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Van Nuys Area Sheds Top Ranking for Burglary

Times Staff Writer

Slipping from first to fourth place may not seem like cause for celebration. But on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Van Nuys Division was happy after three years to shed the dubious distinction of having the most residential and business burglaries in the city.

Capt. Arthur Sjoquist of the Van Nuys Division credited a 17% drop in burglaries to “Operation Second Place,” a three-month roundup of heroin addicts and truant students, who police say contribute substantially to the division’s burglary problem. The name of the program refers to the rank the division hoped--at a minimum--to attain.

The distinction of having the most burglaries now goes to another San Fernando Valley division, West Valley, which had held second place in that category. The West Valley area includes Canoga Park, Encino, Reseda, Tarzana and Woodland Hills.

10 Officers on Squad

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In the Van Nuys Division, 10 officers who were pulled from regular patrol duties to serve on the special squad arrested 1,559 people last year, Sjoquist said at a news conference at Van Nuys Division headquarters.

Most of the arrests were for truancy, but the squad also arrested 378 people for criminal violations ranging from murder to burglary, Sjoquist said.

The 1,181 truants arrested were mostly students from Valley schools, with the greatest number coming from Monroe High School, which had 370 students arrested. About 30% of the truants had arrest records, he said.

Police also arrested 137 people for being under the influence or in possession of heroin, Sjoquist said.

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The division, which includes Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Panorama City and parts of Studio City, had logged 2,213 burglaries as of this time last year. That total dropped to 1,836 so far this year.

Commercial burglaries in the Van Nuys Division dropped from 135 in March to 66 in May. Residential burglaries dipped from 298 in March to 214 in May, police statistics showed.

Funds From Bernardi

The 10 officers, six narcotics experts and four from the juvenile unit, will continue their work, thanks to a $45,000 contribution from City Councilman Ernani Bernardi’s office.

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The funds provide overtime pay for the officers. Because of that money, the squad will continue its work during the summer while students are out of school, concentrating on heroin addicts.

Capt. Bayan Lewis of the West Valley Division said that, even though his division now tops the burglary list, residential and business burglaries in his area have been steadily declining the past few years. Residential burglaries so far this year have dropped 9.3% from last year, from 1,533 to 1,409, he said. Business burglaries have also decreased 4.7% during the six-month period, from 662 a year ago to 631 this year.

“The thing that really gets us are the big numbers, and we have constantly fought those,” Lewis said. “We are continually addressing the problem, but we don’t have the flexibility of assigning a task force. But we are taking the problem very seriously, and the numbers are going down.”

Times Staff Writer Greg Braxton also contributed to this story.

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