Traveling burglars caught on cameras | News

In recent weeks, groups of car burglars have roamed residential neighborhoods including Old Palo Alto, Professorville and Crescent Park, and now residents whose surveillance cameras caught the thieves in the act are turning the videos over to police. .

The workings of the groups were recently captured March 4 on video from Old Palo Alto and Professorville. The same three people were seen walking the streets and down the driveways of residents, testing car door handles.

Police say the thieves stole both small items, such as expensive sunglasses, small electronics and cash, as well as the car itself if the owners left a key or door -keys in the glove box.

The surveillance camera of Michael Day, a resident of Old Palo Alto, captured three people walking on Middlefield Road near Santa Rita Avenue. One of the hooded figures got into his driveway and attempted to open his car door handle, the video shows.

A second video captured the same day by a Professorville resident named Winnie, who asked that her surname not be released, showed the three figures also trying to open the car doors. In both cases, they were seen checking out BMWs and Mercedes sedans.

Day said certain car models are favored by thieves because they have keyless entry and people sometimes leave their key fobs in their unlocked cars. He has lived in his home since 1993, and although his car has been rammed over the years, those incidents were not crimes, he said. That changed recently.

“My next door neighbor had his catalytic converter stolen from his driveway,” he said. “There’s a slight uptick now. Now I’m locking everything down.”

Residents of Crescent Park also reported at least four incidents between March 8 and March 10, including incidents when thieves smashed car windows, according to neighborhood emails.

Forced entry, such as breaking a window, makes property theft a “car burglary”, while when property is taken from an unlocked car, the police register it as “car theft”. The Palo Alto Police Department Crime Log for the period March 10-16 listed at least 25 car break-ins, many of which occurred between mid-February and late February in parking lots and others in are produced in March. Police also listed five other previous thefts from cars and 12 car break-ins between February 17 and March 9.

Palo Alto Police Acting Lt. Brian Philip said thieves often drive around neighborhoods at night on bikes, cars or on foot. While they mainly search cars for small items, he has worked on cases where the loss can be considerable. Once, a victim had stored a large amount of cash in the car, he said.

Most of the time, the night thieves who roam the neighborhoods check unlocked doors and don’t break windows.

“They don’t hit a window in an aisle because people will hear the glass breaking,” Philip said.

The number of stolen cars is actually low, Philip said. But when cars are stolen, it’s usually because people have a habit of storing a spare key or key fob in the glove compartment to be used for valet parking.

Car owners also leave a smart fob in the car as a backup, he said.

Of course, an unlocked car with a smart fob inside is easy to steal.

“All a car thief has to do is drive in, hit the brake and hit the start button,” Philip said.

Car thefts and burglaries are not new, but they are currently part of an ongoing increase in property crimes, including mass thefts from retail establishments, shoplifting from expensive items and residential burglaries.

Last year saw a drop in property crime compared to 2020: Palo Altans reported 98 stolen vehicles, down from 112; 41 flights, compared to 39; 179 burglaries, against 243; and 1,356 thefts, down from 1,571, according to the department’s crime statistics, released March 15. However, the data does not separate residential or commercial burglaries from other types of theft.

Philip said Palo Alto remains “a very safe city,” despite these recent crimes. Still, residents can do their part to reduce crime even further.

“Crime prevention is always key,” Philip said. Residents should lock their cars and close the windows, do not leave any keys in the car or hidden under the vehicle, and refrain from keeping valuables in the car. To avoid becoming a victim of a violent crime, people should not confront a suspicious person. Instead, call the police department, he said.

More information about preventing theft and other crimes can be found on the Palo Alto Police Department website at

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