Frustrated merchants might ‘wake up’ San Juan

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San Juan Bautista merchants such as Victoria Hansen have been on edge lately. That’s because a series of early-morning burglaries has businesses and residents concerned about the Mission town’s security.
Hansen described how her shop Victoria’s Treasures, inside the Bear Flag Gallery co-op building, was among a range of local stores burglarized in recent weeks and months. She said the building that features an array of antiques and gift items on Third Street, where most of the crimes have occurred, has experienced two recent break-ins as part of the string.
“They took money,” she said. “They took all the money.”
Hansen expressed frustration with the law enforcement presence, particularly in the early-morning hours when the crimes have happened. Merchants and officials at last month’s council meeting conceded most of the crimes were between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“We need to have more security here,” she said.
Hansen also mentioned a commonly held sentiment in San Juan that the volunteer fire department added an additional presence before the county took over fire services a couple of years ago.
“It seems like they (burglar or burglars) know when we have security and don’t,” she said.
The burglaries, 15 to 20 of them, according to a council member’s count, 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 last month 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.
Locals like Margot Tankersley, co-owner of Margot’s Ice Cream, are anxious for a solution. Her shop was among those burglarized as well. She shared similar complaints as Hansen.
“One thing we’ve realized is, us as merchants, we’re on our own,” Tankersley said.
She complained that there hasn’t been enough follow-up work on the burglary cases. She also acknowledged San Juan’s inherent issue with lacking funds to pay for added security.
“We already know they have no more money,” she said. “They’ve told us. But we would like some direction or maybe something we can do.”
She, like Hansen, said merchants are turning to loud alarm systems.
“Let’s wake up San Juan Bautista,” she said with a chuckle. “They thought the roosters were bad.”
A sheriff’s office spokesman, Capt. Eric Taylor, said the agency has made adjustments after the burglaries.
“I will tell you we have maintained and exceeded our contracted hours of patrol in SJB,” he said by email. “San Juan Bautista is an incorporated city and they contract with the Sheriff’s Office for partial patrol coverage. We are on a random schedule and patrol has adjusted our focus on ‘directed patrols’ in San Juan.”

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