Male models wearing black V-neck T-shirts clutched electric-colored designer handbags as they strutted down the catwalk at the Newport Beach Marriott on Wednesday morning.
What may appear to be the latest runway show for a high-end designer is actually the Newport Beach Police Department’s way of encouraging residents to lock their doors and secure their valuables in an effort to reduce crime.
The event at the Marriott was the department’s way of introducing its new campaign, The Stolen Collection, which features black-and-white ads showing polished male models posing as thieves with stolen cell phones and handbags, in the style of a designer fashion advertisement. The campaign’s aim is to grab the attention of the public by showing what looks like an ordinary fashion ad but with a warning that anyone can become the victim of theft.
Property thefts account for more than 96% of all reported crimes in Newport Beach. Of those, more than 90% involve unlocked cars and homes and unattended personal property, according to Newport Beach police crime statistics.
The ads will be shown on local television, social media, local buses, bus shelters and gas stations throughout the city.
Property theft costs the community $10 million to $12 million each year, said Police Chief Jay Johnson.
Newport Beach has always been perceived as a safe city, but the image lulls people into a false sense of security and therefore attracts outside criminals, he said.
“That perception of safety causes us to let our guard down,” he said. “We hope to change that.”
The department partnered with ETA Advertising, a Long Beach-based agency, over the summer to design the campaign, which officially launched this month.
So far, the department has spent $21,000 on The Stolen Collection, which has been paid for by Narcotics Asset Forfeiture funds, money police seize from criminals during investigations like drug busts, said Lt. Jon Lewis.
“That money can only be spent on crime prevention,” he said.
While violent crime is rare in Newport Beach, property theft is rampant.
The city recorded 832 residential property thefts and 665 thefts from vehicles in 2012. Bikes, cell phones, purses, electronics and jewelry are some of the most common items stolen, according to police.
The department chose to launch the campaign in December because the holiday season typically leads to an increase in property theft, said police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.
“More people come out to shop during this time of year, and we want them to be aware,” she said.
The first model and faux thief to take the stage was Niko, who carried a bright-orange oversized designer purse, similar to those commonly stolen in Newport Beach.
The story goes that Niko stole the purse from an unlocked sports car in Newport.
“Niko may say, ‘finders keepers,’ but we prefer ‘leave no doubt, lock ‘em out,’” Lewis said.