Police Beat: MBPD Chief Johnson warns about ‘bank jugging’

Manhattan Beach Police Chief Rachel Johnson. File photo

by Liz Mullen

Manhattan Beach Police Department Chief Rachel Johnson wants to alert residents to an old scam colloquially known as “bank jugging.”.

A thief waits outside a bank, and follows a person who comes out with an envelope full of cash. The thief then steals the envelope when the person leaves it in the car.

“It’s something that we see, that happens periodically, not often, but just enough for us to want to talk about it,” MBPD Chief Rachel Johnson told the Easy Reader.

“We have one or two crimes every month of bank jugging — where someone will go to the bank and take out $10,000, $15,000,” Johnson said.

Some people actually exit the bank with the bank envelope visible in their hands and leave the cash in the car while they go about their errands, Johnson said. “Someone has observed them with this envelope and they will follow them and smash the window, but oftentimes just open the unlocked car door and take the money and walk away.”

There are common sense things people can do to avoid being a victim of bank jugging, Johnson noted, including not openly carrying the envelope and keeping it with them at all times.

Johnson took over as MBPD Chief of Police in the summer of 2022, after working 21 years in law enforcement. Immediately prior to taking the top spot at MBPD, Johnson was a captain at the Laguna Beach Police Department. She is down to earth and empathetic, often putting herself in others’ shoes as she talks about victims of crime.

“One of the best things about working here in Manhattan Beach as a police chief is we have a very low violent crime rate,” she said. Most of what she sees are property crimes — residential, commercial, and vehicle burglaries and stolen vehicles.

Being a beach city, many people have had their cars stolen when they come to Manhattan Beach to surf because they leave their keys in or around their cars, she said.

MBPD officers have warned surfers about this practice being an easy way to get their cars stolen and the number of people leaving their keys with the car has dropped dramatically, Johnson said.

Manhattan Beach also has a lot of retail businesses and therefore a lot of retail crimes. “Close to half of our theft-related crime has to do with shoplifting,” Johnson said. MBPD officers work with retail store owners and managers on crime prevention all the time, she said.

In February of this year, the BevMo on Rosecrans Avenue was broken into three times by thieves who smashed the front door, went into the store and stole multiple bottles of alcohol. The BevMo burglaries ended on Feb. 29 when MBPD officers caught four people after the store was broken into a fourth time and after a high speed chase. Bottles of alcohol from BevMo were found in the suspects’ car.

“I really want to give a shoutout to our patrol team, especially our nightwatch lieutenant and our nightwatch officers,” Johnson said. “They put a lot of effort trying to catch these folks that were breaking in,” she said.

MBPD officers worked with the store management. They did surveillance, including putting a portable camera truck in the BevMo parking lot for three weeks, Johnson said.

Johnson loves her job, at least in part, because of the city’s beauty.

“The other best part about working here is the community,” she said. “They are very supportive of the police. They are always thanking us for what we do. And we really enjoy community support. I can’t say enough about how that positively impacts our officers.”

Another surfer car burglarized in El Porto

A burglar gained access to another car in the El Porto parking lot on June 8. When the surfer returned to his car, he found someone had stolen two cameras and credit cards. There was no damage to the vehicle. As previously reported, two vehicles were burglarized in the El Porto parking lot in May. One vehicle belonged to a surfer and the other to a beach goer. In both of those cases, credit cards were stolen and fraudulent charges were made on the cards.

On June 9, another home under construction was burglarized on the 800 block of Third Street.

The homeowner discovered the front door, rear door and garage door were left ajar. Surveillance video showed a suspect arriving at the residence in a vehicle and peering over the gate.

Also on June 9, the Reliable Plant Service on the 1100 block of 8th Street was burglarized.

A suspect broke into a lockbox containing keys and several items were stolen from the business, including at least two iMacs. Manhattan Beach Police Department officers were able to locate and arrest a suspect. Items stolen from the business were located in the suspect’s vehicle. MBPD believes this suspect also committed the residential burglary.

There were 45 crime reports taken in Manhattan Beach for the week of June 7 through June 13, including two for assault, six for theft, two for robbery, one for business burglary, one for residential burglary, one for vehicle burglary and two for vandalism. 

