It seems that everywhere you read, there seems to be some burglary or other crime committed in Scotts Valley these days. Why is this happening?

After-all, it is considered the safest city in Santa Cruz County and people do want to come here and raise their families because of this and our great schools, right? So has this town experienced a dent in its armor?

If you were to read some of the latest postings on various sites like Facebook and Twitter, it appears that crime is on the rise in the good ole’ 95066. But is it really?

The Numbers

The fact is that although it may seem like we are spiraling towards Gotham City with no Batman around to save the city, there are actually less burglary and theft incidents (253) being reported in 2014 YTD, up to November 4th, than at the same time in 2013 on November 4th which had 275 such incidents during the same time frame. Basically, about 2 less burglary and theft incidents per month so far this year than last year.

In fact, 2012 had 370 reports of burglary and theft, and 2013 had 333 such incidents reported, a drop of about 9%. So far this year, we are on pace to have about 303 such incidents which would almost mirror the drop in 2013, which should also be about a 9% drop. So the numbers show that contrary to public perception, crime is actually decreasing in our own little Mayberry.

In addition, because the police department is not allowed to report on many of the details of a crime that is committed, the public does not know exact details of a crime that in some cases could be committed by relatives, friends or accomplices of some of the victims. It does happen. In other words, many times we assume the worst when we read something without fully knowing and understanding the circumstances of a crime.

Bad News Sells and Travels Fast

So why all the hoopla about crime and why does it look like it is rising?

Two words: Social Media. Because of social media, things that happen get passed on and regurgitated thousands of times and just as true and accurate news gets passed around, so does inaccurate news and information.

In many ways social media has become more powerful than television. This is not a stretch, consider this: When you watch a newscast on TV, you are done with it and on to the next program. With social media, you read something and pass it along to others, who pass it along to others and before you know it, tens of thousands may read your message and you may even be reading the message you sent out to others later on that day by someone who shared it with someone who shared it with you. Social media is about duplication. Duplication of good and bad news, but mostly bad news as good news does not attract as much attention as the bad news.

Case in point; Watch one edition of the nightly news and for the first 27 minutes you will watch reports on the worst things that happened that day and then to close out the program, they will throw in a “feel good” story to make you feel a little better. Why? Because negative news gets attention and sells, unfortunately.

The Bad and the Good

With the introduction of websites like “My Scotts Valley” which focuses on a specific area and community, all of a sudden there is a magnifying glass on things that happen as it has become an information hub for the entire area. Lot’s of good stories about what is happening in and around our town, events, as well as informational news and reports fill the page.

But suddenly, a car break-in that happened minutes ago is now the topic of conversation of thousands where not too long ago you had a hard time connecting with your neighbors to let them know your car was broken into unless you went and knocked on everyone’s door.

The bad thing is that in many ways, we are all our own reality shows in “real time” and things are magnified like never before. It is unavoidable if you are one who participates in social media and contributes content on your page or blog.

For those who don’t do much other then read what others are doing, it may seem troubling to read about a break-in in your neighborhood because you have always thought of Scotts Valley as the safest place in the world and all of a sudden you are hearing all this talk about crime. Now many of the positive stories and positive vibes that you had just went out the window as you are now in “worry” mode because a report of a crime in our neighborhood tends to raise feelings of anxiety and fear in people.

I know the feelings of a victim first-hand as I have had my car broken into and when I lived in Milpitas California, I had my home broken into. It is one of the worst feelings one can have. It is a complete feeling of being violated and along with the anger that comes with it, also comes fear and restless nights.

Although there is no words that can take the pain and fear away, the thing is that there is crime in all towns, everywhere. Crime has always been a part of life and unfortunately will always be a part of life no matter where you live.

But the good thing is that not only are the crime figures down again this year, but there is now more of an awareness of things when they happen and the best way to combat crime is to be aware that it does exist and take steps to make sure you are not the next victim.

Posting information on your Facebook page that you are out of town and on vacation is not a good idea. Leaving your car doors and home unlocked, even when you are home is not a good idea. Leaving your garage door open for everyone to see your shiny new bike raises eyebrows of those driving through the neighborhood and scoping it out.

This type of behavior also encourages what is called “crimes of opportunity”. Wikipedia describes crimes of opportunity as follows:

“A crime of opportunity is a crime that is committed without planning when the perpetrator sees that he/she has the chance to commit the act at that moment and seizes it. Such acts have little or no premeditation.”

Be Smart

Find balance in how you use and share information on your social media accounts. Not everyone who is your “friend” is really your friend on your social media accounts. There are people who use social media for the sole purpose of scoping out your activity to see what you may have of value and when you will be on your next vacation so that they can come check out your things in person. Hey, it does happen more often than you think.

So the next time that you see a post where someone’s home or car was broken into, encourage the victim to report it to the police. Alert your neighbors of what happened so that people know to always report suspicious people and suspicious activity to the police immediately.

While it may seem like bad news is coming from everywhere, the facts and numbers support that our town is still a safe town and getting safer according to stats. Take comfort in knowing that everyone is becoming more and more aware of things like theft and burglary in our town and with time, the news will also get back to the criminals who are thinking of coming into our town that eyes are on them.

Vine Hill Movie NightRobert Aldana