Palo Alto police have provided details in a search for a young boy and adults engaged in a residential-burglary spree in Palo Alto in the past month.
Detective Brian Philip said a boy who looks about 10 years old was confronted inside one home and seen jumping from the window of another, and adults have been in the area.
"These particular burglaries are unique due to the fact that in two cases, a young juvenile enters the residence while an adult waits outside," Philip said in a Thursday-afternoon press release that provided additional details to a report initially made at a "Meet the Chief" meeting Wednesday evening.
He said the juvenile is described as a Hispanic male with long brown hair and approximately 10 years old. The boy is approximately 5 feet tall and about 100 pounds, witnesses reported.
Philip said three incidents have occurred since July 17.
The first incident on July 17 was in the 300 block of Embarcadero Road at midnight, when
a resident arrived home and found the boy inside her house. He fled out an open window. Philip said no adults were seen waiting and nothing
appeared to be missing.
The second burglary occurred July 19 in the 400 block of Lytton Avenue at 1:30 p.m. When confronted by a resident the boy said he was
attempting to deliver carpet to a neighboring address. The resident told police that a Hispanic male in his 20s appeared to be waiting for the subject outside the residence.
The adult is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall and about 120 pounds. The resident reported that a skateboard was missing, but the incident was not immediately reported to police, Philip said.
The third incident occurred July 20 at noon in the 700 block of East Charleston Road. He said the boy attempted to enter the residence through a side door but ran away when he encountered the resident. The resident said he heard a group of what he believed to be Hispanic females outside the residence as the suspect fled.
The incident was not reported to police until 8 p.m., Philip said.
He said citizens should report suspicious persons or activity to police immediately, either by calling 911 in the case of an emergency or calling the non-emergency number, 650-329-2413.
Police Capt. Bob Beacom initially disclosed the burglary team Wednesday evening at an open-air "Meet the Chief" community meeting in Juana Briones Park in south Palo Alto, when resident met with police Chief Dennis Burns, who also has been named interim fire chief.
Other than circumstantial indications, there is no direct evidence that the burglars are in fact from the same family -- but the entering of homes creates a higher level of risk than burglaries of empty houses, police warn.
"Cat burglaries are the most dangerous," Lt. Scott Wong warned of burglaries in general at the Wednesday-evening meeting.
"The vast majority occur because the doors and windows are unlocked." A cat burglar enters a house with people in it, usually sleeping -- dangerous because of the possibility of a confrontation with the occupants.
Wong urged residents to "get to know your neighbors and secure your property" to help prevent future burglaries.
He said some would-be thieves pretend to be solicitors. Citizens who become suspicious of a solicitor can call the department's anonymous tip line at 650-329-2190, or text or e-mail a description of the solicitor to email@example.com. Those who relay information anonymously are assigned a number to maintain confidentiality.
Burns led the 6:30 to 8 p.m. meeting. He is filling in for retired Fire Chief Nick Marinaro until an executive search team and City Council select a new fire chief.
Other members of the police and fire departments joined Beacom, Wong and Burns. Each gave a report to the audience, many of whom attend the meetings each month.
Commercial burglaries have by risen 15 percent this calendar year over last, Beacom reported. He said the majority occurred overnight along East Bayshore Road, an easily accessible location. There have been 13 storage-locker burglaries along El Camino Real, he said.
On the fire side, arson is a concern as the summer progresses, Beacom said. Last summer, several suspected arsonists were identified and arrested.
Now more could be at work, he said, citing five suspicious fires since April 15, one at Herbert Hoover Elementary School. He said fires are being set between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. and asked citizens to watch for suspicious activity.
A woman in the audience brought up the organization, California Open Carry, whose members wear unloaded guns as a form of civil protest.
"It horrifies me," she said.
"It's the Second Amendment," a man in the back retorted.
"Do not assume an unconcealed weapon is open carry," Wong cautioned.
Lisa Scheff, manager of records for the Police Department, said Palo Alto's Community Alert Network System (CANS) will merge with Santa Clara County's similar system on Aug. 11. She said it will be "a seamless transition for residents" that will allow users more access to information.
Previously, Palo Alto only used CANS "in life-and-death situations," Wong added, referring to past cases of abduction and murder.
Beacom, in response to audience concerns about identity theft, said there are about 300 legitimate fraud cases every year. He said a Palo Alto resident is more likely to be a victim of identity theft than any other crime.
There are two detectives assigned to fraud, he said.
Staff cuts have hurt, Burns said. He reported that the budget forced the Police Department to cut five positions this year. Due to similar losses, Scheff said her Records Department will only be open Mondays through Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.