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 firstname.lastname@example.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."
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