Palo Alto police warn: 'Lock It or Lose It!'

Polcie launch new campaign to raise public awareness in wake of burglary spike

A troubling increase in residential burglaries has Palo Alto police launching a new public-information campaign, "Lock It or Lose It!," the department announced Monday, March 19.

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.

"Through March 12 of this year, a remarkable 53 residential burglaries have already been reported," 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 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 Palo Alto Police Department's website has a section on home security, recognizing suspicious behavior and being a good witness. It can be accessed at

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.

"It is always better to call and let the police do their job, rather than rationalize suspicious behavior and not call," Perron 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 or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.


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Posted by Ronnke
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm

This campaign reminds me of that scene in Full Metal Jacket when Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) berates Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio) for having an unlocked foot locker.
"If it wasn't for **bleep** like you, there wouldn't be any thievery in this world, would there?!"

Hopefully the cops won't turn over our houses and find the jelly donuts we aren't supposed to have!

Like this comment
Posted by A Jelly Donut
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I'm offended by the previous comment.

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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm

If Palo Altans spent more time outside, in front of their houses, I bet that would reduce crime. It is amazing to me how few people here in PA actually spend any meaningful amount of time in front of their houses. No wonder burglaries are up: both spouses are working all day long, few people bbq/hang-out/whatever in front of their houses, leaving burglars free to roam around.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm

'Lock It or Lose It!' sounds more like a threat then a slogan.

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Posted by Bleezy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm

It doesn't even rhyme.

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Posted by contract time
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm

PA PD claims crime wave when crime is down. It must be contract negotiation time.

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Posted by always locks the doors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Well, I can't help but point out the sad connection between the timing of this rash of burglaries and the publicity around the passing of Steve Jobs. Pictures of iPads left of the sidewalk... (I never saw any, but somehow the news made it seem like it.) Break ins across Los Altos and Palo Alto coincided and have continued. It doesn't help that the Isaacson biography mentions Jobs having left the backdoor to his house unlocked. (I'm sure burglars read, too.)

I am not blaming anyone, but we should probably have expected it to add to residential burglaries. The stepped up vigilance is probably necessary for awhile to come.

Given you most devices are wired nowadays, I do find it difficult to believe ipads and similar devices aren't difficult for police to recover, and wonder how much that had to do with that huge drug bust recently...

I do think highly of our police, they usually do get a handle on things like this.

Has anyone set up an internet-connected video alarm system?

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2012 at 8:59 am

I wish to take this opprotunity to make another pitch for homeowners to buy and install a video surveylance system on their homes. With a few of these scattered around, the police might get enough information to make more frequent arrests. A lot of information can be had from even a small grainy clip that shows the perpetrators. Properly placed cameras can cover not only your yard but also your neighbors front yards.

Don't ask for the government to do this, it ain't gonna happen. Don't buy a gun, buy a camera. You are not going to hurt anyone with a camera.

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Posted by Paul
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

JustMe, do you any recommendations for systems/equipment?

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

So, lemme see. Steve Jobs is at fault. People are offended at cop/donut jokes. People should hang around their front yards more. The slogan doesn't rhyme. It's contract negotiation time.

Justme is the only person making a sensible comment. Burglary is up because there are a lot of entitled loser thugs out there who have no compunction to steal the property of others. PC judges and others take pity on these jerks, blame their home life and the economy, and the problem proliferates. Eventually, someone will walk in to their home, surprise a burglar, and get hurt. Surveillance systems are great, but the problem is, a system worth it's salt, unless hard wired, will cost almost 4 hundred and up....

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Posted by sure
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

Oh yea, burglars read about Steve Jobs open door in Isaacson's book. I was wondering how they figured out some people leave their doors unlocked. Surely theu their love love of literature and free time reading.

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

Those clever rapscallions!

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Posted by always lock the doors
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:38 am

Let's see. A book reports that billionaires live in a quiet Palo Alto neighborhood within blocks of each other, and they often leave their back doors unlocked. Book is a best-seller and widely reported about on radio and internet. Media recently shows lots of images of makeshift memorials with iPads left right on the sidewalk. Sudden increase in burglaries ensues, especially looking for the unlocked doors in the back.

No one is blaming Steve Jobs (it's usually the courteous thing to do to actually read through other people's posts BEFORE spouting off, by the way). But most crimes are crimes of opportunity -- what do you think is going to happen when a potential opportunity like that is advertised to millions and millions of people? D'ya think a few of 'em might be criminals?

Good luck with that underestimating the intelligence of all criminals, just like Lucky and Wells Fargo did with the ATM skimmers...

Palo Alto police are doing exactly the right thing, stepping up patrols and educating everyone about the importance of locking up and reporting suspicious behavior. I just wanted to point out that there are reasons they may need to maintain that vigilance for awhile into the future.

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Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2012 at 11:48 am

Why doesn't the police Dept simply randomly park patrol cars on neighborhood streets.

Its a good quiet place to write reports or have lunch.

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Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

With a guard parked watching your home 24/7 you can feel pretty confident that you aren't going to be burglarized (Steve Job's home).

