Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 14, 2012

Residential burglaries hit five-year high

Thefts from Palo Alto homes are up 56 percent over 2011, according to police

by Sue Dremann

Home burglaries in Palo Alto have jumped by 56 percent in 2012, prompting alarmed residents in one neighborhood to start organizing a surveillance program.

The police-department analysis, which was released to concerned residents on Tuesday, Sept. 11, identified 151 burglaries from Jan. 1 through Sept. 10 this year, compared to 97 for the same time period in 2011.

This year's numbers are the highest in five years. The trend nearly reverses declines in burglary since 2008, when there were 130 incidents from January to September, and in 2009, when 102 burglaries took place. The lowest number was 85 in 2010, according to the report.

The high 2012 figures were due in part to a spike during the first three months of the year. In January there were 21 residential burglaries, with 22 in February and 32 in March, according to police.

The department started a vigorous anti-burglary program on March 28, dubbed "Lock It or Lose It!" The program includes a public-education campaign urging residents to lock their homes and vehicles, increased police patrols and basic training for city workers and others who work outside on identifying and reporting suspicious behavior.

In April only seven burglaries were reported. The numbers stayed down for May through July, with between 10 and 14 for each of those months. But in August, the number of burglaries rose to 26. So far in September five have occurred. Three took place this past weekend, according to police.

Most of the burglaries in August and September took place in the northern and southernmost parts of the city. (A map of the August and September home burglaries is posted at www.PaloAltoOnline.com/pivot/?Map12.)

Capt. Ron Watson said more homes are empty during the day as children have returned to school. In response, police have almost doubled the personnel on neighborhood streets during the daytime, shifting patrol schedules and assignments and bringing administrative officers into the field. Detectives are also spending time in unmarked cars and plainclothes.

To aid police, residents of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood in north Palo Alto are discussing a surveillance program. Carla Carvalho, who lives on Edgewood Drive where one of the weekend break-ins occurred, is starting a buddy system. She hopes neighbors would park their cars in the driveways of people who are on vacation and specifically look out for each other while walking or driving past a neighbor's home.

"To be in constant fear in my house is not something I'm going to tolerate," she said.

Carvalho is writing a letter on behalf of neighbors to the police department to request guidance and a neighborhood meeting. Most neighbors have responded positively to joining the effort, but a few people have lower expectations, she said.

"Some people say, 'We can't do anything. It's always been like this.' I'd like to change that perception. I don't want people in Palo Alto, Calif., to feel they can't solve problems in their own neighborhoods," she said.

Residents say that one of their greatest concerns about the burglaries is what they perceive as a new trend: more forced entries. But Watson said the methods of entry have remained pretty much the same — unlocked doors and windows, a few smashed windows and the occasional pried opening.

Palo Alto police spokesman Lt. Zach Perron agreed.

"The burglars are not changing their methods. Since this trend began earlier this year, the burglars have always been forcing their way into some homes that are properly secured," he said.

It's more likely, however, that thieves are entering homes with unlocked windows and doors. Seventeen of the 31 cases from August through Sept. 10 involved the burglars getting into a home that way. In four of the 31 cases, burglars smashed windows. In one case, the burglar broke in a side door.

The point of entry couldn't be determined in the remainder of the cases. Police said a door was likely unlocked or open, or a home might have been under construction.

But the forcible break-ins have made residents jittery. Both incidents this past weekend occurred in Duveneck/St. Francis during daytime hours.

Karen White, president of the Duveneck/St. Francis Neighborhood Association, said the incidents have renewed discussions about video cameras at the entrance to the neighborhood.

"All of a sudden the fear level escalates quite markedly. Some neighbors are afraid to be in their homes and are afraid to leave their homes," she said.

White said her family's cars have been burglarized in the driveway, but she is less concerned about auto burglary.

"A home break-in is a whole different level of crime," she said, adding that a home near hers was burglarized.

Perron said the department continues to remind residents to report suspicious behavior immediately by calling 9-1-1.

"That is how we're going to have the best chance of catching burglars — by having an observant resident see something suspicious, then pick up the phone and call us so we can investigate.

Perron emphasized that the burglary trend is not confined to Palo Alto.

"Our detectives are working hand-in-hand with our crime analyst and are in contact with investigators from other cities to address this regional trend. ... It's continuing to occur up and down the Peninsula," he said.

Residents seeking more information on coordinating their neighborhoods against crime can take a free class through the city, said Kenneth Dueker, director of the Office of Emergency Services.

Crime Watch and Personal Preparedness will take place Nov. 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. More information and registration is available by contacting Annette Glanckopf at epvolunteer@paneighborhoods.org.

More information and tips on preventing burglaries are available at www.cityofpaloalto.org/StopCrime. Residents can also follow the department's activities and obtain updates about crime news, trends and arrests on Twitter (@PaloAltoPolice), Facebook (www.facebook.com/PaloAltoPolice) and Nixle (www.nixle.com).

TALK ABOUT IT

How is the recent increase in residential burglaries affecting you? Share your thoughts on Town Square, the community discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Can everyone just get a dog and keep these loosers from breaking in to our homes? I have always had a dog and I dare a burglar to try to break in. These criminals need to find a job.


Posted by Anymouse, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2012 at 5:54 am

I'm thinking about the story last week on PA Online, where the criminal was caught with the help of the owner of the house's Video Surveillance.

I wonder if the police can offer suggestions to the residents, here, of the best video surveillance methods. Though, I'm sure some are intelligent enough to search google, themselves.


