Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 23, 2012

$70,000 in jewelry stolen from Palo Alto home

Rash of residential burglaries continues as police launch 'Lock It or Lose It!' campaign

by Sue Dremann and Eric Van Susteren

A burglar or burglars stole 23 pieces of jewelry and a laptop computer from a house on Maddux Drive in Palo Alto Tuesday, March 20, the latest of nine residential burglaries this week, according to Palo Alto police.

Police said the combined value of the jewelry and laptop was $70,000.

Agent Sal Madrigal said the burglar or burglars entered the residence through a smashed bedroom window sometime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

A witness said that a Caucasian or Hispanic man in his early 20s or late teens driving a newer model black Chrysler sedan with silver rims and tinted windows may have been involved, according to Madrigal.

Madrigal said police don't know yet if this burglary and the others are connected.

"It's certainly part of the larger burglary problem that we're having," he said. "We don't know who's doing it, but it's definitely part of the problem we're looking into."

The burglary comes on the heels of a new public-information campaign, "Lock It or Lose It!," announced by the Palo Alto Police Department on Monday.

A yearly statistical comparison of residential burglaries reveals a steady increase from 2010 to 2011 and a troubling spike thus far in 2012, according to the department. There were 110 reported cases in 2010 and 149 reported cases in 2011 and 53 through March 12 of this year, police stated in a press release.

An analysis of the 2011 residential burglaries shows that in 36 percent of the cases, the point of entry was through open or unlocked doors or windows. In another 36 percent, burglars used some sort of force (bodily force, a cutting tool, a pry tool, or a window smash) to gain entry. In the remaining 28 percent of cases, the point of entry could not be determined, but it is likely that doors or windows were left unsecured, police said.

"It is these numbers that are driving the main message behind the Lock It or Lose It! campaign: If your property is left unlocked, it's more likely to be stolen," police said.

The campaign will focus on how best to prevent burglaries, how to recognize suspicious behavior, and how to report that suspicious behavior to the police. As recent cases have shown, a partnership between alert residents and the police is one of the most effective ways to combat the burglary problem, the department said. Several persons, some with burglary tools, have been arrested after residents reported seeing suspicious behavior.

A burglary is committed when a suspect enters a residence or a locked vehicle with the intent to commit theft or any felony. Burglary is a felony crime, and those convicted can be sent to state prison. Burglars are typically interested in avoiding confrontations and witnesses, so residential burglaries tend to occur during the day while homes are unoccupied, and auto burglaries tend to occur overnight while people sleep, police said.

"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. Burglars want to get into homes as easily and as quickly as possible, so leaving doors or windows unlocked makes their job simple.

"Residents are also encouraged to lock side yard gates. In many cases, burglars gain access to the rear yard after finding an unlocked gate. Once in the privacy of a back yard, they are free to break into the home unnoticed by passersby. This is often done after they ring the doorbell, posing as a solicitor or supposedly looking for someone who does not live there, to see if anyone is home. Residents are encouraged to speak through their doors to ask who is calling, or otherwise acknowledge in some manner that someone is home," police said.

The police department has made burglary prevention and burglar apprehension its top priorities, police spokesman Lt. Zach Perron has said. Patrol officers are focusing their time in the neighborhoods when not otherwise assigned to calls for service, and two day-shift officers are being reassigned to work with burglary detectives. They have been dedicated specifically to burglary suppression, he said.

Other resources, including plainclothes personnel, will also be reassigned to stop the burglaries, as staffing permits.

The police will discuss the burglary trend and offer crime-prevention tips at a special community meeting Wednesday evening, March 28. It will be held at 7 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Walter Hays Elementary School, 1525 Middlefield Road.

Residents are encouraged to call 9-1-1 to report suspicious behavior, and allow the police to investigate if that behavior is innocent or criminal, Perron said.

"It is always better to call and let the police do their job, rather than rationalize suspicious behavior and not call," he said.

Anyone having information about the current burglary trend can contact the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent via text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984. More information is on the Palo Alto Police Department's website by visiting www.cityofpaloalto.org and searching under "crime prevention."

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com; Editorial Assistant Eric Van Susteren can be emailed at evansusteren@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by randy albin, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:29 am

there was a time when a house could be purchased in palo alto for $70,000, believe it or not. where is there any common sense about expensive valuables in palo alto houses. do you have insurance that covers this?


Posted by just a poor person in PA, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:42 am

Well, the houses there go for > $1.5 million to live 1 block away from 101. $70,000 is small change to them I guess!


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:45 am

Why on earth does someone have $70K worth of jewelry in their home? Has no one heard of safes or safety deposit boxes?


Posted by steve, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:48 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Native PA daughter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:50 am

My parent's first home, Barret and Hilp home near Duveneck School, then Green Gables, (3br 2ba) cost $13,500 in 1950!

