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CrimeStat meeting provides inside look at Newport Beach Police Department

For the first meeting of 2014, police chief invites a few reporters and officials for a glimpse of the normally private conference.

January 11, 2014|By Jeremiah Dobruck

Sgt. Dave Miner told his colleagues at the Newport Beach Police Department on Thursday that he was dealing with a stubborn burglar.

The 10 residential break-ins throughout Newport Coast, Spyglass Hill and Corona del Mar in December were double the number of similar crimes the southern quadrant of the city experienced in the same period a year prior.

That afternoon, the sergeant — who is responsible for the safety of what is called Area 4 — stood in front of the police's chief, executive staff, top officers and detectives while he detailed the crimes.

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Newport Beach is broken up into four patrol areas, and every second Thursday of the month, the city's top cops hold a CrimeStat meeting where each area's commanding officer is held accountable for the crime in his zone.

"If you like murder mysteries, stories about rape and mayhem and violence, I'm not going to dazzle you," Miner said, clicking the projector forward to a chart categorizing all the crimes in his zone. "As you can see, in 2013, December did not have a violent crime."

In a city with few violent crimes already — just 77 in 2013 — Area 4 is its calmest. In addition to the zero violent crimes, there were only 27 property crimes for the month.

But dealing with such small numbers means one string of violations — maybe even a single burglar — can bust someone's statistics and garner attention from a roomful of Newport's top brass.

"We're having a hard time getting our hands around this problem," Miner said.

Eight of the burglaries were especially puzzling. They were all at private homes, mostly with forced entry through the back side of the houses.

The confounding part, Miner explained, is they're spread out throughout the entire area and took place at all hours of the day and night on any day of the week. With no consistent pattern, someone would break in and grab cash or jewelry before fleeing.

So far, Minor said the only lead is a suspect reported at two of the crimes: a white man driving a dark, late-model Chevy SUV.

Sitting two chairs to the left of Chief Jay Johnson, crime analyst Caroline Staub pointed out another similarity.

"Almost none of them have rear neighbors," she said.

Nearly all the victims have a greenbelt, terraced garden or some other open space behind their homes.

"All right," Johnson said as he leaned forward. "And all the patrol officers know this, right?"

They do, Miner replied.

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