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Servers at downtown restaurants can help discourage theft during holidays

December 7, 2010 | 10:37 am

A six-month summary of crime in downtown Los Angeles

To cut the number of thefts in downtown Los Angeles this holiday season, the LAPD is enlisting waiters and waitresses in scores of restaurants to ensure that patrons do not leave their cellphones, iPads and cameras unattended and easy pickings for light-handed crooks.

LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon said theft of electronic devices is a serious problem this time of year, and he is hoping that the public, as well as servers at eateries, bars and clubs, will help curtail such crime. One-quarter to one-third of all major crime downtown is related to theft, explains Vernon.

"We're seeing a trend of lost and stolen cellphones and cameras, which were left unattended or unwatched by their owners in bars, hotels and restaurants," said Vernon, who oversees detectives for the downtown area.

Property crimes in downtown Los Angeles in the past six months. The area averages about 25 thefts a week, including shoplifting arrests at major department stores and drug stores, as well as bike thefts. The overall number of thefts this year is about the same as 2009 across the Central Division, according to LAPD statistics.

Thefts from 7th to 9th streets and from Hill Street to Figueroa Avenue are the highest in the area annually because of the large number of shops and restaurants located there, Vernon said.

The LAPD wants servers to give patrons a friendly reminder to hold onto their electronic devices or put them away, he said.

"Just a friendly reminder to a customer to 'watch your phone' might save that customer from having a bad experience at your business," Vernon said Tuesday. "Losing a phone today can have serious consequences for the owner with so much personal information inside … so many thefts could be avoided just by being more careful with one's phone or iPad."

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-- Richard Winton

Map: A six-month summary of crime in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Crime L.A.

Image: Property crimes in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Crime L.A.

Click for crime reports across L.A. County on The Times' interactive database

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