Council Hears Again of ‘Systemic’ Problem of Home Burglaries

A 54% increase in local residential burglaries in 2019 compared to the previous year drew the attention of law enforcement and city officials at a La Cañada Flintridge City Council meeting this week.
Capt. Todd Deeds of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station said there were 97 residential burglaries last year, compared to 63 in 2018.
“I wish these numbers were lower as far as residential burglaries, but we’re going to continue to fight and do our job and hopefully bring these numbers down considerably in 2020,” Deeds told the council on Tuesday night.
Deeds said that the burglaries were a “systemic problem throughout the county in more affluent areas” and that his department would continue to work with the community and city leaders to combat the crimes.
“I pay very close attention, as [do] our detectives and our patrol personnel, as to what’s going on in the community,” Deeds said. “This month so far we’ve had three residential burglaries … so hopefully that number stays low. But again, one is too much and we do recognize that.”
Councilman Gregory Brown said he thought the 97 residential burglaries in 2019 were “the highest I can remember ever.” The longtime city leader recalled that there were 75 such crimes in 2017 and 85 in 2014.
“That’s definitely, definitely concerning,” said Brown, adding that 2018 was a “very low year” compared to the others. “We have to keep this in context. I think it’s worth looking at these statistics overall.”
Deeds said the residential burglaries started to spike at the end of July with a couple of night-time incidents and, after speaking with City Manager Mark Alexander, he contacted the sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau — which targets burglary crews — and they were able to respond with teams to the city.
Additionally, a “countywide cops team” patrolled the area with five patrol cars in the summer and has continued to do so, Deeds said.
“The high visibility is great, and that’s at no extra cost to the city,” Deeds said. “That’s just the extra resource we have with the county and we’re thankful we have those resources.”
Deeds also cited an encouraging development: The city experienced a 3% decrease in so-called Part I crimes, which include violent and property-related offenses. There were 326 such crimes this year compared to 336 last year.
“But as we mentioned earlier, the one increase, the sharp increase was the residential burglaries,” Deeds said.
In December, there were no reports of rapes or homicides but two robberies and six residential burglaries were committed, Deeds said. One robbery occurred when a Chevron gas station worker lent his cellphone to some patrons and they took off running after a struggle with the victim, Deeds said, adding that the phone was recovered and a suspect was identified. Another robbery involved a purse snatching outside of the Ross shopping center that targeted an Asian woman who was with her child. Offering a possible connection, he remarked that there had been multiple purse robberies of Asian women in the Walnut Sheriff’s Station area and said he was “95% positive” the suspect had been arrested by the Walnut station.
Anderson Mackey, a county assistant fire chief, said there were two fires in December — a vehicle fire on Verdugo Boulevard and a kitchen fire in the 800 block of Valley Crest Street — and said there were 22 fires in 2019 compared to 30 the previous year.
There were 1,000 medical calls last year compared with 959 in 2018, he said.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON REPORT

In an update on Southern California Edison electricity infrastructure, company representative Marissa Castro-Salvati said the organization was “on track” in responding to recommendations in a 2017 evaluation report from PMCM Consulting Engineers.
In one case, SCE eliminated the Sharon Substation — a set of equipment used for reducing the high voltage of electrical power transmission to a level suitable for supply to customers — in 2018 because of its age of equipment.
Action on other recommendations did not appear as clear cut. PMCM recommended a “systematic approach to replace cable in conduit because failures in cables create long outages,” according to slide in a presentation by consultants Tuesday. The same slide said SCE replaces them on an as-needed basis and does not have a systematic program.
In another recommendation, PMCM said “Pickens and Hillard circuits have numerous outages due to underground failures” but “only overhead activities have been done. SCE said no underground cable failure experienced with Hillard thus far.”
Brown, in response to a resident who said he had experienced multiple unplanned outages living in the area served by the Haskell circuit, said the city had “no regulatory control over Edison” and the agency that oversaw the company was the California Public Utilities Commission.
Brown said the man’s residential area sounded like it “needs to be worked on” but there was “only so much we can do.”
Other resident issues included SCE’s use of drones — the company deploys them to inspect power poles and lines, among other purposes — complaints about aggressive tree trimming and an absence of maps showing which circuits served their respective areas.
Castro-Salvati said letters and social media were used to inform residents about the “aerial inspections,” there is just one work order for tree trimming left and only “standard” tree trimming remaining, and maps are available online for all circuit locations.
SCE also had reduced “customer minutes of interruption” from more than 10.9 million to more than 2.7 million, Castro-Salvati said.
Councilwoman Terry Walker asked SCE to look into listing outages and their causes in a periodic report to the council, similar to what the county Fire Department does in its safety report, and Councilman Michael Davitt said the company should consider further coordinating with the city about posting what SCE does for the community.

‘GRANNY FLAT’ ORDINANCE APPROVED

An urgency ordinance and first reading of a regular ordinance setting rules for accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats, to bring local policy into compliance with state laws were passed unanimously.
Because the city did not adopt an ADU ordinance on Jan. 1, when the state laws took effect, the council needed to take prompt action.
An ADU is described as an attached or detached residential unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more people and is located on a lot with a proposed or existing primary home. It includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation on the same parcel as the single-family or multifamily dwelling. Also covered by the urgency ordinance are junior accessory dwelling units, which are contained within an existing single-family structure and no more than 500 square feet.
The five new California laws address minimum lot size, replacement of off-street parking, impact fees, ADU sale by a nonprofit corporation and incentives for affordable ADUs.
Brown and Walker raised concerns about the clarity of part of the law that states “if there is an existing primary dwelling, the total floor area of an attached accessory dwelling unit shall not exceed 50% of the existing primary dwelling.”
Assistant City Attorney Elena Gerli acknowledged that “that’s what they gave us. … I know it’s not terribly satisfactory.”
Gerli later said it would not surprise her if “we were back here with amendments in the next few months.”

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