News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

Police Arrest Door-Knocker for Attempted Residential Burglary
Contact : Sean Downey, Officer, Police Department    650-329-2413
Palo Alto, CA -- Police arrested a man for attempted residential burglary yesterday afternoon after he knocked at the front door of an occupied residence, and upon receiving no response, went into the back yard and attempted to get into the residence.

On Tuesday, July 21, 2015, at about 3:30 p.m., our 24-hour dispatch center received a call from a resident in the 3800 block of Carlson Court reporting a prowler in her rear yard.  Officers responded to the area immediately and detained a man matching the suspect's description a short time later on Alma Street at East Charleston Drive.

The investigation revealed that the suspect had knocked on the front door of the victim’s home.  The victim is a woman in her thirties who was at home with her sleeping toddler.  The victim was napping as well, though when she heard the knock at the door, she woke up and looked outside to see the suspect on her front porch.  He did not see her.  Since she did not recognize him, she did not answer the door.

The victim then heard the suspect trying to open her front door.  She watched as he moved into her side yard, and then her back yard, trying to find an unlocked door as he went.  He attempted to open two doors into her home from the back yard.  She immediately called police and provided a description of the suspect as he left the home.  The suspect never successfully made entry into the residence.

Police booked 44-year-old Palo Alto resident Derek Darnell Pitts into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for one felony count of attempted residential burglary.  His booking photo is attached to this release.

Detectives do not believe that this suspect is connected to two recent nighttime prowling cases (on July 8 in the 1000 block of Moffett Circle, and on July 14 in the 200 block of Emerson Street), as the descriptions are markedly different.  Detectives are investigating to see if he may be connected to any recent residential burglaries in town.

This case highlights a common operating style of residential burglars.  Burglars will often ring the doorbell, posing as a solicitor or supposedly looking for someone who does not live there, to see if anyone is home.  If they receive no answer at the door, they often gain access to the rear yard after finding an unlocked side yard gate.  Once in the privacy of a back yard, they are free to break into the home unnoticed by passersby.  We encourage you to speak through your door to ask who is calling, or otherwise acknowledge in some manner that someone is home.

Police encourage you to always close and lock doors and windows whenever you are out, and to lock side yard gates.  If meter readers need to access your utility meter behind a locked gate, you can call Palo Alto Utilities Customer Service at 650-329-2161 to discuss options.  For a full list of crime prevention tips, including several on how to deal with strangers at your door, please visit

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call our 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413.  Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.  Tips can also be submitted anonymously through our free mobile app, downloadable at or