Los Altos Hills has recorded fewer burglaries than the national and state averages over the past decade, but this year the number of breaking-and-entering crimes has spiked.
Since July 1, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has recorded 14 residential burglaries – twice as many as the Los Altos Police Department logged in the same time period.
The recent flurry of break-ins in Los Altos Hills brings the year-to-date total to 31. The town recorded 42 all of last year and has averaged 28.3 burglaries annually over the past 10 years, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Taking the initiative
This year’s increase has law enforcement on alert.
“The Sheriff’s Office is very concerned about the rash of burglaries since July 1,” Capt. Ken Binder said. “We’ve increased marked and unmarked patrol units in the area and our detectives are following up on all leads.”
In a five-page document posted last week on the town of Los Altos Hills’ webpage and on Nextdoor.com – a community social networking site for neighborhood groups – the Sheriff’s Office revealed the rise in burglaries and outlined recommendations for safeguarding homes.
To respond to residents’ concerns, the town and the Sheriff’s Office have scheduled a discussion on burglary prevention 6 p.m. Thursday at Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 26379 W. Fremont Road.
Although Binder said the number of burglaries generally rises during the summer months when criminals exploit the unoccupied homes of vacationing owners, some residents are making it easier for the criminals by not securing their properties. Most of the burglaries over the past five weeks occurreded during weekday work hours and without forced entry.
“Gone are the days of leaving the front door unlocked or a bathroom window open for fresh air while no one is home,” Binder wrote in a recent memorandum to community residents.
He added that approximately 33 percent of burglaries in California are not forced entries, and the rate is 12 percent higher in Los Altos Hills.
Although many burglary victims have security alarms in their homes, Binder noted that most of them did not have the devices turned on at the time of the break-ins.
“Residents need to take the initiative to shore up their houses,” Binder said of the importance of locking doors, closing windows, setting alarms and alerting neighbors of vacation plans. “We’re doing our part and we need the community to do theirs.”
Binder said the Sheriff’s Office can’t be everywhere at once. He emphasized the importance of residents calling 911 if they spot suspicious activity – such as unfamiliar vehicles driving through or parked in the neighborhood or solicitors at their doors without permits.
In response to the uptick in burglaries over the past few years, Binder said the Sheriff’s Office has increased patrols and investigative operations in Los Altos Hills.
Although it’s difficult to solve these cases unless sheriff’s deputies catch the criminals at the scene, follow-up investigations are taken seriously. Using fingerprints dusted from the scene, footage from surveillance cameras and tools like the California stolen property database, the Sheriff’s Office has been able to recover stolen property and apprehend perpetrators of many of the property crimes.
Since April, the Sheriff’s Office has arrested four suspects in Los Altos Hills burglaries.
Eliminating all burglaries may not be feasible, but reversing the trend is a goal the Sheriff’s Office would like to achieve in collaboration with the community.
“The hope is that residents will not panic, but rather become more astute about the activity in their neighborhoods so that they can call in any and all suspicious behavior and prevent potential crimes,” Binder said.
Tips to prevent burglaries
• Secure doors and windows.
• Install a home security system with audible alarms and surveillance cameras.
• Place motion-sensor lights on exterior and interior of home.
• Stop mail and newspaper deliveries while away on vacation.
• Call 911 or (408) 299-2311 (nonemergency) to report suspicious behavior.
• Report solicitors and unexpected knocks at the door.
• Do not plant landscaping that offers easy hiding locations.
• Contact the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office to place a request for patrol checks while on vacation. For a request form, visit sccgov.org/sites/sheriff/Pages/pcr.aspx.
– Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office