A map showing locations of recent residential burglaries that recently was added to the department's website has been augmented with the use of Facebook, Twitter and two sites new to the city: Nixle.com and rBlock.com.
The better informed and engaged residents become, the greater the chances are of catching the criminals, spokesman Lt. Zach Perron said.
Call it Neighborhood Watch for the digital age. The campaign was rolled out on March 28 as part of the department's "Lock It or Lose It!" public-education program.
On the police department's web page at www.cityofpaloalto.org/police, residents can review "Lock It or Lose It!" information and find crime-prevention tips on topics such as "Home Security," "Strangers At The Door" and "Suspicious Activity."
The residential burglary map is updated weekly and currently displays the locations of incidents from March 1 to April 5 at 6 a.m.
"Unfortunately, as the map shows you, the burglars are not targeting one specific area of town," Perron said.
"It's literally all over the place, and the visual representation shows you how difficult it is to combat this problem as cops. There's no one area we can focus on.
"There are people out everywhere, and they're more likely to see the bad guys than we are," he said.
The Facebook page contains links to press releases and will have human-interest stories, crime statistics, videos and more. The department's Twitter name is @PaloAltoPolice.
Nixle is a service that sends text alerts from the police department to a person's mobile device or computer. People can also search for crime and traffic alerts and upcoming events, such as community meetings, by city, county or zip code. More than 5,000 departments nationwide are using Nixle. The city is not charged for using Nixle, Perron said.
The department also has a presence on rBlock, a neighbor-to-neighbor website that functions like Facebook or LinkedIn. The by-invitation-only service allows residents to invite people on their block to join. Alerts and discussion postings allow residents to share information privately with their neighbors. News postings also enable residents to target information to any block in the city.
Palo Alto has experienced a steady increase in residential burglaries from 2010 to 2011, and a troubling spike thus far in 2012, police said at the community meeting. There were 110 reported cases in 2010 and 149 reported cases in 2011. Through March 28, 71 residential burglaries have already been reported, the largest spike since 2007, police said.
In at least one recent burglary, neighbors on either side of the victim's residence were at home when the burglary occurred in daylight. Among the items stolen was a large flat-screen television, police said.
The Lock It or Lose It! campaign urges residents to lock up belongings, doors and windows and to report suspicious behavior in their neighborhoods.
Residents are at the heart of getting a handle on the burglary spike and keeping it under control, Perron said. The public is the department's "eyes and ears," he said. The department also encourages people who are not up to speed on social media to have their children or grandchildren sign up on their behalf and let them know of any important news, he said.