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


Subject :

Police Arrest Solicitor for Prowling in Back Yards
Contact : Lieutenant Zach Perron, Police Department    650-329-2413
March 31, 2012 at 5:45 p.m.

Palo Alto, CA -- Police arrested a door-to-door solicitor for prowling after an alert employee of a resident observed the solicitor enter two backyards via unlocked side yard gates.

On Thursday, March 29, 2012, at about 2:10 p.m., a personal trainer working for a resident inside a home in the 1200 block of Dana Avenue observed a woman walking in the backyard. When the woman made eye contact with the employee, she immediately left. The employee contacted her in the front yard, and the woman told him she was there to offer house cleaning services. She gave the employee a flyer and left.

The employee was suspicious of the behavior, believing that the woman was likely casing the home to commit a burglary. He continued to watch the woman as she entered another backyard of a residence in the 1000 block of Lincoln Avenue. The employee called 9-1-1. Officers arrived on scene within four minutes, and detained a suspect matching the woman's description in the 900 block of Lincoln Avenue at about 2:21 p.m.

Officers contacted the resident of the home in the 1000 block of Lincoln Avenue, and learned that the same woman had come to his front door to offer house cleaning services as well. After he declined the service, the woman asked to use his bathroom. He allowed her to enter his home for that purpose. She was inside his house for about two minutes and then left. It appears as though the suspect had entered this home’s back yard via and unlocked side yard gate prior to knocking on the front door and contacting the resident.

Police arrested 19-year-old Crystal Cross of San Jose, and released her with a criminal misdemeanor citation for prowling. The crime of prowling occurs when someone loiters, prowls, or wanders upon the private property of another without lawful business with the owner. No burglary or theft was committed during these incidents. Police are investigating if the suspect is involved with the many recent daytime residential burglaries in town, and are also conducting follow-up into the alleged "house cleaning services" she offered.

One of the recommendations from the Palo Alto Police Department’s “Lock It or Lose It!” public education campaign is to encourage residents to lock their side yard gates, so as to prevent easy access to back yards. Once in the privacy of a back yard, burglars 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.

“There is likely no innocent reason for a door-to-door solicitor to enter someone’s back yard, or to try to gain access to a side yard gate,” said Lieutenant Zach Perron. “That is absolutely an indicator of criminal activity, and something we want to know about immediately. That warrants a 9-1-1 call every time.”

It is also a violation of the Palo Alto Municipal Code for someone to solicit door-to-door for profit without first obtaining a permit issued by the Palo Alto Police Department. Residents are encouraged to report any door-to-door solicitors to our 24-hour dispatch center.

Police do not recommend allowing strangers into your home for any reason. If someone claims they need to use a bathroom or a phone, that is often a ruse for that person to commit theft or to scope out your personal belongings for a burglary in the future when the home is unoccupied.

Residents are encouraged to call 9-1-1 to report suspicious behavior. Anyone having information about this incident can contact 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.