News

Nearly 30 auto burglaries hit Palo Alto in 12 days

Police warn that valuables left visibly in cars can be gone 'in a matter of seconds'

Nearly 30 automobiles have been broken into in Palo Alto since Aug. 16, prompting the Palo Alto Police Department to warn car owners about keeping valuables in plain sight.

Police are investigating 28 automobile break-ins that occurred between Aug. 16 and Aug. 27, primarily near downtown Palo Alto and the Stanford Shopping Center, police reported.

Most of the items taken during the 12-day period have been electronic products such as GPS devices, cell phones and laptop computers, police said.

A police statement warns people to "never leave valuables in vehicles" and that "any items left in plain view can be stolen by a thief in a matter of seconds."

Anyone who witnesses a break-in is urged to call 9-1-1 immediately. Suspicious activity can be reported through the department's 24-hour phone line at 650-329-2413.

— Palo Alto Online staff

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by crime wave
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Local students having some fun before school starts?

Doesn't the shopping center have surveillance cameras?


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Posted by Palo-Alto-A-High-Crime-Area?
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

So is anyone at the Weekly going to ask the police: "How many of these cars were locked, and how many were unlocked?"

The police have reported time and again that a goodly number (most?) of the car burglaries in Palo Alto are from cars that are unlocked. Seems like people are just asking for it if they don't take the time to lock their valuables in the truck, or not leave them in their cars at all.

The question about surveillance cameras in the Stanford Shopping Mall's lot is a good one. Seems that with all of the capital tied up in that shopping mall, the owners ought to have installed cameras just about everywhere it could. Wonder if the Weekly will ever get around to asking about that?


Like this comment
Posted by B. Li
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2010 at 6:53 am

FYI, an auto "burglary" requires the vehicle to be locked, otherwise it is simply a theft from a vehicle. And unfortunately the Stanford Shopping Center itself does not have any cameras. Cameras generally only assist the police after the fact.

People need to be smarter than the criminals and lock up their property. If you wouldn't leave 3 hundred dollars taped to the inside of your windshield or a thousand bucks sitting on your front seat then why leave your GPS and laptop in clear view....BTW most of these criminals are not "students" but likely adult drug abusers....


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Posted by they must be doing their x-mas shopping early
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 31, 2010 at 7:50 am

People are silly if they honestly believe a 5mm thick piece of glass is going to protect their electronics. You can easily shatter any car window with just a spark plug holder, which is just a small piece of ceramic. A piece no bigger than the fingernail on your thumb can smash any sized window on a car. There's plenty of videos on youtube if anyone is curious enough.

But I wouldn't blame students for these crimes. Breaking into cars on Stanford land is nothing new. It happens during the summer and during the regular school year in all the parking lots. The medical center employee lots are especially popular for breaking into cars and have numerous warning signs advising employees about this.


Like this comment
Posted by Not enough eyes
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 31, 2010 at 8:29 am

Stanford has a security guard driving around in a car in the parking lots. Perhaps the thieves used stolen cell phones to relay when the guard was on the other side of the mall.


Like this comment
Posted by JeffD
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 31, 2010 at 8:33 am

To "Palo-Alto-A-High-Crime-Area"
"people are just asking for it if they don't take the time to lock their valuables..." Seriously, they were just asking for it!!! So you're placing the responsibility on the victim.

Asking the PA police for statistics would be useless, once when my car was robbed the dispatcher tried to convince me that I must not have locked my doors because no glass was broken, she didn't want to listen to the fact that my car automatically locks the doors 30 seconds after I exit. There are slim jim's and other electronic burglary tools that gain access to t vehicle in less than 30 seconds that don't make the noise and mess of a broken window.

In a separate incident my Yakima bike rack was stolen and they classified it as theft instead of a burglary because a bike rack is mounted on TOP the vehicle instead of INSIDE the vehicle.

What would have been nice in the articles is details. What streets near downtown? What time of day? Was a make or model of car targeted? Give me something I can use so that I can protect myself.


Like this comment
Posted by ca
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:35 am

Jeff, the police don't write the laws. They can't say your bike being stolen was a burglary when it wasn't.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:37 am

My car has been burglarized twice since I've lived here, both times when I got distracted and left something in view - it was never intentional. The police told me there are groups of individuals from other communities who troll the peninsula for easy situations such as a mall parking lot, a youth event such as a soccer game where parents park a lot of cars and think all the coming and going will keep thieves away, any place where cars are parked out of view and the thieves can quickly get on the freeway. If you have nothing valuable in your car, you might consider leaving it unlocked as, in case of a break in, at least damage is less likely. If you have to leave valuables in the car, out of sight makes a huge difference. I agree that this is not a student problem.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo-Alto-A-High-Crime-Area?
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:56 am


The Palo Alto Police say:
> A police statement warns people to "never leave valuables
> in vehicles" and that "any items left in plain view can be
> stolen by a thief in a matter of seconds."

