Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 5, 2012

Residents fight burglaries with lights, cameras, action

Neighbors devising crime-fighting strategies

by Sue Dremann

Many Palo Alto neighborhoods are organizing in ways they have not since the rise of Neighborhood Watch programs in the 1980s, following a string of home burglaries that have plagued the city.

From surveillance cameras to neighborhood-warning signs, residents are strategizing to deter and perhaps even catch the thieves, who have made off with tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry, cash and electronics since late last year.

Email lists from Crescent Park to Barron Park are crackling with the latest news about suspicious vehicles cruising residential streets. Last week, concerned north Palo Alto residents discussed a white van seen on their streets and gave information about it, complete with license number, to the Palo Alto police.

Neighbors' increasing vigilance might help nab thieves like the ones who on Sept. 24 pilfered UPS parcels from a Crescent Park front porch within 30 seconds of the delivery. The resident, who asked that her name and home information not be made public, has shared images from her surveillance video with her neighbors and with police, she said.

Others are following suit. Annette Glanckopf of the Midtown Residents Association said many people in her neighborhood are installing cameras.

The victim of the UPS-package theft said she initially installed the home cameras to act as a deterrent to would-be robbers.

"But these kids were very brazen, or maybe too stupid, to see the cameras pointing everywhere," she said.

Though the police were unable to apprehend the thieves in her case, she shared the data from the cameras with officers, she said.

"The surveillance helped. ... We could see what happened during every moment after the UPS truck left," she said.

She believes the installation of additional cameras in her neighborhood will be key to the crime-fighting effort.

"The residents need to do more to protect ourselves so that crooks don't think we are easy targets. And we can do that by having more surveillance at intersections that lead out of our neighborhoods. If they know we have eyes on them, they will move on," she said.

Jim Lewis, who lives near the border of Crescent Park and Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhoods, said he and other residents are working to host a community forum on home, auto and personal safety.

"With the recent spike in home burglaries, auto break-ins and personal confrontations, the meeting is timely," he said.

The group is actively discussing potential methods, such as alarm and camera systems, locking gates, dogs, enhancing lighting, including some with motion detectors, and reviving a Neighborhood Watch program. They are also developing a list of vendors who install the devices, he said.

Old Palo Alto resident Stan Hutchings has created a handout, "Who Are You, parked in front of my house," that residents can place on unfamiliar cars that appear to be loitering. The flier's purpose is to give neighbors a way to let potential criminals know that people are watching, he said.

"The appeal for people to park in their driveway and ask their guests and workers to park in front of their house, and for everyone to be alert for vehicles that don't belong, seemed like a good idea," Hutchings said. "The appeal was in response to a recent burglary a few blocks away."

Palo Alto jeweler Georgie Gleim said that while security such as cameras and surveillance is important, sharing information is the best defense. She should know.

"We host a local industry network for just this purpose, and it has helped jewelers throughout the Bay Area prevent losses," she said.

Many of the residential burglaries have involved jewelry thefts totaling tens of thousands of dollars. On a neighborhood level, prompt information-sharing can help everyone, she added.

"We all end up being each other's keepers in some ways," she said.

On Oct. 1, an alert resident called 9-1-1, an act that led to the apprehension of an alleged serial auto burglar, 30-year-old Abigail Lee of Santa Clara.

She had 50 car keys in her possession to facilitate break-ins, according to Palo Alto police. She also had items stolen during other car burglaries in San Jose and Santa Clara.

The residents' efforts come at a time of increased vigilance by the Palo Alto Police Department, which launched a "Lock it or Lost It" campaign earlier this year in response to the huge spike in burglaries. The trend seems to have eased somewhat over the past month. After a busy August in which there were 28 reported residential burglaries, the number dropped to 14 in September, according to police statistics. So far this year, police have arrested 25 suspects for residential burglaries, including four who they believe are connected to the September cases.

There have been 160 residential burglaries reported in the first nine months of 2012, compared to 108 in 2011, police reported.

The department noted in a statement that the frequency of residential burglaries, like other types of crime, "is cyclical in nature." It encourages residents to remain vigilant and to report suspicious behavior immediately.

"A partnership between alert residents and the police is one of the most effective ways to combat the burglary problem," the department's statement read.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by marilyn, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

What is going on in the community center area re: burglary prevention?
Are we "on the watch"?


Posted by Lindsey, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:13 am

I have two watch dogs for protection since I live alone. Unfortunately, my neighbor is a hostile, grumpy old man who hates dogs and threatens me when my dogs bark. My dogs only bark if they hear someone near my fence area. Maybe my grumpy, mean ol' neighbor should be thankful my dogs protect the neighborhood!
Anyone have suggestions on how to deal with a hostile neighbor who leaves threatening notes? Cheers, and everyone please lock ip, and stay safe!


Posted by joinpa, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Lindsey,

I don't know if this would help, but perhaps you can point out to your neighbor the alarming statistics of burglaries in Palo Alto. And tell him how nervous you are living alone and how the dogs are your first line of defense...maybe try to get him to see things from your stand point. He may, or may not, care. After all, the dogs probably help if someone is near his home. Good luck!


