Identity theft concerns police

December 14, 2002

Ryan Carter

Violent crime is down in the city compared to last year, but a 63%

increase in identity theft has police warning residents to be

vigilant about protecting their personal information.

Det. Matthew Ferguson said the ease of the crime and its minimal

punishment after conviction probably contributed to the increase in

identity theft, which is on the rise throughout the country.


The department's crime analyst, Lt. Kevin Krafft, agreed.

"More of the criminal element is getting involved in identity

theft, believing they get more bang for their buck with less risk of

being caught, " he said.

Krafft stressed identity theft is not a new crime, but

technological advances make it easier for criminals to steal others'

identities with Social Security numbers and credit cards.

Law enforcement is still adjusting to stay on top of the

technology, and Krafft said monitoring the crime is a good start.

"The value in tracking it is, it tells us how large the problem is

and helps a victim go back to a credit company and tell them, 'Hey, I

didn't open this account.'"

Through November, 261 cases of identity theft had been reported in

Burbank this year, compared to 160 last year.

Auto theft also has increased substantially, from 479 reports last

year to 547 this year, an increase of 14%. Many of those were thefts

from rental firms, police said. About 40% of those thefts involved

people signing contracts to rent cars and never returning them,

Krafft said. Still, even without the rental car companies, an

increase in traditional car thefts occurred. Krafft said the rental

thefts could be connected to increasing identity theft.

Police are pleased that violent crimes -- including murder, rape,

robbery and assault -- as a whole are down 5%, with 176 fewer crimes reported this year. Last year, 3,563 incidents were filed.

"It shows that people are willing to report crime, which allows us

to investigate and solve it and be proactive as opposed to reactive,"

Dilibert said.

Dilibert acknowledged that more reporting of crime could increase

the number of reports, but being proactive comes in the form of

higher visibility of officers, which is a deterrent to crime.

So far, the year's only homicide occurred when an alleged drunken

driver backed his truck onto a woman standing outside of radio

station KIIS-FM (102.7).

Ten rapes and 92 robberies also occurred this year. Seven rapes

had occurred by this time last year and 101 robberies occurred in the

same period.

The most notable decrease has been in assaults, which fell 13%,

from 685 to 594. Among the reasons for the decline, Dilibert credited

a new program in which domestic-violence incidents involving children

were followed by visits from social workers and police detectives for

counseling and referrals.

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