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.