In keeping with its fine tradition of serving as a civic booster for Orange County, the Orange County Register recently discussed the safety of Ladera Ranch in spite of the master-planned community's recent troubles. Blasting the words "Very Safe" in the headline, the Feb. 26 article offered assurance to residents rattled by the recent rampage of gunman Ali Syed, who made Ladera Ranch ground zero for his murderous spree. The Reg cited crime statistics offered by an Orange County sheriff's deputy who noted, at a recent City Council meeting, there were no rapes or murders in 2011 or 2012 (yay!).
And with 20 deputies assigned to a 27-mile unincorporated swath of county that includes Ladera Ranch, it would seem there are plenty of lawmen to provide coverage.
But as we all know in this wacky world, there are lies, damn lies, in statistics brought by booster rags that wrap grunions. If you really want to get nitpicky about Ladera Ranch's history of crime (you know we do), then you'll see it's not all rainbows and desperate housewives (though gold digger Nanette Packard, who was convicted along with former New England Patriot Erick Naposki of killing her husband, did live there.) Rape suspect Ali Achekzai, one of the Orange County district attorney's 10 most wanted criminals of 2005, also claimed an LD address.
Despite the assurances of residents that crimes like the aforementioned could never possibly happen there–that crime, in fact, is the exclusive property of SanTana and Anacrime–Ladera Ranch is quite scary. That's not to say the community has anything on San Bernardino, but to read some of the accounts of the crimes committed there over the years is to stare directly into the dark soul of OC. Gird your loins, dear readers: here's a list of some of LR's most notorious days of infamy.
March 10, 2013 – Two 12-year-old boys were ambushed at a playground by an unidentified, knife-wielding man who grabbed one boy and told him to take off his pants. The boys escaped when one threw wood chips in the attacker's face. Perhaps the presence of resourceful kids can serve to mitigate the presence of maniacs.
May 2009 – Mark Alan Jarosik was a big-shot architect from Chicago who began an affair with a woman despite the fact that he was married with children. Things turned sour between the two and Jarosik did what any reasonable narcissist would do: follow her when she moved away from him to Ladera Ranch, where he raped and attempted to sodomize her. After being bailed out of jail by his mother, Jarosik returned to the woman's house to talk things over, but lost his cool and punched her in the face, pushed her into the gutter then slammed her head against a curb sending her to the trauma center. In October of 2012, Jarosik was found guilty of his crimes and sentenced to 31 years.
July 2009 – On Independence Day, a skinhead with a swastika tattoo (heil America) and another man reportedly attacked a Latina custodian named Maria Guadarrama. The 45-year-old woman told police the men stole her wallet, tried to stab her with a Swiss Army knife and told her to "Go back to Mexico." That year Bill Wood, a member of Orange County's Human Relations Commission, referred to the attack as the "most violent" hate crime of the year.
July 2006 – Two LD men were busted with 20 gallons of PCP in their apartment after a maintenance worker at Laurel Terrace apartments smelled a funny odor coming from a nearby garage. A Drug Enforcement Agency spokesperson deemed the suspects–38-year-old Taylor Wright and 36-year-old Clifford Oliver–were among the largest producers of the drug in Southern California history. Damn, Ladera Ranch, I didn't know you liked to get wet.
December 2005 – Vandals took a saw to the base of a 15-foot tall menorah made of steel tubing and on display at Mercantile West Shopping Center. At the time it was estimated that 90,000 Jews lived in the area comprising three percent of the county's population. In a follow up article, Register writer Gordon Dillow cautioned readers not to jump to conclusions about the possibility of a hate crime. "After all, who knows?" he wrote. "Maybe the knuckleheads would have just as happily cut down a Christmas tree."
Odd, aren't people usually happy when they cut down Christmas trees?
But take solace, Laderans–at least you ain't Woodbridge.