Palo Alto police are waiting to get reports back from the Santa Clara County crime laboratory on evidence left behind by the man who stole one car and carjacked a second at gunpoint June 26.
The incident sparked a frantic manhunt after police cordoned off a several-block area south of Greer Park.
"We're still processing evidence," Capt. Mark Venable told a meeting of the Midtown Residents Association Tuesday night. The carjacker "left behind quite a bit of evidence," including possible DNA evidence, in the two cars he used and abandoned. "We're encouraged about moving the case forward."
Police Chief Lynne Johnson told the 60-70 residents at the meeting that the June 26 incident, where a residential burglar was interrupted when the resident came home, used a gun to steal his car, then carjacked a second vehicle at gunpoint, was an anomaly. "Most burglars are not interested in confronting their victims," Johnson said.
Johnson told residents that residential burglaries are starting to ebb, but are still up considerably over last year. There have been 117 through July 10, compared to 169 for all of 2006. There have been 94 thefts from unlocked cars since Jan. 1 compared to 97 for all of last year. Auto burglaries -- breaking into locked cars -- is on pace with last year, with 256 through July 10 compared to 459 for all of last year.
Speaking of the increase in residential burglaries, Johnson said, "We are not the only city experiencing these trends, including up and down the Peninsula and in the East Bay."
A possible explanation, Johnson said, is what has been nationally a dramatic increase in the use of meth amphetamines, "which has gone crazy," she said. Palo Alto drug arrests are up sharply this year, too, and police believe that many residential and auto burglaries are committed by people stealing things to sell to get money to buy drugs.
The residential burglaries "are all over the city, and not concentrated in any one area," Johnson said.
Palo Alto police have arrested 22 people since Jan. 1 in connection with residential, commercial or auto burglaries. All but one of those arrested for residential burglaries "have resulted in a neighbor calling us or someone coming home," Johnson said. "The use of your ears and eyes really helps us."
Johnson also noted that her department is understaffed now, with nine vacancies, leading to officers working overtime, and that the budgeted number of police officers is lower than it has been since the mid-1980s because of budget cutbacks throughout the city government. The department is budgeted for 93 sworn, or officer, positions, down five in recent years because of cutbacks.
Talk about the meeting and recent burglaries at Town Square.