This seems like really good advice.

> So you're placing the responsibility on the victim.

What part of the PA advisory don’t you understand? If you were asked by your boss to deposit some money in the bank, and you left it in your unlocked car in downtown PA, and the money was stolen while you are at lunch .. are you really saying that he would say: “It’s OK .. it couldn’t be helped”?

> Asking the PA police for statistics would be useless,

A sad commentary.

> There are slim jim's and other electronic burglary tools that gain
> access to t vehicle in less than 30 seconds that don't make
> the noise and mess of a broken window.

Another reason never to leave any thing of value in your car in Palo Alto.

> What would have been nice in the articles is details.
> What streets near downtown? What time of day? Was a make or
> model of car targeted? Give me something I can use so that I can
> protect myself.

These sorts of details should be on an on-line/real-time crime statistics/reporting web site. Sadly, we don’t seem to have a police department that wants that sort of information in our hands in a timely basis.


Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2010 at 11:07 am

Hi not enough eyes...

I agree.

I watched a very suspicious situation in the Walmart parking lot in Mountain View. There were some people were walking around the parking lot, looking into vehicles while talking on cell phones and a person was driving around in an old SUV speaking to them via cell phone.

I don't know if anyone was guilty of actually breaking into the cars, but it looked highly suspicious. In fact, this is one of the reasons that we no longer purchase at this particular Walmart (not to mention the TERRIBLE customer service, overcrowded aisles, lack of merchandise on the shelves AND 30-minute checkout lines).

Look your doors and keep valuables (and recent purchases) COMPLETELY out of view)! Why make your car a target?


Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2010 at 11:08 am

*Lock your doors (sorry for the typo)


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 31, 2010 at 12:11 pm

It strikes me that if people do not feel safe leaving their cars parked at Stanford Mall, they will not shop there. A crime spree like this, if allowed to continue, will greatly hurt the entire mall because it will scare away shoppers, (or at least make shopping more problematic because of an aversion to bringing the cars.) It would be in the best interest of the mall to take steps to nip these petty criminals in the bud.

To me, a video surveylance system in the parking areas would go a long way to identifying the criminals. Granted you will not get a conviction based on a positive ID from these systems, but there is still a LOT of information that could be had from such a system that would help the police do their job. (They do not do as well in an information vaccuum.)

Granted the parking areas are necessarily large for the mall, but a system could still be installed that could gather information even from a distance, like how many people, how were they dressed, how did they travel, exact times of events, which directions did they come from and leave by, and so on. With a good system multiple cameras could be accessed (time based searches) to track the suspects all the way back to when they first entered the parking lot.

A rapid arrest of the perpetraters would go a LONG way to restoring public confidence that their cars were safe when left unattended in the lot. Yeah, some might still be burglarized, but a string of 30 cars without getting caught and with no leads would be near impossible.


Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 31, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Here's another tip: Lock your car with the inside button, not the clicker. My sister locked her car at the dish using the clicker, someone sitting in the car next to hers copied the signal and went into her car. They stole a major credit card and a department store card, but left an ipod, gps, cash, etc. alone.

They were so discreet about what they took that she didn't even realize that someone had stolen her card until she got a call from the fraud division of the credit company that night -- after the thieves had purchased a couple of $3500 computers from Apple stores in Palo Alto and SF.

To make matters worse, they copied her drivers' license info and using that and the credit card were able to walk into the Apple store and change the password on her MobileMe account, getting access to all of that info as well.

I guess I'm glad I use Sprint. I can't even ask a question about my account without giving them a verbal password and the answer to a security question!


Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2010 at 4:21 pm

PA Resident: your sister actually left her PURSE in her car, with credit cards, license, etc.? She deserved to have things copied/stolen! Thieves are pretty much opportunists. They look for obvious loot, like computers and cell phones on seats, a GPS hanging on the window, a PURSE sitting there, as if to say, "Steal me!" You can check into what times, which kinds of cars, which streets, but NOT leaving things in full view is the best precaution, anywhere. When you rent a car in Hawaii, they tell you not to leave anything visible inside the car. Why would that advice be any different at home, or anywhere? And, Nayeli, while you watched this very suspicious situation at WalMart, did it occur to you to call the cops, or security? sheesh


Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 31, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Stretch: No, actually she stashed her wallet under the front seat. Nothing was in view. I'm not saying it's a good idea, but lots of people drop kids at school or whatever then go to the dish to hike. They don't want to carry stuff with them so they lock their purse, wallet or what have you in the car. The thieves obviously knew this was a good place to sit and wait for someone to lock the car with the remote beeper thingy, then gain access without even looking suspicious since they're not jimmying anything or breaking glass.

I was just trying to warn people about another way thieves can gain access to your car, not get into a mean-spirited discussion of whether my sister deserved for this to happen to her.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2010 at 5:58 pm

This isn't about what people deserve/don't deserve. It's pretty harsh & nasty to say someone deserves to have their car burgled & their valuables stolen because they locked valuables in their car, especially out of sight. The majority of the time that people do this, I bet their stuff is safe.

