Los Altos Police are warning residents to take added precautions in securing their homes and vehicles to help prevent burglaries.
Police Capt. Andy Galea told the Town Crier that the city has experienced an average of nearly 10 residential or commercial burglaries per month during the 2012-2013 fiscal year – more than double the monthly average from the previous 12-month span. In August, he noted, police recorded a combined total of eight residential and commercial burglaries. Conversely, the city totaled 45 incidents in 2011-2012, or slightly fewer than four burglaries per month, which Galea termed “a fairly low rate.”
He noted that Los Altos isn’t the lone Bay Area city experiencing a bump in burglaries.
“This is not something that is unique to Los Altos. Everywhere in the Bay Area there’s been an increase,” said Galea, who added that local incidents “tend to come in waves.”
Crimes of opportunity
Without citing specific statistics, Galea said “a significant” number of the break-ins occurred because thieves entered the homes through an unlocked door or window.
In other cases, he noted, residents left their garage doors raised, which prove “too tempting” to thieves, who walk in and swipe items typically found in a garage – bicycles are a “primary target.”
During one August incident, a resident who left her garage door open while home came face to face with a man attempting to steal a bike from her garage storage closet. The startled burglar dropped the bike when confronted and fled the scene.
“They can be in and out of there literally in about 10 seconds,” Galea said.
Galea said the department has also seen a rash of auto burglaries throughout Los Altos. In several cases, he added, the crimes “proved too tempting” to burglars, because cars owners left their vehicles unlocked and failed to remove valuables like GPS units, laptops, iPads, purses and wallets.
“A significant number of these thefts from vehicles have been crimes of opportunity,” he said. “Locking your vehicle and not having things in plain sight really help prevent those opportunities.”
An ounce of prevention
Galea noted that residents could do more to make their homes less susceptible to a break-in. They should always lock all doors and windows to their homes, even when leaving for short errands. When traveling on vacation or business, Galea recommended that residents notify a nearby trusted neighbor of their plans, in addition to arranging for someone to check the home periodically and pick up mail.
The goal, he said, is to make the “home look occupied,” because burglars typically look for telltale signs like unattended front lawns and piled-up newspapers before breaking in. Other deterrents noted by Galea include the purchase and installation of video surveillance systems or house alarms. Smaller steps, like hiding an emergency house key in less predictable locations, can also help prevent burglaries.
“If you’re going to hide a key somewhere, be more creative than leaving it under the doormat or a potted plant near the front door,” he said. “That’s where everyone leaves their spare keys.”
Galea concluded that the best rule of thumb for residents to follow is to contact police whenever there’s even a shred of doubt.
“We can drive down the street or see someone standing on the corner, but it’s the residents in the neighborhoods who can tell when things are out of place,” he said. “They know their neighborhood best.”
To report suspicious activity, call the Los Altos Police Department at 947-2770.