Photo By: Traci Newell/Town Crier
Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis, center, shares information about the recent spike in burglaries with the Kiwanis Club of Los Altos last week.
Los Altos Police detectives are investigating more than a dozen residential and commercial burglaries that occurred over a 12-day stretch in late September and early October.
Los Altos Police Sgt. Scott McCrossin told the Town Crier that the crime spree, which included five home burglaries Oct. 3, is an indicator that the countywide spike in residential and commercial burglaries has reached Los Altos.
“Unfortunately, this is really a trend that appears to be catching up with us now,” he said, noting that the majority of the 14 incidents were home burglaries.
Since that uptick, McCrossin said, the number of burglaries “has tapered off quickly.”
Still, McCrossin added, the city’s burglary statistics are moving in the wrong direction. As of Oct. 16, the number of home and commercial burglaries in Los Altos this year was 66. Last year, 49 home and commercial burglaries were reported through Oct. 16.
While it’s not uncommon to suspend burglary investigations that lack evidence, McCrossin said police are keeping all 14 cases open, in addition to others reported earlier, as they pursue “several viable leads.” He said police recently recovered stolen property from one of the 14 cases in question and have credible evidence to believe at least some of the thefts may be connected.
The police department, McCrossin added, has taken several steps to prevent another spate of burglaries.
The department is employing a tactic called “predictive policing,” which employs statistical software programs to determine the probability of which areas of the city are likely to be targeted next.
Unmarked patrol cars are dispatched to scour the streets of Los Altos to better identify suspicious activities in neighborhoods. Often, McCrossin noted, suspects will monitor homes and neighborhoods to establish patterns of residents’ behavior, such as when they leave their homes, before acting.
McCrossin said detectives are briefing patrol officers on the active cases.
“Sometimes people choose homes (to burglarize) based on where they’re located on a street,” according to the predictive policing reports.
McCrossin said he’s encouraging residents to do their part. Keeping a few lights on when no one’s home, locking all doors and windows, and keeping yards neatly trimmed, he said, are simple ways residents can help prevent their homes from being targeted. Installing the Find My iPhone app has also helped detectives track down suspects in the past.
Other measures, such as installing home video surveillance equipment, also serve as strong deterrents, according to McCrossin, and can provide key evidence for detectives following a burglary.
“It’s one of the first things I look for when I’m investigating a burglary,” said McCrossin, who added that he’s uncovered evidence from the surveillance videos of neighboring homes in several cases.
McCrossin encourages neighborhood groups and individual residents to report suspicious activity to authorities.
He pointed to a recent case in which a resident arrived home to find a burglar attempting to enter the dwelling from the backyard. The burglary suspect made a quick getaway, but not before the resident was able to compile an accurate description for the police.
Later that day, a report of a reckless driver by another agency included a description matching the profile of the burglary suspect, providing detectives further credible evidence.
“We can’t do it alone,” McCrossin said. “Policing is really a partnership between us and the community.”
To report suspicious activity, call the Los Altos Police at 947-2770.