Car burglaries up 28 percent in Victoria

Bianca Montes By Bianca Montes

Feb. 4, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.

Amanda Montez felt safe in her apartment complex. She said she'd lived there almost two years, and it was quiet.

She said she could leave her son's bike on the front porch and not worry.

It was family friendly.

It was home.

And then one day, it wasn't.

It changed, she said. Her husband left to take her son to school, and when he got back, he said something was weird about their car.

The glove box was open, and papers were strewn about in the car. Even his work apron had been unfolded.

"We don't leave anything in the car anymore," she said. "We double check to make sure the doors are locked."

But despite being cautious, their vehicle was broken into again; this time, their stereo was stolen.

Their vehicle was one of 600 cars burglarized in 2013.

This is the first year since 2009 that the number of motor vehicle burglaries has risen, according to crime statistics released Tuesday by the Victoria Police Department. Victoria saw a 27.9 percent increase in 2013 over 2012.

Although offenses rose this year, Chief J.J. Craig said statistically, the city is in line with the number of offenses in previous years.

Craig said burglary of motor vehicle offenses were lower in 2012 because of increased public awareness, something he said the department plans to do more of this year.

In 2012, there were 469 reported offenses, according to the crime report. Burglary of motor vehicles hit its 10-year high in 2009, with 1,112 offenses reported.

Robberies also had unusually low numbers in 2012, which Craig credits for the 23.4 percent increase in offenses in 2013.

"If you look at the years preceding 2012, we've averaged about 70 robberies a year in the city," he said.

Between 2007 and 2011, robberies stood around 70 a year with 2009 being the highest year with 81 offences.

There were 58 robberies in 2013, according to the report.

Other than last year, Craig said, "It's the lowest number in seven years."

Still, that doesn't make residents like Montez feel safer in their communities.

"All of a sudden, the cars are getting broken into, and people are stealing stuff off my front porch," Montez said. "Victoria is not a huge city. It should still feel like a family community."

Montez said the second time her vehicle was broken into, it changed her perception of Victoria.

Unlike last time, she said it wasn't some children at her apartment complex; it was a person that knew what he or she was doing.

Montez said her radio was not simply ripped out of the console, but instead the wires were neatly unhooked.

"They knew what they were doing," she said.

Montez is currently battling cancer and not working. She said funds are limited for her family, and they can't afford to replace the radio.

"I was driving the car the other day, and all I could think was I used to love listening to the radio," she said.

Andrae Naranjo, of Victoria, said her impression about crime also changed when she came home late last year to a man burglarizing her home.

Although she caught him in the act, Naranjo said he took everything, including Christmas presents she'd just purchased for her children.

"I feel like I've been raped," she said about the offense. "I feel so uncomfortable in my own home. I'm afraid to take a shower because I feel he's going to come back and take my kids.

"I feel like he's going to come back and hit me where it hurts."

The incident, however, did not change her outlook about the police department. If anything, she said it improved.

"I'm really thankful they got here quickly, and they tried to find him," she said. "They're trying."

While property crime overall is down about 4 percent, Craig said there was an increase in breaking and entering offenses, robberies and a modest increase in theft.

In 2013, the Victoria Police Department responded to 87,043 calls for service, with an average response time for priority one emergency calls at 6.26 minutes, according to the crime report.

Overall, Class 1 crimes have decreased by 4.81 percent. Class 1 crimes include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft.

Lower level Class 2 crimes also were down by 9.29 percent in 2013.

Driving under the influence offenses dropped 6.7 percent in 2013; however, the total offenses, 181, are statistically higher than previous years.

Between 2006 and 2011, the offenses averaged 145 a year.

Craig said there isn't a specific cause for the increased number of offenses.

The crime rate as a whole went down about 7.5 percent last year.

"We've already enjoyed quite a bit of success in our crime prevention efforts," Craig said. "And we're going to continue with those efforts this year.

"We sat down at the beginning of the year and determined where we needed to focus on, and crime prevention plays a big roll in that."

For example, Craig pointed out plans to upgrade the crime mapping software on the police department's website to something more user friendly.

The new software will allow users to look at reported crimes and pick up on trends in the area.

His hopes are that the program will make people more aware of crime and become more proactive in protecting their property.

Tip411, an anonymous tip form that allows residents to send information to the police department and engage in real-time talk with detectives, is another champion of the department's efforts to solve outstanding crimes, Craig said.

The tip line launched at the end of October, and Lt. Eline Moya, a spokeswoman for the department, said an arrest made off information obtained through the tip line resulted in a Dec. 14 warrant arrest for a parole violation.

"What I want to do is work smarter, not harder," Craig said. "We're going to do that by leveraging some technology that's out there.

"Sometimes, you approach crime prevention one way, and you do it geographically, and that deters crime. But oftentimes, it doesn't necessarily lead to a lot of arrests."

Going forward, he said the police department will target its efforts on repeat offenders believed to be committing multiple crimes. He said it is a plan the department has already seen proven success in.

A lot of times, he said, there's a correlation between crimes, such as drug abuse and theft or burglaries. Increasing arrests in one area, while it may be the lesser of the two, will result in a decrease in the other crime, he said.

"We'll continue to make (drugs) a big, strong emphasis in the organization," Craig said. "One of the things we plan on doing is partnering with other organizations, specifically the Sheriff's Office, like we did with the synthetic marijuana bust. When we can pool our resources together, we can do more within the community."



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