The Palo Alto Police Department is launching a new public education campaign called “Lock It or Lose It!” in response to a dramatic recent spike in the number of daytime residential burglaries.
“Lock It or Lose It!” is designed to focus the public's attention on how best to prevent burglaries, how to recognize suspicious behavior, and how best 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.
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 of it 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.
In Palo Alto, a yearly statistical comparison of residential burglaries reveals a steady increase from 2010 to 2011, and a troubling spike thus far in 2012. There were 110 reported cases in 2010 and 149 reported cases in 2011. Through March 12 of this year, though, a remarkable 53 residential burglaries have already been reported.
An analysis of the 2011 residential burglaries shows that in 36% of the cases, the point of entry was through open or unlocked doors or windows. In another 36% of the cases, 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% of the cases, the point of entry could not be determined, but it is likely that doors or windows were left unsecured.
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. 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.
The Palo Alto Police Department has made burglary prevention and burglar apprehension its top priorities. In addition to patrol officers focusing their time in the neighborhoods when not otherwise assigned to calls for service, two day shift officers are being reassigned to work with burglary detectives and have been dedicated specifically to burglary suppression. Other resources, including plainclothes personnel, will also be reassigned to burglary suppression in the neighborhoods as staffing permits.
The Palo Alto Police Department’s website has a section on crime prevention tips. It can be accessed at http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/depts/pol/crime_prevention.asp. There are pages on home security, recognizing suspicious behavior, being a good witness, and more.
Officers from the Palo Alto Police Department will be briefing workers who spend a substantial amount of time in our neighborhoods on how to recognize and report suspicious behavior. These briefings will include staff from the City of Palo Alto Utilities and Public Works departments, personnel from the Palo Alto Fire Department, mail carriers from the United States Postal Service, and staff from large private delivery companies.
The official “Lock It or Lose It!” logo will accompany future press releases involving burglary news or related crime prevention efforts. It is attached to this release for media use.
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. Anyone having information about our current burglary trend can contact our 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.