Get over the price of real estate here!


Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:04 am

Am I allowed to conspicuously clean my shotgun in front of my house?


Posted by AMRW, a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:37 am

Palo Alto Mom,
Did you watch the latest season of The Bachelor? That ring was $80,000 on it's own. $70,000 worth of jewelry doesn't surprise me. Hopefully the homeowners were wearing their wedding rings and those weren't stolen.


Posted by Moving Soon, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:41 am

the attempts to blame the victim here are lame. No, make that extremely lame. Then we have the xenophobes who feel everyone outside of PA is a criminal. They need to go back to their clan meeting. That's right, I said "They"
I can't wait until escrow closes...Palo Alto has continued to changed for the worse, and sadly so have its inhabitants, as witnessed here.


Posted by Why-Did-They-Pick-This-House?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2012 at 11:54 am

The burglaries reported in the past week or so have needed about $100K for the perps. Kind of makes you wonder how it is that they picked these houses, or if every house in the neighborhood keeps that kind of loot around .. so that it didn't matter which house to pick?

So .. what are the odds that this is an inside job, or some sort. There are an incredible number of gardeners, and house keeps, and work people on the streets at all times. Certainly these a small number of these folks could be the "eyes and ears" for people inclined to steal from others.

Requiring people to register with the police (picture, finger prints,
DNA, etc) seems very draconian at the moment. But given how open Palo Alto is to high-speed highways that allow thieves to disappear into the surrounding cities/towns, the Palo Alto police might not be that far off to request such a registry one of these days.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say most Palo Alto homes have $70,000 parked in their driveways. Of course vehicles are a little more difficult to successfully steal and monetize. In other news, I'm waiting for the report of the midtown purse snatching that I heard on the PAPD airwaves at 9:45 last night. The police are quite busy in this city.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm

So what if people choose to have their valuables INSIDE of their home? What if they are nothing more than family heirlooms? Besides, the home would probably have been broken into REGARDLESS of the value of the items in it.

Thugs just don't care. And, of course, the excuse that these are "drug addicts" just doesn't ring true anymore. These are THUGS who prefer to steal what they did not work for.

Did anyone watch the Alexandra Pelosi video? A "work ethic" is dead in certain parts of this country. I found a link on YouTube:
Web Link

I suggest that individuals with valuables like this should purchase "conceal" boxes inside of their home or a thick, heavy duty safe that is bolted to the floor. A friend of our family owns a few weapons and valuables that are stored inside of a heavy safe that is secured to the floor.

BTW, my husband said that he had a strange experience walking along California Ave. just yesterday. He was about to walk under the California Ave. pedestrian underpass (next to the Cal Ave. CalTrain station) when he noticed two males who were loitering inside the tunnel. My husband was carrying a bag when he noticed them whispering something as he was approaching. My husband was going to have to walk between them when one of them suddenly started to "close in."

My husband is about 6' tall and had taken self-defense classes as teenager. He flexed his arms and clinched his fists as he was walking by. The two young men backed off. He was wondering if he should call the police and report this, so he noted their appearance (two young black me in their early 20s wearing coats [it was not cold] and carrying bags).

Oddly enough, he immediately walked through the Bowden Park when he noticed two more young men (one Hispanic, the other looked Vietnamese) with baggy jeans and sideways caps, looking through a bag while they crouched behind a bench (hidden by the hedge) and watching him and whispering as he passed by. One of them was looking my husband in his eye the entire time my husband walked by...and acting like he was going to confront him before laughing to his friend.

Hopefully, this was just an innocent yet suspicious-looking situation. However, it did strike my husband as odd in Palo Alto. I know that I would be extremely worried if I were in the same situation. I wish that there was a way to have a more visible police presence throughout Palo Alto in areas like this.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

@ AMRW:

Good point. With the rapid increase in the value of gold and diamonds over the last few years, a nice $10,000 wedding ring purchased 30 years ago could easily eclipse $70,000.

This is yet another sad indication of the criminal element that is attracted to the "stocked pond" of hard-earned wealth in Palo Alto. Thugs don't care what something might mean to someone else. They just care to steal and pawn it for pennies on the dollar.

I hope that the criminals are caught and thrown behind bars for a very long time.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Recently in the news was a story about an employee of a house cleaning service in San Mateo County who systematically stole jewelry and other items in the homes she was cleaning. How thoroughly do these companies do background checks? And, yes, there are gardening companies who do hire people off-the-streets and from social service agencies. Are our senior citizens more vulnerable while walking? Is there a higher proportion of homes of seniors targeted? Are those of a particular ethnic group or nationality targeted - those who traditionally tend to keep valuables at home rather than in a ban?I I welcome a discussion on this -involving the PAPD. Is there a "trend"??


