Orange County Sheriff Discusses 2020’s Major Rise in Crime

December 31, 2020 Updated: January 5, 2021

In what is likely to be his last address to the community for 2020, Sheriff Don Barnes of Orange County, California, emphasized the rise in crime this past year.

There has been a resurgence of drug trafficking this year, including methamphetamine and cocaine, Barnes said during a Facebook live address on Dec. 30.

“Our street narcotics teams have seized and made 180 felony arrests. They’ve seized 51 weapons, 36 kilos of cocaine, 132 pounds of heroin, 777 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 36 pounds of fentanyl (which equates to over 8 million lethal doses), and 444 pounds of marijuana,” the sheriff said when talking about the first three-quarters of 2020.

Many of the drug proceeds head back south of the border, and the Sheriff’s Department has intercepted a total of about $2.5 million.

“What’s most alarming to me and I think should be alarming to the community at large, is the overdose statistics that we are recognizing year to year,” Barnes said.

He explained that in the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, there was a 24 percent increase in overdoses. As part of that, there was a 233 percent increase in the first quarter of 2020 from fentanyl related overdoses.

Barnes will sponsor Senate Bill 75 with Senator Pat Bates, which focuses on fighting fentanyl trafficking. It would create a Southern California Fentanyl Task Force, coordinating efforts of various government agencies.

A significant increase in auto theft has also been seen this year, Barnes said.

“In the Sheriff’s jurisdiction that we patrol—approximately one quarter of the county’s 3.2 million residents—we’ve seen a 25 percent increase in auto theft. Not only the theft of cars, but the sophistication that these professional thieves go to, to steal from dealerships through fraud.”

Along with stealing the entire car, there have been more thefts of catalytic converters off of vehicles.

“Thieves will actually go into your car at night, they’ll steal off the catalytic converter, which is part of the exhaust system, and they do that because the metals that go into manufacturing [converters] can be resold and recycled at a very high dollar amount,” Barnes said.

The Sheriff’s Department recently arrested several crews of people who were stealing converters throughout the month of November, in Ladera Ranch, Santa Ana, and Lake Forest.

To keep your vehicle safe, Barnes recommends keeping it parked inside a garage if possible, always locking the garage, and informing law enforcement if you see people sneaking around cars at night.

Cold call scams have also been on the rise.

“These are calls from individuals to your cell phone or home. They often times present themselves to be somebody who they are not and I will tell you that the scams are effective because they wouldn’t be happening if they were not working,” Barnes said.

One of the scams includes residents receiving phone calls where they are told there are warrants out for their arrests, but they can pay off the warrants with credit cards or gift cards.

“That’s not how government works,” Barnes said. “We’re not going to contact you to tell you that you have a warrant and you have to pay with gift cards, and to mail them to a location.”

Follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewVanVoorhis