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Protecting your property from thieves

Advice if you see criminals on your property
Posted at 7:26 PM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 22:26:50-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Videos of people breaking into cars and stealing mail are all too familiar on apps such as Nextdoor and Ring, where people can report burglaries or suspicious activity.

People are commenting on Nextdoor; they are fed up with their property being damaged or their cars or mail being stolen. Some people are questioning if they should take matters into their own hands.

But what should you do? What are your rights in regards to protecting your property?

"The first thing you should do is call 911 and get the police started there and provide as much description as possible," said Sergeant Nathan McCauley with the Bakersfield Police Department.

When you see something suspicious on your property or in your neighborhood, collect as much information as you can. From the suspects' description, vehicle description, number of suspects, license plates, anything you can use to identify the people committing the crime.

Sgt. McCauley said to save your surveillance footage as soon as possible and report the crime right away.

"I understand that people are going to have their moments where they are not going to get the response they wish they had... I understand people want to protect their stuff and their property, but they also need to make sure they're doing their best to protect themselves and making smart decisions," Sgt. McCauley said.

Local Criminal Defense Attorney, Kyle Humphrey said, just because someone is on your property doesn't mean you can use force against them.

"I think what people really need to know is, it's not a property line concept. We have a presumption in California that if someone is actually breaking into your home, you are entitled to presume they want to hurt you and will use deadly force. Outside of the home, you see someone beating up your snowman or kicking your tires, they can still be on your property, but you don't have the same presumption. So deadly force would not be justified even if they were on your property," Humphrey said.

"You have the right to take steps to protect your property and the right to defend yourself if in the event a suspect comes to attack you. But all of this is a case-by-case basis. There's not a hard line in the sand on what you can and can't do to protect your property," Sgt. McCauley said.

"I don't want to take a life over someone stealing my TV or my car. I think that it would be impossible to live with," said Humphrey.

Humphrey recommends to let the police do their job and to not take matters into your own hands, because it could escalate very quickly.

"We already know that the person messing with your car doesn't care about you and doesn't care about other people...Let's say that you tackle someone and they fall down and break all their teeth you might be on the hook for that. They have to question, was it reasonable force?"

Sgt. McCauley says to help prevent crime or protect yourself and property, make sure your outdoor area, especially near your surveillance camera is well lite. It's also important to have quality video surveillance and don't leave valuables in the car that could entice someone to break in.

For more information on how to report a crime and keep yourself safe visit BPD Website.