The Los Angeles Police Department's Van Nuys Division may be No. 1 at the moment, but it's trying hard to be No. 2.
The division, whose jurisdiction includes Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks and Studio City, has for three years led all other divisions in the number of reported residential and business burglaries.
In an attempt to lower their standing, division officials have mounted an effort dubbed Operation Second Place.
'Have to Do Something'
"I'm just sick and tired of us being No. 1 one all the time, " said Van Nuys Division Capt. Arthur Sjoquist. "We have a map with colored dots showing all the burglaries in our area. It looks like the map has measles. We really have to do something."
The main targets of Operation Second Place are "hypes," or heroin addicts, and truant students. The two are responsible for most of the burglaries, Sjoquist said, and the operation is designed to "get them off the street and see if we can make a dent in these numbers."
During the first phase of the three-month operation, which started March 3, 58 adults and 235 juveniles have been taken into custody by police. Of those arrested, at least 24 adults and 21 juveniles had previous burglary records.
"Some of these juveniles have committed multiple offenses, so they're just not out there on the street goofing off," Sjoquist said.
Minimum of 10 Officers
At least 10 officers are assigned to the task force, and the crackdown objectives range from patrolling and apprehending truants from around high schools to stakeouts around "hype hangouts," such as a stretch of Blythe Street near the General Motors automobile plant in Van Nuys.
Even though the number of burglaries reported last year dipped 16.8%, Van Nuys Division still finished with 5,728 reports of residential and business burglaries, police records show. West Valley Division was second with 5,099 burglaries reported, and Wilshire Division was third with more than 4,800 burglaries reported.
In 1983, Van Nuys also led all divisions in reported burglaries, with 6,646, as it did in 1982 with 7,037. In the last 10 years, Van Nuys Division had its lowest number of burglaries in 1977, when 4,182 were reported.
The high number of burglaries in the Van Nuys area was partly attributable to the heavy narcotics activity. "Hypes need to commit two to five burglaries a day to support their $100- to $200-a-day habit," Sjoquist said. "This is a large community with a lot of expensive homes, and a good part of Van Nuys goes to work each day, so those homes are ripe targets.
Sjoquist said the Operation Second Place task force will exist for at least three months, and that it will take at least another month before police will be able to determine if the crackdown is having any effect.
"People around the community have really been furious about the burglaries, and all I've been able to do is give my stock answer, that we don't have the resources to fight this," Sjoquist said.
"But now we're really going to attack the problem aggressively. We will divert some of our available manpower right now to fight the problem. This may be better and more cost-effective than having random patrols trying to catch burglars climbing out windows," Sjoquist said. "Hopefully, next year, we can be No. 2."