Posted by Catch the bad guys, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2012 at 8:41 am

Police statements frequently blame the victim..."lock it or lose it"...or homes are not "properly secured." This is an alarming rise in crime and dealing with it should be the police's absolute top priority.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 12, 2012 at 8:47 am

I support the city installing neighborhood cameras. It's a big help with crime fighting. Residents should install home security camera systems. They are becoming less expensive. You can view your home remotely from the internet.


Posted by Wilson, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2012 at 8:49 am

Home surveillance systems are very inexpensive, and these days these systems offer the home owner video access to his/her premises via an Internet connection.

It makes little sense for the police to continue this silly lock it or lose it silliness, and begin to recommend that people spend some time ad money upgrading their home's ability to at least monitor itself. The police can only do so much, so it's time we, as residents, start doing out part in helping ourselves.


Posted by JC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

Can anyone recommend easy to install, wireless cameras for the home and outside...that are internet connected and accessible?


Posted by Joinpa, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 12, 2012 at 10:47 am

I don't think the police are blaming the victim, just stating the facts. Burglars are primarily getting into homes that have easy access - unlocked doors and windows. They have been consistent with this message. I lock everything, have a dog and turn on the alarm.

I know it is scary but we have to be diligent and consistent. We have to train ourselves to protect our home and work on prevention.


Posted by Rajiv Bhateja, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

Here's a link:

Web Link

Took me 15 minutes to setup.
Works on wired or WiFi, so can be located anywhere (within WiFi range).
Sends emails to your smartphone when motion is detected.
Under fifty bucks.

Good luck.


Posted by Wilson, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

> I don't think the police are blaming the victim,
> just stating the facts

Perhaps. Or perhaps they are just incompetent. They have had decades to prepare for the 21st century .. and all they ever talk about is "a new, big, police station".


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Sep 12, 2012 at 11:12 am

It's a combo. The police have their own political agenda. But people ARE asking to be victims if they don't lock up, from the perspective of crime prevention. It sounds like that happens in a lot of these cases.


Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2012 at 11:38 am

There aresteps that can be taken, such as the one suggested in the story: parking extra cars in the driveway of someone who is on vacation. Also, tell your neighbors when you will be gone, have lights that come on through timers, maybe even a recording of a dog barking for those who don't have dogs, leave a radio on, cut bushes that give cover to someone entering through windows, porch lights that detect movement (tied to the barking dog recording?), etc. Neighbors sre especially helpful, though. In my neighborhood, people watch out for each other, call to check on someone, get worriedthenew resident didn't tell anyone that she was leaving for a few days and nobody saw her, definitely keep an eye on strangers roaming around and pick up newspapers lying in driveways.


Posted by SteveC, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 12, 2012 at 11:42 am

Weak economy = poor job market. Poor job market + criminal record = no job. Solution for most is stealing or dealing.

Anyone with a prior record that can be looked up by anyone with $20 and and internet connection automatically screens all of these people out of the job market, unless the y have family or friends who will employ them. I am not condoning thieves in any shape or form, but suggesting they just need to "get jobs" is failing to understand the magnitude of the problem.
Thanks for the link Rajiv.


Posted by Dog Lover, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Our beloved dog died a few years ago and we are hesitant to replace her. But we kept the "BEWARE BAD DOG" signs up. Fingers still crossed.


Posted by Tired of PAPD games, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

We need to place police in the neighborhood and ask them to focus on burglars and not harassing the neighbors they are there to protect.

Where is the police chiefs plan?
Where is the mayor's plan?

Forget the new police station and vote against any of the council members who support it.
Put the police on the streets to protect and serve.
Do they still believe in protecting and serving or is their "moral problem" too much for them to get over?


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 13, 2012 at 11:27 am

Perhaps landlords should consider allowing people to have dogs. They can ask for an additional deposit and require the tenant to carry renter's insurance. Why do people always blame the cops? Why not blame the losers who do the crimes? Regardless of the economy, there are a lot of people out there who feel they are entitled to possess the property of others.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm

@Enough!

Dogs are not a widely adoptable solution due to pet allergies, the responsibilities and liabilities that come with owning a pet, and the expense.

Not sure who "always blames" the police. I didn't hear that, not even necessarily about the "losers who do the crimes".


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm

David, don't know how long you've been living in this City, or heck, any city in the vicinity, but people have a tendency to blame the cops when crime rates rise. There is only so much the police can do, the rest is personal responsibility, vigilance and luck.


Posted by anthony, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2012 at 5:35 am

why is this surprising? Our state has allowed illegal aliens in without any background checks whatsoever. Whatever your stance on immigration you have to know that allowing half a million people into any state without jobs or true means of support will undoubtedly result in a major crime increase. No country, state or city can withstand an onslaught of illegal immigration without some checks in place, we have none!


Posted by Peter, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2012 at 10:07 am

Just on the comment "can everyone get a dog " I think this neighbor should get a Glock & knife and stand vigilant 24hrs. Sending a dog to do your job is not fair. You should be the first line of defense then the dog to cover your back!
Short term the police needs to do more patrolling, long term the society needs to create more jobs & opportunities.


Posted by Alex, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

The number of home burglaries traditionally spike in the summer months. I think that light timers and Fake TV (www.faketv.com) are excellent solutions to deter burglars. Also, playing anti-theft home occupancy sounds MP3 or a CD (sells on Amazon or at Web Link ) in home while away is a great way to trick burglar that someone is in.


Posted by Alex, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm

The number of home burglaries traditionally spike in the summer months. I think that light timers and Fake TV (www.faketv.com) are excellent solutions to deter burglars. Also, playing anti-theft home occupancy sounds MP3 or a CD (sells on Amazon or at Web Link ) in home while away is a great way to scare burglar that someone is in.


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