OC District Attorney’s Billboards Send Message to Criminals: Stay Away

A billboard put up by the Orange County District Attorney’s office that says, “crime doesn’t pay in Orange County. If you steal, we prosecute” stands on the southbound 710 Freeway near Del Amo Boulevard in Long Beach, CA, on Monday, March 11, 2024. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)




Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer is sending thieves and robbers a message via Southern California billboards, buses and bumper stickers: “Crime doesn’t pay in Orange County. If you steal, we prosecute.”

The advertising campaign is in response to the rash of widely publicized smash-and-grab robberies in Southern California and other headline-generating commercial burglaries. Prosecutors note that many property crimes in Orange County are committed by crooks coming from other areas.

Of the 141 alleged robbers and burglars prosecuted in the first nine months by the district attorney’s new HEIST unit, only one was from Orange County, officials said.

“Sacramento may be rolling out the red carpet for thieves, but here in Orange County we’re throwing the book at criminals who come here to steal,” Spitzer said in a prepared statement, referring to perceived lenient policies by reform-minded state legislators. “If you steal, we will prosecute. It’s that simple.”

Spitzer continued: “When the risk is far less than the reward, it’s no surprise that criminals are committing smash and grabs, residential burglaries, and simply walking out the front door of stores with arms full of stolen merchandise, while you’re standing in line waiting to pay for your items.”

The campaign, expected to last four weeks and reach 38 million people, is funded by federal dollars raised through seizing criminal assets. Federal rules allow the money to be used to pay for anti-crime advertising.

Spitzer spent $150,000 to buy space on 10 static and electronic billboards along major freeways heading into Orange County from Los Angeles and Riverside counties, as well as on signs throughout Orange County, including one at The Outlets in Orange.

Public buses in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Norwalk and Glendale also will be draped with the anti-crime slogan. Additionally, up to $75,000 will be used on digital marketing advertising targeting cellphone users in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Imperial counties. Bumper stickers also will be circulated.

“We know where these people are coming from, we know what they’re doing here and we hope they get the message, it’s not worth it,” said Kimberly Edds, the district attorney’s public affairs director.

While the ad campaign is arguably a conversation starter, the jury is still out on whether it may do more to reassure Orange County residents than to scare off would-be criminals.

“Maybe it makes residents here feel more comfortable,” said Jodi Balma, a political science professor at Fullerton College. “I don’t think somebody planning a crime suddenly changes their mind because they see a billboard.”

Already, the criminals are responding. One billboard on the way into Orange County from Los Angeles County has been vandalized by a tagger to read: “Crime does pay in Orange County.”

“We’re leaving it up (that way) as a symbol of exactly what we’re fighting against, a widespread sentiment among some that crime does pay,” Spitzer said.

Posted in: Community, Criminal, Media Update, Member Advisement, Uncategorized