MBPD Chief to hold town hall meeting

MBPD Chief Rachel Johnson will host a town hall on public safety next Wednesday, June 26 at the Joslyn Center. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and is expected to end at 7 p.m.

Residents who have questions should email them to askacop@manhattanbeach.gov. The questions will be answered at the town hall.

Astrologer died by accident in Redondo

Danielle Ayoka Johnson, the astrologer police say killed her boyfriend, ejected her two daughters onto the 405 freeway, and crashed into a tree in Redondo Beach, died by accident, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner has ruled.

The social media personality, who had predicted an “apocalypse” around the April 8 eclipse, had marijuana, but no other drugs or alcohol in her system, according to the Medical Examiner’s report.

Johnson died in the early morning hours of April 8 when she drove her Porsche SUV at over 100 miles an hour into a tree on Pacific Coast Highway at Vincent Street

Prior to the accident, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, Johnson, 34, stabbed her boyfriend Jaelen Chaney, 29, in Woodland Hills, threw her daughters — a 9 year-old and an eight-month old — onto the freeway ,and proceeded to drive south, ending her own life by driving into the tree. The nine-year-old girl survived, but Chaney, the infant girl and Johnson all died.

The LAPD put out a press release, calling the incident a “”double-murder suicide,” and it was reported that way by numerous media outlets,

But Redondo Beach Police Department Detective Scot Martin told the Easy Reader in April that he did not believe that Johnson intended to commit suicide at PCH and Vincent.

The skid marks and the skid analysis done at the scene where Johnson drove into a tree told the story of a driver trying to avoid the tree, not hit it, Martin said.

“All the evidence indicates that speed was a factor, excessive speed, and loss of control of the vehicle,” Martin told the Easy Reader. “In my experience, if you are going to use your vehicle to commit suicide, you are not going to lose control of your vehicle. You are just going to see a tree and you are going to aim for it. And there is not going to be any evidence that you tried to regain control of your car.”

Prelim set in RB Pier murder case

A preliminary hearing has been set in the case of the man accused of murdering Teddy Campos, who was found dead, shot in the head in a Redondo Beach Pier parking lot stairwell.

The hearing will start on Aug. 27 in Department 8 of the Torrance Superior Courthouse. Alexis Martinez, 29, of Inglewood, who was charged with Campos’ murder, has pleaded not guilty.

The RBPD is seeking the public’s help in investigating a non-fatal shooting of a man at a Redondo Beach hotel on the 200 block of South Pacific Coast Highway. RBPD responded to a call of shots fired at 11:19 p.m. on May 7 and found a man who had sustained gunshot wounds to his upper torso. The wounds were not life threatening and the man was taken to the hospital.

There are no suspects and no motive. Anyone with information is asked to text the tip line at (310) 339-2362 or write anonymously to crimetips@redondo.org.

The RBPD alerted residents about a scam in which door-to-door solicitors were asking for donations to support Redondo Union High School. The people knocking on doors do not represent RUHS. Anyone who observes this scam or other suspicious activity is asked to call the RBPD at (310) 379-5411. RBPD used the SouthBay Regional Alert and Warning System to tell residents “Beware of Scam.”

A day in the life of Hermosa e-bike thefts

The theft of electric bicycles has become commonplace in the beach cities, but thefts one day in Hermosa earlier this month were particularly flagrant.

On June 6 on the 700 block of Pier Avenue, witnesses watched a stolen e-bike loaded onto a truck that fled the scene. Again on June 6, a bicycle that was locked to a street sign on the 2600 block of Hermosa Avenue was stolen. And finally, on June 6, Hermosa Police officers were able to catch and detain juveniles who had stolen an e-bike battery on 11th Street and Beach Drive.  The battery was returned to the victim.

HBPD officers dealt with a couple of instances of ID theft as well as a fake ID. On May 24, a victim on the 1600 block of Monterey Boulevard had their identity used by an unknown suspect who used it to get a credit card and buy an appliance. On June 5, a resident of Loma Drive had their key stolen from the beach in another city. Credit cards were then stolen from the victim’s vehicle and the cards were used to make multiple purchases.

HBPD also cited an under-21-year-old for using a fake ID to attempt to gain entry into a bar on the 00 block of Pier Avenue on June 5. ER





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