Burglars on the prowl for cash and valuables might want to think twice before hitting residences in Los Altos Hills.
After a string of three burglaries in the West Loyola neighborhood of Los Altos Hills in June and July, residents mobilized to collaborate with law enforcement and promote crime-prevention measures.
Although the West Loyola Neighborhood Group’s email list is typically used to share community news and refer service providers and babysitters, the 150-member network is a conduit for collecting and transmitting tips and data to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.
After news of recent burglaries was broadcast via the group’s email list, a neighbor living a mile from the incident provided authorities with information on a suspicious vehicle seen driving away from the scene around the time of the robbery.
Residents also relayed reports of solicitors who might be scouting for their next targets to the Sheriff’s Office for investigation.
“Every suspicious sighting that neighbors have been calling in is being followed up,” wrote West Loyola Neighborhood Group organizer Marj Green in an email to group members. “They’re particularly happy when the reports include a license plate number and/or description of the vehicle and people.”
At a July 31 neighborhood meeting Green organized on less than 24 hours’ notice, more than 50 residents gathered at Los Altos Hills Town Hall for a law enforcement update on impending investigations and to share advice on protecting their neighborhoods from crime.
Despite the recent spate of burglaries, Green noted that the area boasts a low crime rate. In the 20 years she has lived in the neighborhood, she recalled only one other time when burglaries were a problem.
Safe community, easy targets
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that property crimes are not that common in Los Altos Hills or the unincorporated areas of the county. The office recorded no robberies and declining incidences of burglary over the past three years. According to figures the Sheriff’s Office reported to the FBI, there were 33 burglaries in 2011, 27 in 2012 and 14 year-to-date in Los Altos Hills and unincorporated areas.
An active neighborhood group and proactive patrolling by the Sheriff’s Office appear to be effective in keeping criminal activity to a minimum. In addition to regular neighborhood patrols, Capt. Kenneth Binder of the Sheriff’s Office said his team responds to all residential alarm reports – an extra level of responsiveness that could catch criminals by surprise. He added that the office apprehended two suspects in the act of burglarizing homes in Los Altos Hills and unincorporated areas in July and 11 in 2012.
As burglars search for “the path of least resistance,” Binder noted that criminals target homes that present easy opportunities for break-ins. More than 75 percent of the homes burglarized in 2013 had open windows or unlocked doors. In approximately half of the Los Altos Hills incidents, the Sheriff’s Office reported that alarm systems were turned off. In the three recent Loyola area burglaries, windows or doors were unlocked and alarms disabled, allowing the burglars convenient access to the homes.
“It’s easy to get complacent,” Binder said. “You have things to protect you, so use them.”
Although Green and members of the neighborhood group don’t know if those burglarized will get their valuables back, they continue to raise community awareness of suspicious activity in an effort to prevent crime.
To report suspicious activity in Los Altos Hills to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, call (408) 299-2311.
Best practices to beat burglary
• Close and lock all windows and doors.
• Install home alarms and surveillance cameras – and use them.
• Never open your door to a stranger.
• Report suspicious solicitors.
• Know your neighbors and be a good neighbor.
• Suspend your mail while on vacation and ask a trusted neighbor to watch your house.
• Coordinate a daytime patrol of your Los Altos Hills home while away by calling (408) 868-6600.
• Store photographs and serial numbers of valuables in a secure location.
• Install a “Find Me” app on your phone to help police track stolen electronics.
– Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office