Posted by formici, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm

in the 1950's , a 2 story house with huge back yard in quiet safe neighborhood cost only 10,000 dollars! in bay area. btw, there are people who go to areas nayelli talks about, and never saw anyone black hanging out for 30 years! maybe its true that they say what you fear will manifest. if youre prejudiced like lots of people, you will get a reflection of that from your world.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm

@ formici:

I don't understand what you are saying. My husband does not "fear" anyone regardless of their race.

However, the two young men that seemed to surround him yesterday as he walked into the tunnel yesterday concerned him because they appeared to SURROUND him as he walked. This had nothing to do with the color of their skin...and I only mentioned their description in case someone experienced a similar situation.

There is nothing wrong with being conscientious about your surroundings and understanding the statistics of criminal behavior. We should all do this on a daily basis. If you see something suspicious in your neighborhood or surroundings, be mindful.

This is one reason why most people will not walk down the streets of East Palo Alto, Richmond or Oakland after dark while holding their iPad. The statistical likelihood of it being removed from your hands just "might" be a little higher.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Looks like one thing is clear: time for me to start becoming more like our fellow citizens in the deep south, by purchasing a handgun for me to have on me at all times (don't worry, I still believe in science).


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm

We need to find ways to convey it is not ok to intimidate, case, pull thefts, robberies in this city. Criminals to some extent must pass on info to their buddies about areas that are easy pickings. Good lighting, locking cars and houses, checking who is at the front door before opening all seem like good first steps to me.
I dislike the idea that scary types are hanging out near public transit or pedestrian tunnels, since this city is always harping on about walking places and some of us are female are considered vulnerable to some degree - this place described above seems an obvious spot for a police presence periodically.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Blaming the victim isnt the same as pointing out it's unwise to keep items that can easily be locked up instead where they can be easily snatched. It's merely a normal reaction to wonder about it, especially given the rash of home burglaries.

Local shelters should us this as an opportunity to market their dogs available for adoption ;-))

On the balance, these burglaries are really sad & I feel for the victims.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Nayeli - years ago Calif Ave pedestrian tunnel was troublesome. When I used it, I carried pepper spray or a boat horn. Why else would they be loitering - for their health?


Posted by DDee, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm

First of all, 2 cannot surround unless they have you up against a wall. The tunnel is not wide, and if 2 people are conversing, it would be awkward for a third person to pass no matter what time of day or the ethnicity of the pedestrians involved.
Second of all, the Caltrain tunnel to North California is used by many people, some of whom used the train or got off a bus and are coming or going to work, or school or activities that last all day, thus carrying a bag or backpack or sporting a jacket or coat at any hour is nothing out of the norm (or have you overlooked the fact that all our evenings since last year seem to go down into the 40s).
Third, lo and behold, strange as it may seem, there are Vietnamese, Hispanic and Black families who live in this area... and others who traverse California to get from the bus stop on Middlefield to the Caltrain station or the shopping/eating area on the other side of the tracks. OH! and lots of white kids as well, many, if not most of whom, black, white, yellow and brown, who were hoodies, these garments being all the rage of late, as well as - you know - useful in a Northern California climate.
So, as for fear factors, stereotypes and nimby-isms, we would do well to dial it back a few notches. I can assure you that a single person flexing arms and clenching fists is no deterent to 2, let alone 4 male teens if they have their hearts set on mayhem. Sideway looks and laughter are probably due to the fact that they recognized your husband's apprehension, saw it for what it was, and laughed as a way of releasing whatever hurt or anger being clumped and stereotyped may have evoked in them.... get used to that by the way. We brown people are much more "uppity" that way since the 50s.

and so now that we are back to the topic of all the robberies, might it be out of the question, given the economic reality that so many people --- even outwardly successful people --- are dealing with, to surmise that of all the many that are happening, a few might be using the moment and hype to engage a bit of insurance fraud, or is that out of the question?


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm

@ DDee:

When my husband was walking, one man was on the left side of the tunnel and the other man moved to the other. They began whispering to one another as my husband approached and then became quiet. My husband said that the one on the left pointed to the ground (as if to indicate where the other should stand).

As my husband approached, the guy on the right began moving to the left as if to close the "window" of opportunity to walk through. The one on the right was also looking down at the bag that my husband was carrying as if to peer inside it.

My husband noted that this was NOT like two guys just standing around in the pedestrian tunnel talking with one another as he tried to walk between them. Maybe it was the whispering, pointing or sudden quiet as my husband approached, but something just seemed amiss. When my husband freed his hands in case something went wrong, the guy on the left "coughed" and the guy on the right moved back over.

Like I said, I would like to believe that this just was an innocent situation. However, my husband said that it felt "odd" enough to take note of the situation. This is interesting to note, because my husband was raised in an urban area and often volunteered with inner city organizations as a high school and college student. He is used to highly populated areas, but he still felt that this particular instance was "odd."

