Police warn about doorbell-ring burglaries

Officers say recurring crime follows a specific pattern

When a Palo Alto woman went to answer a knock at her front door late in the morning of Aug. 12, she first looked through the peephole and decided to ignore the knock once she didn't recognize the man at the door, according to police.

Shortly afterward, she made eye contact with the man through a window as he walked into her back yard. The man immediately fled, police stated.

Palo Alto police said the incident is an example of a recurring type of residential crime: burglars who ring front door bells, posing as a solicitor or visitor, to see of anyone is home. Once they determine the house is empty, they go to the relative privacy of the house's yard, usually by way of an unlocked side gate, to find a way to break in, police stated.

Police this week are warning residents about such incidents, encouraging them to lock side gates and all doors and windows whenever their house is empty. If an unknown visitor rings the doorbell, police say, residents should speak through the door or find another way to acknowledge that someone is home.

The woman in the Aug. 12 incident provided a description of the man to police, who searched the area for him. During the search, police said that a passerby pointed out two men on skateboards who appeared to be looking into houses.

Less than 20 minutes after the initial 911 call, police say, they detained two men on skateboards at Edgewood Drive and Newell Road. When other officers checked nearby residences, they found a house on the 1900 block of Newell Road ransacked and burglarized. The burglars had apparently entered through an unsecured back door, according to police.

The two detained men had stolen property from the burglary -- a laptop, jewelry, passports and birth certificates. The officers arrested Victor Hugo Marin and Francisco Anthony Pinedo-Escalante, both 18.

Detectives believe that Pinedo-Escalante is also responsible for another robbery on Channing Avenue, during which a handgun and jewelry were taken.

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Posted by Rich
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 27, 2013 at 10:56 am

Although I understand the concern about making sure would-be burglars know someone is home, I've read from time to time about cases where a criminal rings or knocks in order to determine whether there is a MAN at home -- and if a woman answers and doesn't indicate that her husband or boyfriend is there with her, the attacker knows he can probably break in and do his dirty work without fear of being overpowered.

Not exactly the M.O. of a burglar (who wants to break in and take stuff without interacting with anybody) -- and I haven't heard any reports of this kind of thing specifically happening here -- but be careful in any case.

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Posted by PolicySage
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm

It is essential that anyone not open a door these days unless they are certain of the identity of the person outside.

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Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I've been thinking about taking a photo of anyone I don't know who knocks on my door. I'd imagine that if they had any ill intentions, they'd at least move on to another neighborhood. If a neighbor was burglarized that night, I'd have the photo.

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Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

To Rich: I've said the same thing, i.e., if the person ringing the doorbell hears a woman's voice asking, "Who's there?", to my mind that's a dead giveaway that a lone female lives there. When someone knocks at my door, I just peek out the peephole, and if someone's there that I don't know, I don't say anything, and I don't open my door. I live in a third-floor apartment, though, with only one entrance (the front door, and with all the windows facing a three-story drop to the ground, so I guess that's different from living in a home with many points of entry.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm

This seems like a good idea, but I would rather have a doorbell that makes the sound of a barking dog. Web Link

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Posted by Ronnie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

We had a burglary nearby that appears to have been perpetrated this way. Make sure that if you see solicitors or people going door to door in the neighborhood, call the police immediately with their location and direction of travel. Let them cruise by and check those people out. I'm sure most of them are harmless, but a few of them are definitely burglars. There are common reasons that people do go door to door like distributing leaflets, real estate agents "door knocking," petitions, etc. However, we know that hiding amongst them are people who are casing houses. The police are trained to respond and ask the right questions to those people, and are happy to do so.
The police depend on tips to know where to direct their resources, so don't be afraid to call it in - its no big deal for them to check it out.

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Posted by traveller
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 27, 2013 at 2:15 pm

It's time to start banning unsolicited flyers, doorhangers, newspapers, etc, that litter driveways and openly announce to the world whether the house occupants are home or not.

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Posted by door to door is outdated
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm

i agree with "traveller"....door to door knocking for any reason should be banned---it's ridiculous in this day & age (unfortunately) to allow it w/the # of criminals posing as solicitors and law enforcement seeming inability to curb burglaries. even the girl scouts recognize that door to door is passe, and started selling in other venues years ago.

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

A couple times in the last few years I had someone coming to the door saying they sell meat to a neighbor and had some left over. They sounded rather suspect, so I phoned the police. The dispatcher said that could have been legitimate and no one came out. (I understand that would be very low on the totem poll of calls they receive.) I no longer open the door to anyone and think one always, sadly, has to be on guard.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I've really enjoyed seeing suspicious types literally run off when my dogs bark at them at the door. I once called the po po on someone running off, because it was so weird. Lo & behold, he was a creep w/a rap sheet & a warrant, so he was arrested. Hah, take that bad guys - no guns, no violence, no big drama - just dogs barking. Now they do it at the weird churchies who show up. Once again, we're grateful they keep the unwanted away!

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Posted by steph
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 27, 2013 at 4:31 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by gutbug
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Web Link

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

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