works when citizens report crimes or attempted crimes. In fact, all the cities that Lost Hills station services pays additionally for a finger printing specialist dedicated to the area — and they are sent out to each and every theft report.

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The Malibu/Lost Hills Station covers more than you may realize for the area. The cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu and Westlake Village … along with unincorporated areas make up nearly 180 square miles that the station is responsible for.

Crime Trends

Law Enforcement across the country breaks the statistics into two groups — Part I and Part II. Part I crimes are used to reveal trends in criminal activity, and include : Criminal Homicide (murder), Forcible Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Larceny (theft of personal property), Theft, Grand Theft Auto, and Arson. Part II crimes are just about all other crimes other than the eight Part I offenses listed above.

At the local level, crime rates are measured by crimes per 10,000 people. In 2011 YTD, the rates for Part I crimes looked like this:

2006          2006          2011          2011          5 Yr          1 Yr          City name
YTD          Rate          YTD          Rate          Change     Change     

115          49.46          83          35.82          -27.6%     13.7%     Agoura Hills
 92          39          101          45.04          15.5%     2.0%          Calabasas
4          19.61          7          35.19          79.5%     0.0%          Hidden Hills
77          56.28          98          73.81          31.2%     -4.9%     Malibu
45          50.75          52          60.91          20.0%     23.8%     Westlake Village
93          42.66          63          29.52          -30.8%     5.0%          Unincorporated Areas

426          45.7          384          42.32          -2.6%     5.2%          Station Total

These rates are among the lowest of the areas covered by LA Country Sheriff. The increases in the past year are primarily in burglary.

Take note, however, the number of crimes are so small, especially when you get down to the individual types of crimes, that the slightest of changes can have a large percentage change, so to some extent, these percentage changes are not relevant. More important to focus on the quantities than the percentage.

In most cases, the areas Part I crimes have been relatively stable … down some years, and up others. There’s one glaring exception. The local area, along with Ventura County, Simi Valley, the San Fernando Valley, Moorpark, and Oxnard have seen a fair number of burglaries and thefts out of vehicles in the past several years.

Be Aware

In short, criminals are looking for easy targets. Not easy? They just move onto the next one.

For home burglaries, criminals are frequently posing as workman or landscapers. Neighborhood vigilance is the key. Be aware of what’s going on your neighborhood and report suspicious activity. Does a landscaper look like a landscaper, but isn’t doing any landscaping? Call the Sheriff. Does a workman look suspicious? Call the Sheriff.

As an oversimplification, those committing the crimes are generally coming from areas outside the Conejo Valley — primarily to the East of Calabasas and to the West of the Conejo Grade. They are even coming from areas such as Pacoima, Oxnard, Ventura, and South Central Los Angeles.

In addition to the Part I crimes generalized above, there has been a bit of an upward trend in vandalism.

Solutions for Vehicles

The primary solution for vehicle crimes center around prevention, and reporting. Vehicle related crimes could be significantly reduced if residents don’t leave desirable items in plain sight in their cars. Furthermore, the more people that this area brings in from other areas to work (e.g., domestic help, outside services, and staff), the more exposure the area has. Word of mouth is the primary method of “advertising” the area.

Not surprisingly, items being stolen from unlocked vehicles (theft) is as significant a problem items being stolen from locked vehicles (burglary). The common thread is thieves looking for opportunity. It’s easy for them to check a door to see if it’s unlocked, and then look through the contents. Similarly, it’s easy to look in the window of the car, and if they see what they want, break the window and take it. The iPod on the center console, the wallet on the seat, the cell phone in plain view … even the purse or briefcase behind the seat … all are tempting targets.

Thefts like this take seconds, not minutes. Thieves watch for opportunities, such as when you are just getting out of the car. It doesn’t matter if you are just “running in for a minute” … that’s all the opportunity that a thief needs.

Many people have made the habit of taking items out of their car, and placing them in the trunk. This is a good thing as a trunk is somewhat more secure and definitely less visible. However, if you take that action when you arrive at your destination, you may be pointing out to a watching thief exactly where you are storing valuables. The more effective approach is to place them in your trunk when you are leaving to go to your destination.

In the end, if a thief doesn’t think that you have something to take, or an easy opportunity such as an unlocked door, they generally won’t bother attempting a crime.

And, if you see anything suspicious, make sure to report it. Local law enforcement is performed by the Los Angeles County Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, (818) 878-1808.