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Biola not immune from LA area crime

While La Mirada continues to boast some of the lowest crime rates in the Los Angeles area, Campus Safety reminded students that the city and surrounding neighborhoods are not immune to crime

“This is LA,” said Justin Shelby, public information officer of Campus Safety. “There’s definitely a strong criminal element to be aware of. The farther you get from campus, the less safe an area you’re going to end up in.”

La Mirada was home to 27 registered sex offenders as of May 2009, according to City-data.com. Crimereports.com lists several vehicle thefts and non-aggravated assaults within the last month as well as at least three house break-ins all within one mile of Biola.

Police also dealt with the discovery of a 21-year-old female Whittier resident’s body in early October, the shooting of a a 45-year-old man in late October and the robbing of a video game store in Whittier at the beginning of this month.

More recently, graduate students Eva Dittman and Hiromi Takahasi found the police surrounding their Ranch Apartment complex last week when a man living there threatened to commit suicide. Police then shot the man, according to those present.

“The police came and kicked me out, so I just heard the shot,” Dittman said.

Takahashi said she was coming back from doing her laundry when she heard a gun shot.

“That was the first gun shot I had ever heard in my whole life!” wrote Takahashi, who comes from Japan. “After everything was over, I said to myself, ‘So it may be what living in the U.S. is all about.’ This was a very shocking experience for me, who came from a country where owning guns is highly restricted.”

Danielle Heftey of the City of La Mirada Safety Department said such large-scale incidents do not usually involve or threaten students.

La Mirada is still relatively safe. The city reported a 35 percent decrease in “major crimes” for the first six months of 2009. Police reports from 2008 show 1,135 crimes for the city, compared to 2008 reports of 2,393 in Whittier, 4,431 in Downey and 5,566 in Fullerton.

Biola has had its share of incidents, however. A year ago, a man suspected of having sexual motives appeared for three weeks at Starbucks on Imperial Highway and Rosecrans Avenue, initiating conversations with college women and claiming to be a believer.

Shelby said Campus Safety warned the man to steer clear of students, but could not arrest him while he was off campus.

Shelby said students, especially females, should be wary of strangers approaching, even if the strangers seem to have good intentions. Students should never go anywhere alone with strangers, Shelby said. In public areas like Starbucks, students are relatively safe.

Students should take general safety practices into consideration, Shelby said. Although incidents are few, laptops, vehicles, and other personal possessions have been stolen in the past. Shelby said graffiti and vandalism are among the more likely crimes.

La Mirada has neighborhood watch systems set up, and Shelby said he lets police know about campus events and invites the police to be involved at Biola. The sheriff of La Mirada addressed the freshman class at the beginning of the semester.

“We’ve already got the ground work laid for when something does happen,” Shelby said.

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