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You don't have to be a crime victim

Updated October 22, 2014

As 2014 begins to wind down, this is a good time to provide information to Cerritos residents about three crimes that have been occurring on a regular basis since the beginning of the year. During September in particular, there was a significant increase in these common thefts. Despite the valiant efforts of our Sheriff's deputies and detectives, they are powerless to prevent these crimes from happening. The good news is that there are some easy steps that Cerritos residents can take to guarantee they will never become victims of these crimes.

The first of these easily preventable crimes is the cash card scam that seems to be occurring in almost epidemic proportions in Southern California. These crimes involve a telephone call or an email sent to a resident by someone claiming to be an "agent" or an "officer" from a government agency. Sometimes the caller claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement or from a federal or local law enforcement agency.

The problem that is presented to our residents varies: you might owe outstanding taxes, have a problem with your immigration status or have a relative (often a grandson or granddaughter) in jail who needs money for bail or medical costs. If you are the owner of a small restaurant or bar you may even get a call from "Edison" claiming that you have an outstanding bill that needs to be paid immediately or your electricity will be turned off. Often the victim is threatened with arrest if the orders from the person claiming to be an agent or law enforcement officer are not immediately followed.

The variations of this scheme are endless, but one thing occurs every time that is indicative of a scam: the only way to resolve or solve your problem is to go to the nearest drug store or supermarket that sells money cards (usually Green Dot cards), buy several (maximum value can be as high as $500 each) and call the "agent" back with the pin numbers. Once you provide the crook with the pin numbers, your money is gone for good and the crooks (who are likely in another state or country) are never apprehended. Remember, no U.S. government agency – local, state or federal – takes payments of any kind over the phone or via email using money cards.

The next theft that is impossible for deputies to stop, but entirely possible for our residents to prevent is theft from lockers at fitness centers. At least twice a month a locker is broken into at one of the local LA Fitness locations and a purse or wallet containing credit cards, cash and personal information is stolen. Almost as many times each month a report of a purse "hidden" on a car's floorboard outside of one of these fitness centers or at one of our parks is also reported stolen. Never take wallets or purses with you when exercising at a fitness center or a park. Take only your driver's license and leave it under your car's floor mat. If you must take wallets or purses, lock them in the trunk before you leave home or work.

The last prevalent crime is the theft of third row seats from SUVs (two were stolen the last week of September). Crooks have this theft down to a science and are in and out of your SUV with the third row seat in seconds. These seats bring in big money on eBay when resold. A simple bicycle-type cable lock fits through the seat's support brackets and will prevent them from being easily and quickly removed. Check out the photo and information provided on our safety website,, for more information. Remember, you don't have to be a victim of these crimes, and If You See Something, Say Something.


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