By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene@email@example.com
4:16 PM PST, January 22, 2013
Violent crimes in Burbank jumped 27% last year — a trend police attributed to a spike in robberies, mostly at retail stores where security guards and would-be shoplifters tussle.
As a whole, the number of violent crimes — which include robbery, rape, assault and murder — increased from 191 incidents in 2011 to 243 in 2012, according to recent figures released by the Burbank Police Department.
The category that jumped the highest was robbery, which shot up 63%, from 68 reported incidents in 2011 to 111 last year. Roughly a quarter of last year’s robberies involved shoplifters fighting off loss prevention officers at retail stores, which made up 16% of robberies the year before, police said.
“Once that element of force or fear comes into play, that becomes a robbery,” said Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse.
At the same time, the two homicides reported last year — all within the same month — was an unusual number for Burbank.
On Oct. 10, a 43-year-old barber was shot multiple times and killed outside his Providencia Avenue apartment.
The investigation remains ongoing.
That same month, a 5-week-old infant was taken to the hospital with broken bones, which investigators believe was a result of ongoing child abuse. The baby girl was taken off life support Nov. 9, and her father has since been charged with murder.
In the non-violent categories, property crimes — including burglary, theft, auto theft and arson — dipped roughly 3%, from 2,567 incidents in 2011 to 2,503 last year. Despite the dip, property crimes remained the most common crime citywide.
“We’re still having difficulty with people leaving items visible in their cars,” Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said. “Put all those things in the trunk; leave them at home if you’re out shopping.”
LaChasse attributed the drop in property crimes to “predictive policing,” in which police analyze crime trends and beef up patrol in vulnerable areas to prevent crimes from happening.
“It tells you where to go and when to be there, all based on the patterns that have emerged,” LaChasse said.
Police are also exploring the feasibility of installing surveillance cameras downtown and in certain parking structures, LaChasse said. Plans to use redevelopment funds to finance the cameras crumbled following the dissolution of local redevelopment, but police are now looking to federal grants, he added.
“Having cameras up in strategic locations does have deterrent effect,” LaChasse said.
Crimes that experienced the largest plunge were assaults — which dropped 10% from 450 incidents in 2011 to 404 last year — and auto thefts, which decreased by 15%, from 234 incidents in 2011 to 199 in 2012.
The number of fraud cases, including identity theft, remained flat, with just under 600 incidents reported in both 2011 and 2012.