Burglar flees Stanford Shopping Center parking lot

Six car break-ins reported during daytime hours this week

A rash of daytime car burglaries took place at Stanford Shopping Center this week, including three Saturday (Feb. 19), according to Agent Kara Salazar, Palo Alto police public information officer.

Another three cars were broken into on Thursday (Feb. 17), she said. All of the incidents occurred between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

A burglar was seen fleeing in one incident today but was not apprehended, she said.

Five of the burglaries occurred after the driver's side door lock was punched out, and the sixth had a window broken to gain entry, she said.

Stereo/DVD players, portable navigation systems and cell phones were the main targets, but in one theft, the burglar opened the trunk from an inside latch release and stole a laptop computer, she added.

Salazar advised shoppers, who often leave their cars parked for hours, to lock their cars and leave nothing visible inside. These burglars are targeting specific items that they can see, she added.

"An auto burglary doesn't take that long," Salazar said. "They break the window (or the lock), grab and leave."

Though these kinds of thefts can occur at any time, they are much more common around the holidays, she said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Let's-Ask-Stanford
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Let's hope that Stanford has not listened to Chief Dennis Burns claims that "surveillance cameras are unacceptable in Palo Alto" (or words to that effect). If the Shopping Center does not have surveillance cameras, it might be worth while beginning to ask "why not" .. in a very public way. If thieves are going to punch out windows, it might be worth while for the Shopping Center Management to investigate some sort of sound monitoring equipment that might be able to alert the security police when a car window has been broken.

With this many thefts in one day, it might also be worthwhile asking the Shopping Center why they didn't call in a couple extra security people?

Wonder who in Palo Alto could approach the Shopping Center with these sorts of questions? And would the Shopping Center be willing to answer those questions so important to the public--who are their customers.

Like this comment
Posted by use some common sense
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2011 at 12:11 am

While some thieves smash open car windows to steal belongings many just carry tiny porcelain/ceramic spark plug holders available from Kragen or Sears. They're cheap and effective. Just look on youtube and you can see a tiny spark plug holder shatter an entire car window by just lightly throwing it. The window also shatters in a 'quiet' way compared to smashing it by force using a blunt object. If you've ever had the misfortune of getting a car window smashed out the police often search the car for the little ceramic piece b/c most often it's the tool of choice. Cheap, effective, and easy to hide/carry around. Plus the way they shatter windows won't draw attention.

Car break-ins at Stanford are nothing new. They happen often on campus since students/staff leave their vehicles for school/work and the parking lots are unattended. In all cases people leave their vehicles with valuables in plan sight.

The mall already has security guards drive around patrolling the garages - what more do you want them to do? Make the place into a prison with fences and barbed wire? The fact that people are careless isn't the mall's fault. Blaming the management for people's ineptitude about leaving valuables in plain sight is silly.

If you don't feel safe shopping @ Stanford don't bother and go elsewhere. But believe me there are far sketchier places across the bay - especially in Berkeley/Oakland.

Like this comment
Posted by Use Your Brain
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2011 at 10:44 am

Really, Use Your Common Sense?

"In all cases people leave their vehicles with valuables in plan (sic) sight."

You must be omniscient to know this, o wise one. People should hide their built-in radios/cd players, their built-in GPS systems? The stolen computer was hidden, although one could suggest that it might have been safer at home, it's true. Still, you're blaming the victims. The Stanford Mall is not poor--they could afford to step up security, and surveillance cameras might help a bit as well. I hope your version of common sense doesn't become very common.

Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 20, 2011 at 11:07 am

More information would be useful: did these occur in the open-air parking areas? The structures? And while blaming the victims is wrong, we are the first line of defense for our own safety.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

The police dept's dumb statement about not leaving things in plain sight is dumb because from what the article states, many had things stolen which weren't in plain sight. I guess to be as safe as possible, people should have bare trunks & no hidden valuables.

I guess the upside is that the thieves easy pickins' are indicative there are still people w/money who like to shop at upscale centers. I guess that while the weather's cool we should now take our dogs w/us & leave them in our cars as deterrents - but only if they're not the breeds that fetch a high price.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm

it's only common sense that security and PA police should step up surveillance/patrols during those time periods when there is a rash of similar crimes. Just because it is "minor" in terms of crime, or some persons leave items visible in their autos, is no excuse for more such crime being permitted to occur. Once we know it is happening at more than average level, officials must respond and discourage it.

Like this comment
Posted by Need more cops
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm

From what I know there are only a small number cops on the street during the day and even less at night. I vote we need more of them. It seems this town goes from crime wave to crime wave (robberies last month, now car break ins) just like every town does. We need more than just a handful of cops.

Like this comment
Posted by CMG
a resident of Woodside
on Feb 20, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I'm wondering if these cars had alarms set, it isn't mentioned; does it matter to the thieves? Or do they break in anyway?

Like this comment
Posted by Let's-Ask-Stanford
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2011 at 12:32 am

> We need more than just a handful of cops.

This is a Stanford/Simeon Properties matter. The Palo Alto Police will not patrol the Stanford Shopping Center lot. And once thieves leave the Stanford property, it would not matter how many Palo Alto police were on patrol--as they would just be driving, or walking, or possibly riders on a VTA/Sam Trans Bus .. just ordinary people.

No .. this is a shopping center management problem.

One of the data points missing, is the number of reported car break-ins that occur on the Stanford parking lot/structures on a monthly basis. The Weekly article does not seem to provide any sense of how big a problem this is. If victims don't bother to report all of these break-ins to the Palo Alto police, then the actual number will be larger than the police think that it is.

