The number of burglaries in Palo Alto is surging this year, police said.
The “dramatic spike” in daytime home burglaries has prompted the Palo Alto Police Department to launch a public awareness campaign called “Lock It or Lose It!”
The campaign is designed to educate residents about how to best prevent burglaries, recognize suspicious behavior and report that behavior to police.
Partnerships between residents and police have been effective at combating the burglary problem, according to a police statement Monday.
There have been 53 residential burglaries in 2012 through March 12, police said, compared to 149 in all of 2011 and 110 in 2010. Fewer than three months into the new year, residents have already experienced nearly half the number of burglaries as occurred in all of 2010, according to police.
A burglary is defined as entrance into a residence of locked vehicle with the intent to steal or commit a felony. Burglary itself is a felony crime, and convicted criminals are sent to state prison. Home burglaries tend to occur in broad daylight, police said, because criminals prefer to avoid confrontation and witnesses. Car burglaries occur mostly at night for that same reason.
A police analysis of residential burglaries in 2011 found that the point of entry was through open or unlocked doors or windows in 36 percent of cases. In another 36 percent, police said, burglars used some kind of force—either bodily or with a tool—to gain entry. In the remaining 28 percent of cases, police could not determine point of entry, but they say it is likely that doors or windows were left unlocked.
Hence the new campaign: “Lock it or Lose it!”
“If your property is left unlocked, it’s more likely to get stolen,” according to the police statement. “Residents who take the time to always lock the doors and windows to their homes when they are out are less likely to be victimized.”
Police are also asking residents to be sure to lock side gates. Numerous break-ins occurred via an unlocked gate, police said. This allows thieves to take their time breaking into the rear of a house, since they have the privacy of a back yard. This often occurs after the burglar tries knocking on the front door or ringing the doorbell posing as a solicitor, police said.
If someone comes to your door, police recommend that you acknowledge that you are home without opening your door.
Burglary prevention has become a top priority for police, and patrol officers have focused more of their time in neighborhoods whenever available, police said. Two day shift officers are also being reassigned to work with burglary detectives and focus on burglary suppression. Plainclothes officers are also being assigned to the task.
For tips of how to keep your home and car safe and secure, check out the Palo Alto Police website’s crime prevention page.
Officers are also working with city staff that spend time in neighborhoods to help them recognize and report suspicious activity. Departments to receive in this special training include City of Palo Alto Utilities and Public Works departments, personnel from the Palo Alto Fire Department, mail carriers from the United States Postal Service, and staff from large private delivery companies.
Residents are encouraged to call 9-1-1 to report suspicious activity, and any information about the recent burglary trend can be phoned in to dispatch at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or via text or voice to 650-383-8984.