By City Council member Lori Donchak
San Clemente, the “Spanish Village by the Sea,” celebrates its 90th birthday in February. We’re known for a deep sense of history, planned expanses of open space, epic beaches and a commitment to community. All this was envisioned by the city’s founder, Ole Hanson, in 1928.
A lesser known fact about Ole Hanson was his fierce commitment to public safety. He insisted on electricity as an original feature of our town, claiming, “One electric light is worth one-half a policeman.” And he was correct. According to historic resources, crime in 1928 solely concerned speeders, which ultimately prompted installation of the first stop signs in 1930. Our original jail had only two cells and well-served a growing community into the 1960s. Hanson believed concern for fellow residents was a way to prevent crime. From the beginning, everyone in San Clemente looked out for each other.
Of course, the world’s changed. Compared to the original 650 residents, 65,975 of us now call San Clemente home. More than ever, as individuals, we need to actively practice safety for a better community.
If you’re a home or business owner, take a page from Ole Hanson and consider a lighting security plan. Experts say motion-sensitive lighting around the outside of a structure an effective crime deterrent. The element of surprise distracts burglars and also temporarily impairs their vision. Lights are important on all sides of a building, not just the front. Invest in light timers both inside and out. Seasoned burglars watch places to get a sense of routine. Unpredictable lighting thwarts them. Engage your neighbors. A neighborhood with a lighting security plan is a powerful statement.
At our December City Council meeting, Chief of San Clemente Police Services, Lt. Mike Peters, provided an excellent update on San Clemente crime and encouraged use of residential surveillance cameras. There are many brands to consider. The city offers a one-week, free-trial program for household, front-door cameras that send you instant alerts when motion is detected. It’s weather-proof and wire-free, with two-way communication and video footage. Learn more at www.san-clemente.org.
Landscaping choices are proven to deter burglars. Crime prevention through environmental design is a growing industry. The first goal is to maximize visibility around a building. Shrubs should be kept lower than 3 feet to remove potential hiding places. Next, impede window access by using gravel as ground cover (crunch alert!) and low thorny plants such as drought-tolerant bougainvillea, cactus or succulents. Burglars look for the easy mark and spend on average 10 minutes on a job. Measures that slow them down are effective.
Finally, make simple acts true habits. Always lock up cars, doors, windows, garages, bicycles. Don’t leave garage doors open or cars loaded with tempting targets. Call the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) for free vacation checks 949.361.8269. or ask a neighbor to keep an eye out and reciprocate the favor.
Ole Hanson’s dream was to give residents “a happy place to live.” His dream depends on all of us working proactively to provide public safety and keeping on that one electric light.
I’m always glad to hear from you. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lori Donchak is a Council member for the city of San Clemente.