Palo Alto, CA – With the holiday season here, the Palo Alto Police Department is re-launching a public education campaign called “Lock It or Lose It!” in an effort to prevent car and home burglaries, and is also reminding the public to take precautions to prevent package theft from porches.
“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. A partnership between alert residents and the police is one of the most effective ways to combat burglaries.
While the number of residential burglaries has decreased this year, auto burglaries have increased. So far as of November 30, 2019, there have been 816 auto burglaries (where the burglar physically breaks into a locked car) and 139 thefts from autos (where the thief enters an unlocked car). Those numbers are higher than 2018 totals of 485 auto burglaries and 116 thefts from auto. As of November 30, 2019, there have been 70 residential burglaries (where a burglar enters an unoccupied home that is either locked or unlocked); in 2018 there were 96 such crimes.
A burglary is committed when a suspect enters a home 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 either in neighborhoods overnight or during other times of day in areas where there are large concentrations of unattended vehicles, like parking lots.
To avoid becoming a victim, there are simple precautions you can take. The main messages behind the “Lock it or Lose It!” campaign is that if your property is left unlocked, or if you leave valuables unattended and in plain view, you’re more likely to become a victim of burglary or theft.
To deter people from stealing property out of your car, never leave valuables behind and always lock the doors and roll up the windows. Thieves are known to walk by cars and look inside for valuables left in plain view. They will smash a window or open an unlocked door, and then quickly grab your belongings. “Hiding” property in a trunk is not a safe practice either, as some thieves will gamble that there are valuables inside and smash a window to push the trunk release and check. Other thieves will strike after watching holiday shoppers deposit bags in their trunks before leaving again to keep shopping.
To deter people from breaking into your home, always take the time lock the doors and windows when you leave. 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. We encourage residents to speak through their doors to ask who is calling, or otherwise acknowledge in some manner that someone is home.
To deter people from stealing online purchases off of your front porch, we have a number of recommendations on our website at bit.ly/PackageTheftTips. We recommend having packages delivered to your office if your employer allows it, requesting that the shipper hold your package at their pick-up facility so you can pick it up in person at your convenience, having packages delivered to a neighbor who stays home during the day, or using a secure delivery option like “Amazon Lockers.” For details and other recommendations, click the link above.
We have made burglary and theft prevention one of our top priorities this holiday season, and we’ve been stepping up both uniformed and plainclothes patrol to deter crime. As always, though, we depend on you to report suspicious behavior that you observe. Call 9-1-1 to report suspicious behavior, and we will investigate if that behavior is innocent or criminal. It is always better to call and let the police do our job, rather than rationalize suspicious behavior and not call.
For all of our tips on home and auto security, you can visit our crime prevention page at www.cityofpaloalto.org/StopCrime. To view our 30-second video on YouTube showing how quickly an auto burglary can occur, visit bit.ly/PAPDvideo.