The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Government Affairs Breakfast at the main branch of the Newport Beach Library last week.
In addition to updates from county, state and federal officials, the May 2 event featured Newport Beach Police Department Chief Jay Johnson as the guest speaker.
He addressed the issues of crime and current crime trends in Newport Beach, as well as prisoner realignment and homelessness.
“For those who live, work or play in Newport Beach, congratulations – you do so in one of the safest cities around,” said Johnson, who noted that crime has two components: Actual crime data and perception.
“We can have the safest city, but if my wife is not comfortable walking the dog at eight o’clock at night, then we have a crime problem,” he said. “Overall perception-wise, crime is very good, and data-wise, crime is extremely good. We have had a reduction in crime for the third year in a row, and we’re now at historic lows. Your chance of being a victim of a crime is lower than at any time in the history of the city.”
Unfortunately, Johnson added , crime in surrounding cities has risen, and of the approximately 3,300 people arrested in Newport Beach last year, around 75 percent lived outside the city.
The most popular crime has been vehicle burglary and theft. More than 75 percent of theft from autos were from unlocked cars, he said.
“If we lock our cars, 75 percent of the crime will go away,” he continued. “Having a society that is safe, and a perception that it’s safe, we get lax. Lock your car.”
Johnson noted that even if a vehicle is locked, it can take a criminal about five seconds to break a window, grab an item, and walk away.
Over the previous week, 230 vehicles were broken into in the city. That number can be reduced by hiding anything from plain sight that might be perceived as valuable.
To prove his point, Johnson had two of his staff roam the parking lot and peer into car windows to see if anything was left in plain sight, or if any cars were unlocked.
If anything of value was left in plain sight, a yellow sticky note was placed on the windshield.
“You could have been a victim,” Johnson said.
Johnson read the staff’s findings to the crowd and the results were startling.
There were 60 cars in the parking lot, and more than half had valuables in plain sight: 12 purses, one wallet, six briefcases, 11 phone chargers, sunglasses, three gym bags, a laptop, a camera, and five iPods.
“Remember,” Johnson noted, “if we get too comfortable, it’s like we have a big sign on our car that says steal from me.”
For information on upcoming Chamber of Commerce events, visit NewportBeach.com.