Action to Prevent Car Break-ins at Bolsa Chica
By Tom Van Huss, Sea and Sage Audubon Treasurer

For many years there has been an ugly side to a visit to Bolsa Chica: the threat of crime, specifically theft from cars in the parking lot. Thieves target photography and optical equipment, wallets, purses, and other items.

Last November Sea and Sage Audubon Society’s Board of Directors appointed a committee to learn more about the situation and to work with local authorities and agencies in finding solutions to curb this problem. Since then, our committee has met weekly. We began by conducting a survey of victims to gather data about these crimes.

From the nearly 30 responses we obtained, we learned many details, including:

  • The break-ins can occur on any day of the week, and at any time of the day.
  • The average value of items stolen was over $2,000.
  • There was usually additional expense for repair of damage to car trunks and doors.
  • In most cases the incident was reported to the Huntington Beach Police Department, even though Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is not officially in their jurisdiction.
  • Beyond the monetary damage, many of the victims do not return to Bolsa Chica, or if they do return, they do so with great trepidation.

Armed with these data, our committee has met with Melissa Loebl, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Reserve Manager for Bolsa Chica; Dan Kalmick, Huntington Beach City Councilman; Julian Harvey, Interim Chief of the Huntington Beach Police Department; and members of all three Bolsa Chica NGOs. All have expressed their commitment to finding solutions to this problem.

Several steps have already been taken or are in the planning stages:

  • New temporary signage has been posted at the Pacific Coast Highway parking lot. Larger, more visible signage is being designed and will be installed later this year.
  • HBDP has designed a camera surveillance system for both parking lots. Sea and Sage is currently working with HBPD and all NGOs to raise funds to purchase and install these cameras.
  • HBPD has pledged to respond to all calls from the Reserve.

In addition, volunteers will be recruited and trained to be a presence in the PCH parking lot and throughout the BCER, both to welcome visitors and provide information about the wetlands.