San Juan’s burglaries have residents, officials alarmed

Kids line up to pay for their goodies at Margot's Ice Cream Parlor in San Juan. Margot's get's lots of business from the schools visiting the mission during the school year. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

A string of “15 to 20” commercial burglaries over the past three months has San Juan Bautista’s residents alarmed and its officials looking for ways to enhance the law enforcement presence in town.
The burglaries have occurred largely in the early-morning hours. With a limited budget in the city of 1,800 people, the town can afford to staff a county sheriff’s deputy just 44 hours per week. With all the burglaries that included a couple of residential break-ins as well, including to Mayor Rick Edge’s home, San Juan officials Tuesday appeared supportive of enhancing the security presence, whether from a private firm or more hours from the sheriff’s office.
Council members didn’t take direct action but passed on the matter to the city’s strategic plan committee for further consideration.
“It’s an epidemic at this point,” said Councilman Chris Martorana, who gave that estimate on the number of those burglaries during the meeting.
Residents were just as alarmed by the series of property crimes in the tourist town known for its merchant sector.
Lois Long, a business owner and chairperson of the town merchants’ cooperative, said establishments have installed new locks and taken other security precautions, but those efforts have been “insufficient,” she said.
She said the crimes are tarnishing the city’s reputation as a safe, quiet place. She’s also concerned because most of the Mission City’s merchants are women, she said.
“Visitors are hearing about the robberies and noticing the broken up and boarded windows and doors, and do not feel safe visiting here,” Long said.
Among city officials, the discussion focused on cost figures. San Juan pays $190,000 annually for the 44 hours of service per week from the county sheriff’s office. There was talk among council members of such options as hiring a private security firm as well, requesting more service from the sheriff’s office, or also asking the sheriff’s office to do some shifts at night.
City Manager Roger Grimsley suggested having a deputy come from 5 p.m. to midnight, but a tense crowd of residents and another city official noted how the burglaries were occurring between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Those tensions amplified at several points, when a resident from the crowd continually interrupted the council’s discussion.
“This is not your time to talk,” Edge told her several times from the podium. As she was voluntarily heading out, she continually yelled toward the council and would not leave. That prompted Edge to order her out.
“Now get out! Get out!,” he told her.
In the more civil part of the discussion, Edge contended that the city’s approach of paying for a specific number of hours might be the wrong way of doing it. He implied the sheriff’s office should respond to such crimes as part of its normal responsibilities.
“What I’m afraid of, by paying for 44 hours, we’re just getting 44 hours,” Edge said.
A sheriff’s office representative was not in attendance during the item on the burglaries. As recent as Jan. 12, there were five commercial burglaries, all on Third Street, reported between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office online reports.

Leave your comments