» MAP: Vehicle Thefts, Burglaries At SoCal Shopping Centers
» LIST: Vehicle Thefts, Burglaries At SoCal Shopping Centers

By David Goldstein

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — With Christmas around the corner auto thieves are gearing up for their shopping season… And it could be your car at the mall.

“There was glass everywhere, outside, in the back seat. It was a mess,” said Asia Kalejs describing what she saw after returning to her car at the Northridge Fashion Center.

“You can still see some scratches,” Kalejs said.

Her car was broken into and her backpack — loaded with books from Pierce College — was stolen.

“Everything for school was gone up to that point and it was finals, so I had nothing to study,” Kalejs said.

Paul Bartlett went shopping for just 30 minutes at the Antelope Valley Mall.

“I came out and my car was gone. It was ultimately a shocker,” Bartlett said.

It would be shocking for anybody, but especially so for Bartlett as an L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy.

“Here I am, off duty at the mall and I’m the one calling the sheriff’s department for help,” Bartlett said.

» Click Map To View

Kalejs and Bartlett are not alone. We crunched the numbers for 50 malls in Southern California and ranked them for car thefts and burglaries — just in time for holiday shopping.

Police certainly have their hands full with car thieves, whether on the streets or at the malls.

We rode with the LAPD, as they parked what is called a bait car on the street with the keys in the ignition. The idea is simple — once a thief gets in the car and starts to drive away, police disable it and the car stops.

Midway through the night someone took the bait.

“He’s in. He’s in the car,” an officer said.

The guy drove away, but down the block, police shut down the car.

“I’m going to shut him down before he gets on the freeway,” an officer said.

At first the suspect refused to get out, but the officers rushed the car and took him under arrest.

“We want them to think that every car that is sitting there could be the bait car,” an officer said.

In that scenario police purposely leave the keys in the car, but at the shopping malls, that is not normally the case. Smashing a window is the most common way they break in.

Police who work in the task force for auto-theft prevention said it is typical of what can happen during the holidays.

“I think it is more of a season for stealing stuff out of the cars at the malls because a lot of people go to the mall and put their clothing, gifts inside, the go back in and shop again.”

So what are the top malls for auto theft and break-ins? We contacted dozens of police agencies and found Westfield Shopping Town in West Covina to be number one with 91 automobiles stolen over the past 13 months. Second on the list was Stonewood Center in Downey with 83 followed by Los Cerritos Mall with 76.

Westfield shopping town in West Covina was also first in break-ins with 111. The parking garages around third street promenade in Santa Monica came in second with 91 followed by Los Cerritos Mall, which had 72.

In a written statement Westfield West Covina said “we wish the number could be zero” but with “more than nine million shoppers” a year…it works out to ‘an incident rate of about one in 45,000.”

So how can you protect yourself during the holidays?

“A shopping center is like a smorgasbord for auto thieves because there is such a variety.”

Security consultant Chris McGoey says the way you park may actually help.

“Try to park as close to the entrance as possible. Try to go at times when there is going to be more traffic in and out of the property. If you have an alarm system, use it.”

And, of course, don’t leave packages or anything in plain view — a lesson Asia Kalejs will never forget.

“I learned it the hard way, but I did, I learned my lesson now.”

» MAP: Vehicle Thefts, Burglaries At SoCal Shopping Centers
» LIST: Vehicle Thefts, Burglaries At SoCal Shopping Centers
» Statement From Westfield West Covina Mall

David Goldstein

Comments (23)
  1. Julie says:

    On the TV report they said the list of ranked shopping centers would be online. Where is it? I only see the map.

    1. Albert says:

      Julie is right, where is the list of rankings guys????????

    2. Robin says:

      right beliow where it says maps it says list…click on that

  2. Joe says:

    The thing that I find really disturbing about the West Covina Mall is that even though they have cameras in the parking garages and outside the garages, the truth is that some of those cameras do not work. What is the point of having those cameras if they do not work they are just giving us the consumers a false sense of security.

    1. headjazz says:

      Joe, that is exactly the point! To give the customers a sense of security. Alas, though it is a false one.

  3. BIG GREGG says:

    In a written statement Westfield West Covina said “we wish the number could be zero” but with “more than nine million shoppers” a year…it works out to ‘an incident rate of about one in 45,000.”


  4. NotMyCar says:

    Refried Beans, Okra & Waterelon are the culprits!

    1. Trisha says:

      Haha, too funny!

  5. Roy says:

    You left out meth. The crackers LOVVVE their meth!

  6. mauld says:

    Where’s the list of ranking of malls as promised???

  7. lyn says:

    I agree with Julie, where is the listing of the malls/shopping centers?

  8. tholl says:

    Yes… where’s the LIST of shopping centers, like they are saying on the radio today???

    1. Erik Oginski says:

      The data is in the attached map. Click here

    2. Erik Oginski says:

      We have now posted the data in a list format. Our apologies for the confusion!

  9. hank says:

    hahaha….even if the cameras were functional the security gaurd would be a minimum wage 17 yr. old employee who instead of watching for security problems would be txting or talking on his cell phone……..you really have to watch out for your self and not think the world is going to take care of you … !!

  10. Hayden says:

    I think a story that should be touched is the increasing number of break-in and theft from vehicles are occuring at Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Stations. The fire fighters will go out on calls and people will break into cars, or even the fire station. In some cases these thefts are occuring as the fire fighters sleep and are not out on calls.

  11. Who Are They says:

    Who are these people who break in cars?

  12. Embarrassment for West Covina says:

    It is embarrassing to see West Covina Mall as the number ONE since their mall is RIGHT NEXT to the West Covina Police Department, no lies!

  13. Mac says:

    What a shock. West Covina mall isn’t safe? Well duh! Look at the ghetto trash who roams around there.

  14. impoundguy, Los Angeles, Ca. says:

    The Burglar is in and out of your car in about 5 seconds…chances of them getting caught and you getting your stuff back about 6%….if you don’t want to loose your stuff don’t leave it out in plain sight…lock it or loose it.

  15. John says:

    Seriously. If there’s nothing in your car worth stealing, you have zero chance of being a victim. ZERO

    I live, work, and shop in West Covina, and have done so for the past 20 years. I’m currently driving a 2004 GMC Sierra and it is still in great condition.

    I always park at or near the entrance, which discourages vehicle thieves. I never leave my GPS, wallet, etc. inside, which discourages burglars. I have never been the victim of these types of crimes. Ever.

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