DISCOVERY BAY -- An increase in theft attempts the last few months has some residents in this normally tranquil community feeling uneasy.
Discovery Bay residents say they are seeing an increase in suspicious activity, including salesmen without credentials going door-to-door and unfamiliar cars casing neighborhoods. The uneasiness has led to a spike in service calls to the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department.
"(Thefts are) a lot more prevalent lately," resident Jim Mattison said. "It seems like everyone I know, or friends of people I know, have told me they've been burglarized."
What's alarming, Mattison said, is that burglaries are no longer solely "crimes of opportunity," where prowlers sneak in through an open door or window. Rather, more brazen prowlers are breaking into windows and doors, he said.
Popular targets for burglary include iPads and iPods, laptop computers and purses in cars; power tools, small electronics and cash in homes; and wakeboard decks and boat speakers and engines at marinas.
One of the recent auto thefts was $10 worth of coins that the driver used to pay for parking meters at work, sheriff's Lt. Alan Johnson said.
Despite the heightened concern, the recorded number of burglaries of cars, boats and residential properties has remained steady, according to sheriff's department statistics.
There were nine reported burglaries in Discovery Bay in both February and March, compared to 10 in January and 12 in December. The town averaged about seven burglaries per month in 2012.
Some say the problem may be greater than the statistics show because the counts do not include items such as all attempted burglaries and incidents incorrectly reported to the harbor master rather than the sheriff's office.
Though the numbers show residential concern may be more of a perception issue, Johnson says the recent spike in calls shows residents are reporting anything they feel is suspicious.
Concern about crime in Discovery Bay is not new, with the last major push occurring five years ago. A community meeting drew 550 residents -- about six times what was expected -- and raised awareness about neighborhood issues.
Organizers of a community meeting being held April 24 at Discovery Bay Elementary hope to accomplish the same thing.
"The chatter is out there. Hopefully, it helps re-energize residents to stay on top of things," said Amanda Dove, a resident who is organizing the meeting.
Discovery Bay has two sheriff's deputies and a crime-prevention specialist dedicated solely to law enforcement services. The three positions were funded by P-6 zone funds in 2009, an annual tax for police services in unincorporated areas.
Since that time, Discovery Bay's reported burglaries dropped from 178 in 2008 to 119 in 2011 and 98 in 2012.
Though it's too early to tell, burglary numbers may go down in April, Johnson said. Sheriff's deputies recently arrested four people from Stockton that were responsible for multiple Discovery Bay burglaries, he said.
"They told us that they were coming to Discovery Bay because the people had nice things," Johnson said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Here are some tips to help prevent burglaries:
-- Lock all outside doors and windows before you leave the house or car.
-- Make your home look occupied and difficult to break into.
-- Leave lights on when you go out.
-- Keep your garage door and garden sheds closed and locked.
-- Don't allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or fliers while you are away.
-- Don't leave items such as lawn mowers, barbecues and bicycles (or computers, cellphones and GPS devices in cars) in plain view.
-- Never leave notes on your door such as "Gone shopping."
-- Change locks immediately if keys are lost or stolen.
-- Have adequate exterior lighting.
-- Trim trees and shrubs so they cannot be used as hiding places for intruders.
-- Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other "secret" hiding places.
-- Write down the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
-- Note the descriptions of any suspicious persons. If you notice anything suspicious call 911 immediately.
-- Form a Neighborhood Watch group.
-- Consider installing a burglar alarm system.