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


Subject :

Residential Burglaries on the Rise Again in Palo Alto
Contact : Kara Apple, Sergeant, Police    650-329-2413
Palo Alto, CA -- The number of residential burglaries reported to the Palo Alto Police Department increased again in August and early September after occurring at relatively average rates during the months of May, June, and July.

During the period of time from August 1 to September 10, 2012, there were 31 reported residential burglaries in Palo Alto (see attached map here).   By comparison, there were 24 such crimes reported during the months of June and July 2012.

In the vast majority of the 31 cases, no force was used to enter the homes.  In 17 of the cases, the burglars entered the unoccupied homes via unlocked or open doors or windows.  In four of the 31 cases, burglars smashed windows to gain entry.  In one of the 31 cases, the burglar broke in a side door to gain entry.  In the remainder of the cases, either the point of entry could not be determined (likely indicating an unlocked or open door, due to the absence of signs of forced entry) or it was a unique situation (such as the home being under construction with multiple points of access, and therefore, no need for force).

During the time period of January 1 to September 10, 2012, there have been 151 residential burglaries reported.  During the same time period, those numbers were lower in each of the prior four years (130 in 2008, 102 in 2009, 85 in 2010, and 97 in 2011; see attached spreadsheet for breakdown by month and year here, on the second page).

Residential burglaries spiked during the first three months of 2012, prompting us to launch our "Lock It or Lose It!" public campaign in March.  The campaign 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 the burglary problem.

Following the launch of the campaign, we increased staffing levels in the affected areas and the community did a great job of reporting suspicious activity.  The combined efforts of the police, the residents, and the media had a dramatic result, with only seven residential burglaries in April.  The cases leveled off during the months of May, June, and July before the recent rise again in August.

The Palo Alto Police Department is continuing to make burglary prevention and burglar apprehension among its top priorities.  Once we detected the upswing in August, we began redeploying and refocusing our personnel.  We have increased staffing on day shift teams, adjusted the schedules of officers from other shifts and assignments to get additional personnel into the neighborhoods, and have shifted officers in administrative assignments back out to the street as time allows.  Our detectives are also spending time in the affected areas in unmarked cars and plainclothes.  All told, our efforts have essentially doubled the number of personnel we would normally have in the field during the daytime hours when residential burglaries occur, typically between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The main message behind the “Lock It or Lose It!” campaign is that 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’s website has a section on crime prevention tips at  There are pages on home security, recognizing suspicious behavior, being a good witness, and more.  Additionally, we encourage our residents to consider becoming involved in the Block Preparedness Coordinator program administered by the City’s Office of Emergency Services.  For more information about that program, visit  The next free training class, which teaches crime prevention and disaster preparedness, occurs on October 11, 2012.

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 or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.