The focus should be on catching these losers & preventing more thefts. What's the oh-so-heralded PAPD doing about it?

BTW, this story could use a lot more useful facts to help readers.


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 31, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I bed your pardon stretch, but no one "deserves" to be robbed, I don't care what they may or may not have done to invite it. Saying they deserved it is like saying it is okay to rob someone if the "deserve" it, and that is not so. There is no excusing the crime, sorry. I don't care if they left the car windows rolled down and $100 bills strewn on the front seat, it is still a crime to reach in and take anything that is not yours. Yeah, one could expect those bills to disappear, but it is still a crime.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2010 at 10:54 pm

This kind of thing I think should be handled with draconian punishment - BIGTIME! This is the lowest kind of behavior and anyone who engages in it needs to be punished in a way they cannot ignore, even if they have no prior arrests, and that needs to go with them for the rest of their life.

I had my car broken into one time and it was really a miserable depressing incident. The police said they could not do anything, and it cost me a bunch of time and money to get my car fixed the stereo ... which was totally cheap, replaced.

Why are we so easy on the criminals that do stuff like this?


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2010 at 12:10 am

Actually, while the invasion and theft of property is upsetting and financially costly, after a year or so, it will become just an annoying memory. You are still walking, talking, working, loving. living. A car burglery is a speed bump in life, not an IED. Save the draconian punishments for the crimes that deserve them.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2010 at 1:47 am

>> Save the draconian punishments for the crimes that deserve them.

If you don't get them when they are doing petty crimes, you are going to have to get them when they have killed someone or done real damage.


Like this comment
Posted by Utopian
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2010 at 9:19 am

Time for a car-free Palo Alto! Just think of the benefits! No car thefts. No car crashes. No deaths or injuries from car crashes. No rude drivers. No traffic tickets for bad driving. No automotive stress. Safe walking. Safe bicycling. Less noise. Less pollution. Less cash paid to tyrants overseas for their damned oil. Fewers wars.

We can do this, Palo Alto!!


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

Anon, people who steal from cars get lighter sentences than say a rapist, a murderer, someone who beats & robs someone, because they didn't harm anyone physically. You're way off target if you actually believe they automatically get violent. You're angry at what happened to your car, but don't lose your abilities to reason. What happened was lousy, but just imagine if you were beaten or raped or otherwise injured. How about tied up like the poor elderly man in Palo Alto last weekend? I'd take something happening to my car over fearing for my life any day. It's just a car.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

Anon, people who steal from cars get lighter sentences than say a rapist, a murderer, someone who beats & robs someone, because they didn't harm anyone physically. You're way off target if you actually believe they automatically get violent. You're angry at what happened to your car, but don't lose your abilities to reason. What happened was lousy, but just imagine if you were beaten or raped or otherwise injured. How about tied up like the poor elderly man in Palo Alto last weekend? I'd take something happening to my car over fearing for my life any day. It's just a car.


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 1, 2010 at 11:41 am

Last night I was driving down Embarcadaro, returning home from the store late at night. At the intersection with Middlefield, as I approached, the lights turned green and I should have been able to continue on through without stopping. But there was an SUV on Middlefield that chose that moment to start from a dead stop and cross Embarcadaro. It was like "Oh, I just missed that green light, I am going through because I should have already gone." I had to come to a complete stop to avoid hitting this guy.

Now, he broke the law, and under other circumstances he could have caused a serious accident, and applying that level of lame-brain driving on the freeway could potentially be fatal. What kind of draconian punishment should he receive for his crime?

On the other hand, to someone who has lived long enough to have made similar lame-brained mistakes himself, I considered the toot of my horn to be enough of a wake-up call to him.

Be careful calling for draconian punishments for minor crimes, if you live long enough, you will probably earn the same punishments you are prescribing.


Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

remember the wheelchair bank robber who robbed a bank in the stanford mall with a bag he got from the store right next to the bank? Ya, and he got away in a van with red lettering on it with a lift. Did thet ever catch him?


Like this comment
Posted by Calista
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by John and Brenda McMahon
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Sep 3, 2010 at 9:59 am

Where are the PA police? What are they doing? All the tax money that goes into their salaries seems like a waste when the crime rate is so high in the area. Stop running after the wrong people, get to work, and keep us safe. Enough is enough, Santa Clara county police. It is your protection that we need, not your harrassments abuse.


Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

John and Brenda, please slow down there. I would be very upset to find out that the PA police were spending their time staking out parked cars. Try looking at a few othe rheadlines on this site, home invasion suspects arrested and such, and tell me their time is better served swilling coffee in a mall parking lot. Isn't that why Stanford Mall is supposed to hire a private security firm? Where are THOSE guys?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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