Last year, there were 250,000 burglaries and thefts in Los Angeles County. Last week, my name joined the ranks of property crime victims.
A Sunday morning of reporting at the Venice Fishing Pier turned sour when I returned to my car and found my passenger window shattered. The perpetrator took $2,000 in equipment. They stole my wallet too, and within 24 hours they attempted to spend almost $1,000 on my credit and debit cards.
Even after I filed a report with LAPD, the cards were cancelled and the window was repaired, reconstructing life after theft was complicated. But today started with a glimmer of hope when a tracking device in my stolen backpack pinged my phone.
The Tile app is used worldwide to reunite owners with their keys, wallets and other valuables. According to the company's website, more than 10 million Tiles have been sold. When an item is lost, anyone that gets within 100 feet with the tile app on their phone anonymously notifies the owner. One of those 10 million is in my stolen backpack, and at 8 a.m. it passed another Tile user in Santa Monica, just 10 miles away.
But by the time I arrived it was gone, and the company said it can't help if the stolen item is still stolen.
"If the location of the Tile keeps moving, all we can do is replace the Tile for you," said one customer service representative. "We actually do not have the liability for the stolen item, only for the Tile."
And Santa Monica police also couldn't help. They said they can only come if higher-priority crimes don't keep them busy.
And getting in touch with detectives is no easy feat either. After the perpetrator added my card to an Amazon account, customer service told me the name of the account so I could give it to police.
After climbing the phone tree to the right number at LAPD, I still didn't get through. I called multiple times and was sent to voicemail every time. But the voice message box is full. The police said to keep trying the number, or to come into the office. It took nine days to get that name to Detective Courtney, who was assigned to my case.
But then comes the next roadblock. The DMV says it is illegal to drive without a state license. Applying for a new one requires setting up an appointment. The soonest appointment available was not until 12 days after my license was stolen. The site recommends printing out a copy of your driving record in the meantime in case the officer is kind enough to consider it sufficient proof. But printing that record costs $2, which is hard to pay when you've canceled your cards.
After days of investigating, I wondered why it takes so long to get the right officer on the phone, and how I could avoid getting stuck in this situation again.
I tried calling LAPD for comment but they said they would only respond to an email. I sent one earlier today and still haven't gotten a reply.
LAPD employs 9,000 sworn officers. That makes one officer for every 433 residents, which is one of the lowest officer-to-resident ratios in the country.
LAPD recommends that residents lock their cars, hide valuable items, park in well-lit and busy areas, and notify police immediately of the theft. But personal experience proves that precautions don't equate guarantees, and a stretched police force makes recovery even more difficult.
Officer Ruiz filed my police report and estimated there was a 50/50 chance my stolen items would be found. But after my driver's license and credit cards were found by themselves 30 miles outside of Bakersfield a week ago, those chances look slimmer every day.