Thieves are targeting whatever isn't nailed down in Clairemont's front yards. It's a big problem in Pacific Beach, too, according to one resident, "Yards are being picked clean of outdoor furniture, surfboards, and bikes. If it's not nailed down, it's getting stolen."
Over the past year, Clairemont and Bay Park residents (next door to Clairemont) have reported thefts on social media of furniture, shoes, expensive planters and plants, trees and flowers, bird baths, lawn ornaments (gnomes, gargoyles, etc), surfboards, skateboards, construction materials, laundry, hubcaps and driver side mirrors, holiday decorations, expensive packages, and anything thieves find breaking into cars.
When thieves don't find what they're looking for out front, they sometimes venture into backyards and garages. Thieves have been making their way through the area using bolt cutters to steal bikes.
The most unique item stolen recently was a large metal sculpture of a Triceratops (30-40 pounds, 5-feet tall). About 68 million years ago, this three-horned parrot-beaked palm-tree-eating dinosaur likely roamed San Diego for real. While dinosaur fossils are hard to find locally, the stolen sculpture was easily spotted at Lindbergh Park. A neighbor saw two males unloading it from a white truck on July 23, just 36 hours after it was stolen.
Victoria and Patrick Border own the triceratops they affectionately call Trixie. They got her three years ago from Ricardo Breceda — the artist that created all those Anza Borrego dinosaur sculptures. They dress Trixie up for the holidays and neighbors see her as a beloved mascot. So much so, they rallied together to find Trixie when she went missing.
Trixie is back in Victoria and Patrick's front yard, ready for two- and four-legged visitors. This time, Trixie has extra security features.
Victoria and Patrick were lucky. Most residents I spoke with had no hope of ever seeing their stolen items again.
Residents like Lisa that saved up for some very nice large planters that were stolen. "I purchased two large $80 kangaroo paw plants and had them planted in the pots. Both sets were stolen in broad daylight." She filed a police report but never heard anything back.
Last month, Brooke had her car cover stolen. Years ago, a more terrifying incident: "A Mexican man [drove 1984 beige Buick with California plates] followed me home at 10 o'clock at night and demanded that I give the chrome on my car to him. He returned four days [later] and took what he wanted." She reported it to the police but the man was never found. "We now have a lovely house on the block that is running drugs and prostitution. I can't wait to see what the future holds for our street."
A few weeks ago, Melodie had a package with $250 worth of skin care products stolen from her front porch. "I do not have anything in my front yard that can be removed at this point."
A friend brought Rick a gargoyle from Mexico. It only lasted a few days out front before it disappeared forever. Though this disappearance was preceded by a strange encounter with a deeply religious neighbor that told him his gargoyle "looked evil."
I checked in with the police department about yard thefts. Sergeant Michael Stirk said they don't track thefts that occur in front yards. They are instead categorized as either petty theft ($950 or less) or grand theft (above $950).
While the police won't speculate, some residents did speculate that Proposition 47, drugs, and homeless people have led to the jump in vehicle break-ins and front yard thefts.
"The criminals know the law," said North Clairemont resident Karen. "I've seen homeless, druggies, and teenagers opening up car doors in broad daylight. They don't care that I'm watching. When I call the police to report it, if they aren't doing it at that exact moment, the police won't come out, even if the criminal is still there."
Passed by voters in November 2014, Proposition 47 (The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act) reduced penalties for certain lower-level drug possession and property offenses like vehicle break-ins and other petty thefts, shoplifting, forgery, and receiving stolen property. This was done to leave prison and jail space open for more violent offenders. The proposition was spearheaded by Californians for Safety and Justice, an arm of the Tide Center, a high-powered progressive policy sponsor.
The pitch to voters for Prop 47 was that by reducing some felonies to misdemeanors, more money could go toward prevention instead of incarceration, eventually reducing the prison population organically. It was estimated $150 to $250 million annually could be funneled into prevention and support programs for K-12 schools (25 percent), victim services (10 percent), and mental health and substance abuse treatment programs (65 percent). Calculated savings are dispersed every August 15 toward these programs.
There have been other attempts to divert prison funding to schools. One assembly bill (AB 2303) introduced in February proposes a 10 percent tax on private prison contracts with the state to fund pre-school and after school programs. Currently, contracts total $200 million. As of August 14, this bill is on hold.
When it comes to spending on education versus incarceration, the state's budget approved in June shows schools are a priority with the K-12 school budget at $97.2 billion and the corrections system's budget at $12.1 billion. When looking at monies spent per individual, a different picture emerges. K-12 students (6.8 million) juxtaposed next to projected inmate population (126,890), average daily parolee population (48,535) and juvenile population (646) show that six times more is budgeted per offender ($68,722) versus each student ($11,470).
Proposition 47 is similar to 2012s Proposition 36 that softened sentencing of 1990s "Three Strikes" legislation for habitual offenders. Prison population reduction measures such as Proposition 47, 36, and 57 (2016 Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act) were in response to a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring reductions in prisons beyond capacity. Kick-started under President Nixon's 1970s drug war, incarcerations were spurred on by President Reagan's 1980s tough-on-crime private-prison-boom, and finally exploded under President Clinton's three strikes legislation, making the U.S. number one in incarcerations world-wide.