Police investigate day of vehicle window smashes

More than 15 cars burglarized on Wednesday

Thieves struck with efficiency on Wednesday, Sept. 25, after smashing car windows on more than 15 vehicles during a series of car burglaries, including one in which they stole $10,000 in computers and other valuable items, according to Palo Alto police.

The break-ins occurred at two locations: at five addresses along the 1300, 1500 and 1800 blocks of Oak Creek Drive near Sand Hill Road and at 450 Lytton Avenue, Sgt. Kara Apple said.

At least 13 break-ins occurred in parking areas on Oak Creek Drive. Officers received an initial call at 7:30 a.m. from a resident who also reported a break-in to an adjacent car. Police investigated the area and found multiple cars with smashed windows. Officers were able to make contact with 12 victims, but there was an unknown number of other vehicles also burglarized, she said.

They struck vehicles in parking garages and at on-street spaces, probably between 2 and 5 a.m., Apple said.

Police discovered 12 burglaries during the daytime and one during the night shift. The thieves took clothing, sunglasses, cash, coins and a GPS system. The value of the losses varied, but the largest from one vehicle was $500 in GPS system and compact discs, she said.

Thieves also struck two rental vehicles at 450 Lytton between 7 and 11 p.m. In both cases, burglars smashed the windows. The victims lost $10,000 in computers, an iPhone, camera, backpack and passport in one incident, and $1,300 in property was taken from the second vehicle, including a backpack and computer.

Palo Alto has seen an increase in this type of crime, but nothing like the spate that occurred on Wednesday, Apple said.

The Palo Alto Police Department reminds the public not to leave valuables in vehicles or to lock their belongings where they cannot be seen.

Police ask the public to report suspicious behavior immediately by calling 9-1-1. Anyone who might have information about these crimes is asked to call the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to or sent by text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.


Like this comment
Posted by mamaT
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2013 at 6:19 am

mamaT is a registered user.

I know of at least two other burglaries involving a car window smashing. One of the cars was mine. The cars were located at the 1600 block of Sand Hill in a parking garage and the window smashing occurred at night. Not everyone in this apartment complex gave police reports; however, you may find the total number of reported burglaries in the police stats for Palo Alto. Building managers and others with rental income interest may not wish to discuss the large number of break-ins. It is my hope that this information helps others to take extra care when leaving their car parked. Leave nothing of perceived value in the car.

Like this comment
Posted by mamaT
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2013 at 6:39 am

mamaT is a registered user.

The two car burglaries mentioned above occurred on 9/16/13.

Like this comment
Posted by wmartin46
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

wmartin46 is a registered user.

Car Vandalism/Theft

This is a systemic problem that probably defies most attempts at a solution, but there are some possibilities that will be available to us in the near future--that might be worth discussing.

Increased Signage

The City could post signs in areas where this sort of vehicle attacks have occurred reminding motorist—particularly out-of-towners—than it is unwise to leave any personal items in their cars.

The Age of Connected Cars

There is an enormous amount of work being done in the area of “smart cars” these days. One of the ideas involves “connected cars”, which allows the car to connect to the Internet, and other cars, using wireless technology. The following is a quick idea dump of what might be possible in the not-too-distant future that would allow the cars to be aware that they are being attacked, and some of the actions that they might be able to perform to protect themselves—

Devices Installed in cars to:
Detect Window Breakage
Wirelessly Alert Police With GPS Location of Car
Cameras to record all four sides and insides of car
Remind Drivers If RFID-tagged items inside passenger compartment
Wireless Alert Other Cars About Attack
Self-driving cars could move location.
Smart-cars could flash lights to alert people nearby.

Car Rental agencies could be a significant factor in advancing the state-of-the-art where in-vehicle devices to detect vandalism/damage and alerting the police is concerned. These agencies are large enough to be able to fund the development of this technology, and to debug it in the field via use in their fleets.

Use of Surveillance Technology

Needless to say, the increased use of surveillance technology would seem to be called for. Not only would having fixed-station video allow the police to identify vehicles that were in the same locations as the vandalized vehicles about the same time, but with the advent of low-cost drones that could be airborne during at all times, real-time video of areas not normally patrolled could increase the ability of the police units on the ground to respond more quickly to vehicles that are under attack.

This sort of overhead surveillance would be most effective if cars were to be outfitted with devices able to alert police that they were being vandalized in real time.

Some of these ideas would require a much larger budget for technology than any small police department, like the Palo Alto PD, would be able to afford. Merging local departments to provide funding for these sorts of capabilities would be the most cost-effective approach to reduce these sorts of crimes.

Of course, in people would simply stop leaving their valuables in plain sight inside their vehicles—most of these crimes would not happen.

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

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 15 comments | 4,041 views

Eat, Surf, Love
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,283 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 912 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 332 views

This time we're not lying. HONEST! No, really!
By Douglas Moran | 0 comments | 146 views