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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Since Colorado has OPEN CARRY and " Make My Day " laws, residential burglaries don't happen very often. The MANTRA here is " CARRY and USE IT "

It's too bad that the SFBA disarms it's citizens...and can't disarm the repeat criminals...

A THREAT is all that the PAPD can do...they should be as disarmed and as toothless as the local citizen.

Remember, when seconds count, the police are only a half hour ( or days & weeks ) away.


That is the ugly truth affirmed by the SCOTUS in Castle Rock vs Gonzales:

Web Link

Colorado Springs ( near Castle Rock ) residents successfully eliminate burglars several times a year...Burglars now avoid CS...There are easier pickings in Berkeley East ( AKA BOULDER ) and in Denver ( with weapons banned ).....

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm

WE need to take more responsibility for ourselves. Can't shoot anyone is nobody is home. Outside of crouching behind your couch with a gun all day, there are measures homeowners can take. An alarm system. A dog or dogS. Locked doors. A surveillance system if you can afford it.

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Paul, no, I really don't have a specific recommendation to make on a system, but if you go to and search for them those systems are listed with customer reviews. Just shop a little.

Some time ago we bought a 9-camera system to replace our 4-camera sysstem, and we paid about $1000 for it. yeah, it's a little pricy, but it is not bad compared to the common household income around here. It is also a small percentage of your loss if you get hit. It has a deterrent effect all by itself, it stopped the "ring-the-doorbell-and-run" antics of some kids pretty quickly. We covered the house and had cameras left over for watching the creek and a birds nest with eggs. And we found out who was digging in the flower bed.

Features I would look for:
Infrared for night vision,
Wired, not wireless,
Power and video provided through one cable,
Color during the day
Web access is nice
Ability to store at least 1 month of video on all cameras, circular buffer
Good reviews on Amazon

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Posted by jo bs
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

some lived in east palo alto and left their FRONT door ajar ALL night for freash air! some like fresh air. and also their window open!! but no longer of corse. the human race has deteriorated rapidly.this was 20 years ago.

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Posted by Mr. Ironic
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Wow the police have to dam near beg people to lock their houses and cars up. But people still don't listen so they have to make a whole campaign about it lol. Whats so hard about making sure all your doors and windows are locked before you leave? Is it really that difficult?

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Okay, the Palo Alto statistics are 110 reported residential burglaries in 2010 and 149 in 2011. It would be interesting to know what percentage of these cases are being solved. And more interesting to know whether anybody went to jail. If the jail sentences were more widely reported, like on large billboards at the city limits, we might get a reputation as a mean-spirited place not to mess with.

I'm afraid that right now we have a reputation that we in Palo Alto feel sorry for petty thieves and are more than willing to cut them some slack for all the misfortune in their lives or the addiction problems that aren't their fault. We have been blessed with so much. We have created this expectation of sympathy and sharing our wealth.

Lock it or lose it. Any wonder we are blaming ourselves?

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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm

The police are doing the logical thing. If the crooks realize that homes in Palo Alto are invariably locked and secure, they are unlikely to waste their time in this town.

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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Locking up only slows down thieves and make what they are doing more obvious. It takes neighbors and passersby paying attention and reporting to actually deter thieves.

And deterrence has limited value because the thieves simply move on to an easier target ("I don't have to outrun the bear -- I only need to outrun you") -- everyone can't be above average.

The key deterrent to thieves is not making break-ins require more effort, but to make them involve more risk (of the thief getting caught and convicted). And that is what is missing from this campaign.

A lot of suspicious activity goes unreported until after the fact (too late). I would have hoped that the police would have devoted some of this campaign to better educating residents on how to spot and respond to suspicious activity. BTW, the previous owner of my house had a break-in, but because one of the neighbors reported the thieves as acting suspiciously, the police arrived while they were just climbing in the window they had broken.

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 21, 2012 at 9:04 am

Mr. Moran is correct in that securing your home against burglary does not make the actual problem go away. And in fact, you cannot perfectly secure your home, anyone determined enough will find a way in. All you can do is raise the level of difficulty and risk involved, making it take more effort, and convincing the thief to go elsewhere. That is why I like video sysstems that not only watch your home but also watch the neighbors. If a burglar gets a good and profitable hit next door and returns for more, your home could be next. And that is aside from the fact that it is just neighborly to help protect your neighbors, who are hopefully friends. The camera that watches your front yard and its approaches can easily scan across the street too, if properly placed.

The cameras can also provide the police with vital information to help catch prowlers too, removing the bear rather than just abandoning your neighbors to it.

Another feature you want in your video surveylance system is the ability to save video clips to a DVD so that you can deliver them to police. All video clips should be date/time stamped. It seems all good systems do this. When a suspicous "solicitor" shows up on your doorstep you call the police, and they ask "What did he look like?" You show him the video from your front door camera and/or hand him a DVD of it, from the time he walked onto your property until he left, including him looking around the side of your house and examining the gates.

Like this comment
Posted by A victim
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Yeah, we have to lock it or we'll lose it,,,,because the police is not gonna do anything about it.

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

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