And, of course, there is nothing wrong with being prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.

As for racial diversity: No one is arguing that, DDee. My husband couldn't care less about their race (after all, he is married to me...and I am a dark-complected Hispanic woman). However, he did note that all four men were dressed in a way that contrasts with most Palo Alto residents of the area (particularly with the sideways caps and hanging-below-the-rear-end jeans). And, of course, my husband also wears hoodies as well as the best of them.

Yes, I did tell my husband that it is always better to give any thugs what they want. I don't want to be a widow at my young age. However, he is tall and quite the athlete and isn't typically worried about this in terms of fighting back. However, he was within earshot of others on both sides of the tunnel too. My husband's survival instincts probably kicked in as he walked.

The point that I was trying to make is that there should be a more visible police presence in areas like this. Loitering in that tunnel should be strictly prohibited. Not only is it a potential safety issue (especially since people STILL ride their bikes down the tunnel), but it would help ease the minds of people who use that tunnel each day.

Moreover, the Bowden Park is still a PARK. It is impossible for police driving by to see behind the hedges from Alma St. If police could patrol on the road on the OTHER SIDE of the park, this might prevent it from becoming a meeting place for less-ideal activities. BTW, my husband told me at lunch that there was also what appeared to be a homeless man sleeping on a bench on the patio next to the playground.

Still, I think that it is odd to suggest that this was anything other than what the people said it was -- a robbery. This seems to be happening with more frequency in Palo Alto too.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm

@ Hmmm:

I think that you're right. I walk to California Ave quite a bit, and I might begin carrying some pepper spray on my key ring.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Interesting and sadly predictable how the wealth of the victims always comes into question. The crime is the theft, not the good fortune of the homeowners.

Nayeli,

What a frightening experience for your husband. I've always felt vulnerable in that tunnel.

Hmm,

Great idea about the shelter dogs!


Posted by whatever, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm

@ Nayeli, you go girl. Describe away! There is nothing wrong with anything that you wrote. Some people in Palo Alto are uneducated in this department. These are probably the same people who don't support to PD. Yes it would be nice to have more officers watching over the streets. I totally know the people you were describing, they are THUGS! Amen sister!


Posted by Way too many robberies being reported of late, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I've thought too what 'Posted by Why-Did-They-Pick-This-House?' brought up.

These do sound like inside jobs. How many Palo Altans will admit here that they employ illegal workers? If so, do you know where (really know?), they live?


Posted by Ask strangers, a resident of Addison School
on Mar 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm

We all really need to take an active role in asking people who wander around if they need something. I keep stopping and asking suspicious people if they need something - one person say they were checking for homes that need a new roof -- highly unlikely since he noticed a house with their mail still in the box at 5pm and decided to stop there.
Let'd do our part and make sure strangers know that neighbors are watching.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm

The house leaner I've used has son's who've gotten into trouble. She doesn't have a key to our house & we have dogs, & I don't leave her alone so I feel safe. That said, I trust her, but don't know her kids. I've had friends who've been ripped off by family members of cleaning people - always allegedly w/out the knowledge of the cleaning people. It even happens when they're bonded.

Nayeli - Palo Alto's rep for racial profiling aside, it sure sounds to me like the men in the tunnel were up to no good & likely the same for the ones in the park. I had a flat tire near the park once & was able to get a nearby resident to call AAA for me. No way was I going to wait in the park at night, so I waited on the grounds of a friend's medical office nearby for the tow truck. That area can be pretty sketchy. Get pepper spray & a boat horn!!!


Posted by Wary, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 22, 2012 at 10:51 pm

For what it is worth, I came home about an hour ago (9:30pm) to find two young men loitering across the street from our house, leaning on their large black sedan/SUV/big car with tinted windows, smoking and watching the neighborhood. They left a promptly - I'm definitely wary. No fancy belongings over here - just a bunch of dumpy cars, a termite eaten Eichler, and us. They are definitely in their early 20's I'd say. They were wearing all black so it was hard to even see them as I turned the corner with my headlights but the description in the article may be very accurate. One may have actually been Mediterranean or Middle Eastern ethnicity - and I say that because my family is of those heritages. I live in the "circles" and notified the police. Keep an eye out for casing.


Posted by big gouda, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2012 at 1:29 am

Should have hspent $2500 on one of my pure bred German Rottweilers..could have saved you 70gs! No one will try my house with over 300lbs of dog ready to get any intruder. Mostpalo alto residents are mainly just liberal pushovers ready to dial 9-11. Handle it your self!


Posted by ur prob, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 23, 2012 at 2:27 am

what was in that bag that had him thinking everyone wants it!!


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2012 at 8:05 am

I guess people don't listen even they heard "lock your doors" or "put away your valuable items" many many times already.


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