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

If they're watch dogs, they're hyper-vigilant and likely bark at almost anything in the neighborhood, not only when someone's near your fence.

I think I'd be grumpy if I had that noise disturbing my work in a home office.

Don't let this city go to the dogs!! There are other good--and more neighborly--ways of securing one's property.


Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm

The ongoing and very public crime prevention efforts by the PAPD and neighborhood groups seem to be making a positive impact. Making 25 arrests in connection with many of these burglaries doesn't hurt either. If we as citizens take reasonable steps to safeguard our properties, remain vigilant and call in suspicious people and situations, and give the police every opportunity to respond to and investigate these reports, we give ourselves the best chance to reduce crime. It takes a collective effort in order for it to work.


Posted by Lindsey, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm

""Jardins"", i just used term 'watchdog' in a way to explain if someone came near my fence, my dogs seem watchful. You took the term wrong, chill out and I never said my neighbor having a home office anyway so bugger off and mind your own business!.

""Joinpa"", i like your style, I will heed your advice!
Everyone please protect each other, keep a "watchful -""watchdog"" eye out for burglars and please be kind to each other.
Cheers


Posted by Hilary, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Shut the yapping dog up. Don't be a thoughtless neighbor.


Posted by Dog Lover, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm

I can't believe the negative comments about the "watchdog!" Obviously the two people who assume that Lindsey's dog barks constantly hate dogs, or at least seem to. I bet Lindsey's dog is like mine and barks only when somebody approaches her house. Dogs are excellent deterrents to crime and people who have them should be praised for doing their part to keep their neighborhoods safe, not criticized by people who hate dogs! Come on, we are all in this together trying to ward off burglars. Can't we find ways to help each other do that?


Posted by Dogs that bark, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Dogs that yap at me when I take a walk are
a) stupid, they can't tell the difference between a peaceful passerby and a person breaking in,
b) betray their owners bad manners and the dog's inadequate training for living in a civilized community, and
c) reflect their owners free floating hostility toward everyone.
That's right, a decent person would not have a dog that barked so much.

I should mention to the dog lover who deposits its feces on my property, please stop doing that.


Posted by dean, a former mid-town resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Again, in the interests of full disclosure I am a fprmer mid-town resident.

Folks, yes, movement lights are a big deterrent and I have them surrounding my home in North Phoenix, but in today's world a HOME SECURITY SYSTEM with full monitoring is a must. Should be $30-39 a month to start (mine is $20 a month long after I met my three year commitment---insist on free installation).

Pretty simple stuff really...the front yard signs announcing the system help too.

You get a 10-15% savings on your homeowners insurance to boot.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2012 at 11:54 am

Lindsey - if neighbor is leaving threatening notes pertaining to your dogs, ask an animal control officer what your options are. But if I was in your shoes, I'd bypass that step and see an attorney re writing a cease and desist letter. I'd also be on top of my dogs' behavior and not leave them alone in the yard while I was gone. As a renter and long time dog owner, I've successfully combatted idiots, from ignorant landlords to stupid mail carriers, about my dogs and my rights, while balancing their rights as well.

As for people leaving notes on cars, isn't that illegal? Or is it illegal only if it's to solicit?


Posted by Jan H, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm

One of our neighbors solved the problem by installing cameras all around the outside of his house.


Posted by DosgCanBeTrained, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Dogs can be trained to learn about noises (if you work with the dog), and eventually the dog figures it out.
Dogs are wonderful really...just work on it.
Then there won't be loud barking etc with every noise. A dog will bark, but it should'nt be constant or really irritating.
Likey if it continues, look for a GOOD, nice dog trainer and it will work it out.
Love dogs.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

As usual, the dog-nazis are more concerned with their own self-centered space than the safety of the community. They should be happy they aren't being burglarized thanks to their neighbor's barking dogs. Instead, they make things as difficult as possible for dog owners. They are a much bigger problem than the dogs they complain about.


Posted by Lindsey, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 8, 2012 at 10:31 am

Alot of dog haters out there. Shame on them. People need to learn to be kind to each other. Steve C. and others, thankyou for your kind notes. Dog haters are just plain mean, bullies. I am installing video cameras on my house so nextime my neighbor comes over, it is lawyer 'cease and desist' time....take that old, mean, bully neighbor!


Posted by Stan Hutchings, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

As seen on NBC News 15 Oct, the printable Google Document can be found at:
Web Link
You can post it on a pole or your fence, and on the windshield of any suspicious vehicle that parks in front of your house that apparently does not belong.


Posted by Dogs that bark, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 27, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Just keep in mind that Cease and Desist orders can go both ways.The neighbor can get one to get your dog to stop barking.
Dogs used to be just part of the neighborhood but things have changed. Dog lovers have made a fetish out of them, calling them part of the family, referring to them as boys and girls, and expecting other people to smile and like them. It's out of control.
Keep your noisy barking dog and its excrement away from other people and you won't have any trouble. Just ordinary manners, nothing extra.


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