Auto theft_interior

Photo courtesy of Metro Creative

The Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff (CCCSO) has been working hard to continue to educate East County residents about avoiding opportunities for theft.

Last month, Discovery Bay resident deputies Sarah Bollard and Alison Kotchevar manned an information booth in front of Safeway to speak with residents about auto burglaries and other crimes of opportunity, which tend to spike during the summer months. The deputies answered questions and passed out literature detailing how residents can help themselves with a few preventative measures.

“This was about continuing education,” explained Lt. Matt Foley of the sheriff’s office. “Letting people know that they can’t leave stuff in their car that’s visible. It may be your gym bag that has your dirty shoes and gym clothes, but for the criminal, they see potential: It could have a computer, it could have a wallet, could have credit cards and it costs them absolutely nothing to break that window to find out.”

Foley added that, with the passage of Propositions 47 and 57 in 2014 and 2016, respectively, penalties are much more lenient and jail sentences shorter.

“The way the penal code is now, the way the laws are written, they can break that window, take that bag, look at it, and if they’re caught, the consequences have been reduced from prior years,” Foley said. “Those (propositions) changed how we do law enforcement.”

Foley added that this summer hasn’t been too bad so far, statistically speaking. For the first six months of the year, 2019 came in with an average monthly total of auto burglaries at 2.5. 

Theresa Byers lives in Discovery Bay and said her court was hit by thieves one night last month.

“I found out it was the second time in a few weeks that it happened,” she said. “I had mail ... and miscellaneous trinkets from my car stolen. My car was rifled through and left in shambles. I notified the sheriff and an officer responded.”

Though many people call 911 as soon as they realize their belongings have been touched, some victims have declined to notify the sheriff, feeling they should have taken better precautions. Nichol Peterson said her car had several bags stolen from it in the Safeway parking lot just last week.

“I (didn’t get the) sheriff involved because I couldn’t be 100% sure I locked the door,” she admitted.

Foley said residents should always file a report, whether they think they locked their doors or not.

“I would encourage anyone that has been a victim of a crime to report the crime,” he said. “We need to accumulate the data so we can address the problem, whether it is staffing or education.”

Auto burglary is defined as theft of property of any value from a secured vehicle and is classified as a felony. Theft from auto is the theft of property from an unsecured vehicle and is a misdemeanor.  

“It just takes people protecting themselves,” Foley said. “We are actively patrolling the area; we have two deputies specifically assigned to Discovery Bay, but we need a unified front.”

The sheriff’s office non-emergency line is 925-625-2341.