The Palo Alto police do not provide information on its web site about crime on the Stanford University Campus, or the Shopping Center property, so it is not information that is generally known to the public. Other than these anecdotal data points when thefts spike, the scope of the robbery problems at the Stanford Shopping Center are unknown.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Shopper
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2011 at 11:28 am

Our car was parked next to the car that had its window smashed on Saturday - in the lot in front of Crate and Barrel. The lot was full and apparently that car had something valuable to take. Ours had only a water bottle. We were lucky.

Like this comment
Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm

A lot of silliness in the comments, as usual.

The advice the PD spokesperson gave is still important, even though at least one of the thefts involved a trunk item. These are hit-and-run tactics and the thieves are primarily stealing things that are 1) visible, and 2) removable.

Based on the Apple Store-related thefts from a couple months ago, I can guess that in the case of the laptop theft from the trunk, the thieves followed someone out of a computer store. The victim stashed their new laptop in the trunk and went back to shop some more. Bad idea, if that's how it went down.

Like this comment
Posted by Victim
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

the laptop was in the trunk not because someone bought it, put it there, and then left. it was in there because the owner just got off a plane and had all their luggage, laptops included, in the trunk. all the luggage was stolen from the car from the locked trunk by breaking the driver side lock, popping the trunk, and taking all the bags from it. there was no way the thieves knew that all that was there

Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

My kids have worked at the Stanford Mall for over 11 years. I have been there many times to pick them up, sometimes late at night. I have had an opportunity to just sit and observe the shopping center security at night, or rather, the lack thereof. Sometimes I have been stuck waiting as long as an hour, duing which time I made a point of looking for, and did not see, even ONE security vehicle make a parking lot sweep.

When employees are getting out of the late closing stores and eating establishments, the guard cars are parked and it's obvious they haven't been moved for a few hours. No security is cruising the parking lot. It is a well known fact that employees are supposed to park on the third story of the parking garage, well known to THIEVES who know that the cars are often left for over 8 hours, so a lot of break in's occur on that top level. One of my kids cars was totally trashed at the center one night, right outside PF Changs. No security in sight.

Stanford Shopping Center wants us to come spend our money at their stores, perhaps they should part with a bit of their own and install security cameras. Also, get their security crews out of the office and into the parking lot instead of crusing the interior of the mall.

Tougher sentencing when the scumbags who are comitting these crimes are caught would help too. They should always be forced, on top of punishment, to pay back their vitims.

Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm

I Could not agree more YSK. bullseye

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I seldom shop at Stanford Mall any more because I don't like to have my car broken into. No, I never leave anything in sight, but I know that if I buy more than I can carry, I have to put it in the car in order to continue shopping, after which someone is likely to break in and steal it because they have been watching. It's just more convenient to order things online. If Stanford wanted to improve security, all they would have to do is set a few traps with visible items in cars, catch those who will break in, and voila. I can't imagine why they don't do this. It would save so much in security cameras, etc, and the word would spread quickly that Stanford Mall is not a good place to steal other peoples' belongings. Instead, it's just not a good place to shop.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm

By the way I agree that these thieves are scumbags.

Also, on the subject of Palo Alto police - we have a decent number of police out there, however they spend much of their time driving perpetrators all the way to San Jose to put them in jail because the Palo Alto holding facility is CLOSED at night. This is such an unbelievable waste of their time, one can only marvel at who made the decision and why nobody does anything to fix it.

Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Oh gee, why would Stanford Mall (which is policed by PAPD) want to put up camera's if our own police Chief believes that camera's would 'raise questions of civil liberties?'

Web Link

You know what? Go ahead and watch me, I'm not committing any crimes. What's the difference between a camera in a parking lot vs. a store security surveillance system?

I am usually a big time supporter of our police department,they have a thankless job; but that particular comment doesn't give me a lot of confidence. It seems to me that the 'rights' of perpetrators in this city far outweigh those of the victims. Years ago I knew a kid who admitted to me that was breaking into cars at Stanford Shopping Center. It was back in the late 90's. He told me that Palo Alto is a target because of the liberal attitude toward crime and criminality. Some people I have talked to blame the uptick in crime on the economy. They tell me that the 'poor' people need to commit crimes to live. They then go on to say they make a police report only because the insurance company requires one for reimbursement of the damaged/stolen items. To that attitude, I say B.S. I don't have much money, I don't go around bashing car windows to take things that don't belong to me. More, these crimes smack more of entitlement than desperation. They need to stop.

Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2011 at 10:29 am

Let's Move

Sorry, couldn't resist. :)

Like this comment
Posted by More-Surveillance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2011 at 10:39 am

> A lot of silliness in the comments, as usual.

Wait until your car is broken into at the Stanford Shopping Center and you ask: "Where was the Security Patrol"? And don't forget, these attacks on cars could just as easily be muggings.

*YSK*.. thanks for your input. It's disturbing to that there aren't a lot of security people making their presence known near closing time.

With the lost cost of digital cameras these days, it makes a lot of sense having some sort of on-board car surveillance system installed.

It's a shame that there isn't some sort of law that mandates a high level of surveillance in large parking lots, like the one at Stanford Shopping Center.

Like this comment
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

We went to Stanford Shopping Center last nite, saw the what I thought were new yellow signs posted stating that the Center parking lot is under 'video' surveillance. I commented to someone at Fleming's that I was glad to see the 'new' signs, he told me they have always been out there, that they just added more. I did see one of the security guys cruising around, and a marked PAPD patrol unit. Good to see, but kind of unreasonable to expect the PD to be a constant presence in a shopping center. They DO have an entire city to patrol.

So what's the truth? IS there a video surveillance in place, or not?

Like this comment
Posted by Former Employee
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2012 at 7:18 am

The added video surveillance signs are just a "beware of dog" scare tactic. The video equipment is horrible, covers a very limited amount of the property, and some of it doesn't even work. The signs were put up because the mall manager is to cheap to invest in new cameras. What a joke.

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

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