Car robberies mark nagging, changing crime problem

Palo Alto police say 2013 was particularly bad year for vehicle theft

Thieves struck at an El Camino Real restaurant Tuesday evening, smashing windows and stealing items from seven vehicles, a familiar crime in Palo Alto that police say is evolving.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on Jan. 14, thieves broke the windows of nine cars at The Fish Market restaurant on 3180 El Camino Real, taking items from seven of the cars, Palo Alto police Officer Sean Downey said. In each case, the thieves stole electronics, such as iPads and laptops, and in one case, they made off with a passport and jewelry. At least five of the cars were rentals, Downey said.

Another eight window-smash car burglaries occurred at five locations locations along El Camino Real on Wednesday night.

Thefts from vehicles have been a consistent problem in Palo Alto, particularly this year.

"It's the same thing that's been going on for the last 8 months," Downey said. "They're targeting rental vehicles that are easily identified by the stickers on their front windows."

He said detectives are working this most recent case, pursuing avenues he said he can't discuss with the media.

Police advise drivers to lock car doors and put valuables in the trunk or out of sight to avoid tempting a thief to break into vehicles. But even that advice has changed as thieves have updated their strategies, Downey said.

Thieves find rental vehicles commonly used by traveling business people, break their windows, pop their trunks and then steal the contents of the trunk, he said.

"Now we tell people to take their laptops inside with them -- don't leave it in the vehicle," he said. "People will take their GPS (units) and phones out of their cars, but they'll leave their chargers in there. That signals to thieves that there may be something valuable inside. Take that stuff out and leave it completely bare."

September saw 61 car burglaries, including one day in which 13 cars were broken into and robbed in parking areas off Oak Creek Drive.

The Weekly tracked another spike in car burglaries over the summer last year and found that the burglaries occur throughout the city but that highly visited areas such as Stanford Shopping Center and downtown Palo Alto parking garages were targeted.

Police told the Weekly in August that would-be criminals will avoid Bay Area cities with a high police presence, traveling instead to other cities to commit burglaries.

A recent study found that property crimes across the state have jumped 7.6 percent since the implementation of the prisoner realignment program, California's effort to reduce the strain on the state prison system by redirecting some convicted criminals to county jails instead of state prisons. The report, released by the Public Policy Institute of California, stated that Santa Clara County was hit with the worst property-crime jump: 20.4 percent.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:25 am

What about the State sending undocumented prisoners (illegal alien prisoners) back to their country of origin? Incarcerate them there!! Prisons in these countries- e.g. Mexico and South America, are not the deals that prisoners get here. Here: Good food, medical care, clean facilities. We should gladly pay the transportation fee.

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Posted by Bob 2
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:36 am

Bob - agreed!!!! But it's common sense, so won't happen. :-(

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

IF they are what Bob said, I agree with him. Send them back from whence they came. We have enough home grown criminals, don't need to add to the stockpile. Penalties need to be stronger across the board. It's really appalling how entitled thugs feel to cause harm to others. I don't think they should be just jailed. That's a waste of time. They should be put on creek (when we have one again, that is) clean up, road cleanup and other type programs that require hard work and an eight hour day. Just sitting around in a jail cell for a few months teaches no one anything. Having to work hard all day, for free, and then return to a locked facility at night may actually have an impact.

And in case someone wants to argue that "putting people in small cells" is cruel, again, Bob is correct. In addition to what he said that criminals get, they also have Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, cell phones, televisions, access to drugs.

It's really ironic that criminals get better health care than those of us whom are uninsured.

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Posted by lights
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2014 at 10:57 am

A big problem with our city streets and parking lots is very dim lighting at night. This makes it easier for thieves to work in private. If the city and parking lot owners turned up the street lights, thieves would have less of a chance. The new LED street lights are so much more efficient that the electricity cost should not be an issue.

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2014 at 12:39 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

I have to disagree with the concept of sending the criminals back to their own countries for punishment. Why would those countries want to incur the expenses of punishing their citizens for crimes committed in other countries? They had no problem with these people, no crimes were committed there. Unless we develop a treaty where they agree to take back and incarcerate their citizens, for which we would probably have to agree to pay for the incarceration, they are under no obligation to do that.

If we DID have such a treaty, we would probably see rights groups sprininging up like weeds to protest and block the return of these people to "inhumane conditions", and the treaty would be unusable until those countries upgraded their prisons to match ours, probably also at our expense, but not under our control in countries where corruption (skimming) is rampant.

Even if we did all that, the governmental systems there are so uncontrolled that many of the prisoners would probably be immediately paroled (probably for a fee that amounts to a percentage of their take for their crimes.) They might be back in your neighborhood a lot sooner than you would expect.

Crimes committed on our soil are our problems, and I don't see trying to get other countries to deal with them. I agree that our prison system is in need of revision, as is our justice system. I believe that more consideration needs to be paid to the root-cause of a criminal act, not just the criminal act itself.

Consider this: A meth addict breaks into a few cars in an attempt to support his habit and gets caught. Since his crimes were ultimately non-violent in nature and our prisons are overcrowded, he gets a very short sentence followed by parole, or a suspended sentence. "No no, naughty naughty," and he is back on the street. Where is the action to prevent or deter him from repeating his crimes? He is still an addict, still in need of a fix now, and threats of future punishments are not more pressing than immediate needs, and he knows how to take care of those immediate needs.

My apologies to those very brave and very strong meth addicts who have faced and are containing their addictions. The truth is that doing that is VERY difficult, and while I admire those who are doing it, I suspect that most addicts do not have the character to be able to. Meth is a horrible drug. How do we give those few strong people free to pursue their legit lives while stopping the others from re-committing their crimes, over and over? I have no answers.

But I have a very difficult time finding sympathy for meth producers, traffickers, and pushers tho are creating the misery for profit. Those are the guys who can rot in jail.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

I liked the clue about not leaving your charger visible though, better go hide mine.

And the next time I go on a business trip I will make sure to leave my valuables in the hotel room or carry them with me.

When I am traveling with valuables (laptop, iPad, stuff like that,) I usually carry them in a backpack. If I sit down on a train, to eat or wait in an airport, whatever, I place the backpack on the ground and put my lower leg through the shoulder strap. Too many crooks, maybe only a small percentage of the population, but they are looking for targets. Don't be one.

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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Good food, medical care, clean facilities."

Hey, if prisons are so great, why don't you get yourself into one and live the good life for free, instead of working for food and rent or mortgage out here? [Portion removed.]

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Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2014 at 5:28 pm

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[Post removed.]

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

Careful folks, the deletion ogres are about.

Mark Twain wrote a piece once about a news reporter interviewing a runaway slave and asking why he had run away. The slave denied that he had been beaten, starved, or mistreated, and the reporter ask "Then why did you run away?" The runaway said "Well sir, I believe the job is still open if you want it,..."

I do not believe society should have the right, really, to punish people for their crimes, so sentences should not be about punishment. Society does, however, have the right to protect itself from those who victimize others, and that can include deterrence, rehabilitation, incarceration, or whatever. But if we incarcerate them, that incarceration should not be cruel or vindictive, it should just be a means of preventing a recurrence of the crimes.

Anyone who enjoys making others suffer, regardless of the rationalizations they put on it, has a screw or two loose, as far as I am concerned. It is wrong to enjoy creating suffering.

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