Thieves struck at an El Camino Real restaurant Tuesday evening, smashing windows and stealing items from seven vehicles, a familiar crime in Palo Alto that police say is evolving.
Shortly before 8 p.m. on Jan. 14, thieves broke the windows of nine cars at The Fish Market restaurant on 3180 El Camino Real, taking items from seven of the cars, Palo Alto police Officer Sean Downey said. In each case, the thieves stole electronics, such as iPads and laptops, and in one case, they made off with a passport and jewelry. At least five of the cars were rentals, Downey said.
Another eight window-smash car burglaries occurred at five locations locations along El Camino Real on Wednesday night.
Thefts from vehicles have been a consistent problem in Palo Alto, particularly this year.
"It's the same thing that's been going on for the last 8 months," Downey said. "They're targeting rental vehicles that are easily identified by the stickers on their front windows."
He said detectives are working this most recent case, pursuing avenues he said he can't discuss with the media.
Police advise drivers to lock car doors and put valuables in the trunk or out of sight to avoid tempting a thief to break into vehicles. But even that advice has changed as thieves have updated their strategies, Downey said.
Thieves find rental vehicles commonly used by traveling business people, break their windows, pop their trunks and then steal the contents of the trunk, he said.
"Now we tell people to take their laptops inside with them -- don't leave it in the vehicle," he said. "People will take their GPS (units) and phones out of their cars, but they'll leave their chargers in there. That signals to thieves that there may be something valuable inside. Take that stuff out and leave it completely bare."
The Weekly tracked another spike in car burglaries over the summer last year and found that the burglaries occur throughout the city but that highly visited areas such as Stanford Shopping Center and downtown Palo Alto parking garages were targeted.
Police told the Weekly in August that would-be criminals will avoid Bay Area cities with a high police presence, traveling instead to other cities to commit burglaries.
A recent study found that property crimes across the state have jumped 7.6 percent since the implementation of the prisoner realignment program, California's effort to reduce the strain on the state prison system by redirecting some convicted criminals to county jails instead of state prisons. The report, released by the Public Policy Institute of California, stated that Santa Clara County was hit with the worst property-crime jump: 20.4 percent.