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Burglaries Skyrocket in Palo Alto

Citing ‘dramatic spike’, police launch ‘Lock it or lose it!’ campaign.

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 paloalto@tipnow.org or via text or voice to 650-383-8984.

Phyllis McArthur March 20, 2012 at 02:19 AM
This is happening on the mid peninsula too. In my own neighborhood there were several brazen daytime burgleries. In my house, my dog barks at the least sound at the doors or windows. police say that a doggy in your home is the least likely home to be targeted. If you can't do that, an alarm system as little as 35.00 a month might be the answer. When an exterior alarm sounds, it's deafening, and scares the pants off any of these guys.
Kevin Raposo March 20, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Yes, having a dog in your home does make your home less attractive to burglars. Having a good monitored home security system is ultimatley the best choice. I found a good one that is only $14.99 a month with no contracts. It's worth checking out if you want to keep your family and home safe. www.SimpliSafe.com
Jon Keeling March 20, 2012 at 04:26 PM
CCTV (closed-circuit, private) monitoring is an option that is cheaper than monthly service and can do almost as much. You can set it up to record with motion-detection. But the main thing is to have the cameras in obvious locations. If the would-be thief thinks they might get caught, they will turn away.
Jon Keeling March 20, 2012 at 04:34 PM
How many residents would do something about it if you saw suspicious activity at a neighbor's house? I am not suggesting going out and confronting a would-be thief. But would you keep watching, to make sure everything turned out OK (it may be just a friend coming to visit, or the gardener/plumber, etc)? There are very few places in Palo Alto where you could find a home that is not within view of a neighbor who is at home. Many people in the area work from home or are homemakers/retired. Daytime break-ins should be minimal if we all stay alert.
Aaron Selverston March 20, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I live in Barron Park, and one time when my roommates were out of town, I had a friend come visit, and he drove a white unmarked delivery van (for work). We were sitting in the kitchen shortly thereafter, and I heard a knock on the side door. It was my neighbor. He'd noticed the van, and that the other cars were gone, and came by to make sure everything was OK. What a great neighbor! I totally agree with Jon, if we all look out for each other, we should be able to tackle this.

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