Burglars target Menlo Park's Willows region

'Unprecedented' spree gets highest priority from Police Department

Describing the crime spree as "unprecedented," Menlo Park police met with Willows residents on Wednesday, Sept. 22, to discuss a recent string of break-ins.

Ten burglaries and two attempts have occurred in September -- nine in the past week -- during the hours of 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., when most homes sit empty while residents work.

The burglars crossed yards, leaped fences, crept in through doors unlocked and locked, and even squeezed through a doggy door to snatch electronics, jewelry and money.

At the request of Councilmember Kelly Fergusson, about 60 residents sat down at Cafe Zoe on Wednesday night to talk about the break-ins with Police Chief Bryan Roberts and Sgt. Jaime Romero.

The thieves might knock on doors first to scout a home, claiming to look for a lost pet or a friend, Sgt. Jaime Romero said. He asked residents to call the police if that happens.

He also promised response times would improve, after one woman said a dispatcher told her no one could respond to her call about a possible break-in for five to 10 minutes.

Calling 911 from a landline might help, Sgt. Romero explained, because cellphone calls near U.S. 101 may be routed through California Highway Patrol dispatch first before reaching the Menlo Park police department.

Police spokesperson Nicole Acker told The Almanac the average response time for in-progress crimes is a couple minutes, if that, but it could be longer if other high-priority situations are going on at the same time.

Suspect information remains elusive. Police believe the burglars might be teenagers and young adults skipping school, so they're checking truancy reports. They don't know yet if the crimes are linked. But based on stolen check activity, investigators think some of the thieves hail from Redwood City and East Palo Alto, and are coordinating with other jurisdictions.

On Sept. 16, residents reported seeing a suspicious green sedan and a blue van with a gray stripe in the neighborhood, and police encouraged everyone to keep calling whenever something looks out of place.

Police have stepped up both regular and undercover patrols throughout the neighborhood.

Police urge people to work together to make the neighborhood safer. Individuals should also stash valuables out of sight, while making the exterior of the house less welcoming to thieves by keeping a clear line of view to the street and removing anything like bricks that could be used to smash a window. Locking doors, of course, is also a good place to start.

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Like this comment
Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Lock & Load !

Like this comment
Posted by local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Anyone comes into my house without an invitation will see the barrel of my gun . . . no apologies or excuses needed.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Pure insanity.

A person I know who lives in East Palo Alto had his house burglarized, and the police cannot do anything. He said he was told there is one detective working all the cases, including murders.

This kind of crime is going to continue and get worse with every success the criminals feel they have or every bold new idea they can come up with or chance.

The punishments are not that great for people whose lives are going nowhere.

I do not relish the idea of finding and shooting or being shot by some criminal with nothing to lose. All of these issues in the city and the state are tied up and the same - if our leaders were not as bad as the criminals we would not have all this criminal activity, and in fact would be moving the other way.

Like this comment
Posted by DC
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Our home was burgularized several years ago with several thousand dollars in losses and the Palo Alto police sent out one officer after several hours. He barely wrote a report and explained that they would not really be able to take finger prints nor otherwise do much about it. There was no follow up that we know of even though he mentioned that there was another recent break in several blocks away. Very dangerous. My concern is what will happen if my family walks in of somebody. We've considered getting a large dog.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2010 at 12:25 am

Dogs? Did any of these households have dogs? Dogs are a big deterrent. Yeah, there can be a hassle, too, but they can keep you safe.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 8:46 am

There is very little punishment for these perpetrators because our jails are full, so Judges just give them a wrap on the knuckles and let them go. Of course it's on there record whatever that means!!

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I have lived in the Willows for almost 10 years now. In that time, there have been various rashes of robberies and even shootings. In that time, I have found the police here totally unresponsive. Why is it that even now, with this recent rash of robberies a councilmember called this meeting rather than the police doing anything to make citizens aware? Neighbors handing out fliers were how I found out. I have gotten calls in the past from some sort of automated alert system they have but not about this "unprecendented" string of crime. We have now had over 11 burglaries in about 3 weeks. I live near a store in the Willows that has been a hotbed of speeding, blaring music and armed robberies and rarely if even see a police officer making the rounds over here. When I have called them regarding the activities, I can safely say you are looking at a 30 min+ response time. Since we had this meeting with the police, there has been another home invasion, an attempted home invasion and a car break in. I am not seeing much evidence that this is anymore a priority for the MP police than past strings of crime

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2010 at 5:42 pm

So the situation is unlikely to change since the all day parkers are not doing anything illegal (unless they litter, etc.).

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Sorry, posted to the wrong thread.

If neighbors DEMAND a meeting with the cops, with a plan of action, some of these criminals may get caught. With so much change in the police dept., they may be less responsive to residents' needs. Gotta be a squeaky wheel in this unfortunate situation. Been there, done that.

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

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