Los Altos Hills has nothing to hide. Pretty much anything anyone would want to know about the town’s soon-to-be-deployed automatic license plate readers, or ALPRs, including their locations, will eventually be available on its official website.

“We’re trying to show everyone where they’re at so that the crooks know where they’re at,” said Capt. Rich Urena of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. “The reality is that we’re going to have so many in town that the goal is that if crooks are coming to town, we’re going to know they’re in town. We’re going to be able to figure out which street they used and catch them.”

Urena and Cody Einfalt, town management analyst, provided a brief update on the surveillance system last week during the monthly “Coffee with the Sheriff” presentation.

Los Altos Hills is contracting with Flock Safety to place 40 of the public safety systems provider’s ALPRs along major thoroughfares into and out of town. Installation and the first year of service will cost $110,000. The intention is to discourage crime and to help the Sheriff’s Office solve crimes when they do occur. In September, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a policy to ensure the technology is used appropriately.

Einfalt said the town’s “soft goal” for the project is to start with 10 cameras and have them up and running by January.

Thwarting burglaries

Residential burglary is considered the most serious of the crimes that routinely occur in Los Altos Hills, and a series of them in 2020 – seven in February and seven in March – prompted residents and the city council to start researching camera surveillance.

The Sheriff’s Office’s “crime index” for Los Altos Hills indicates there were 16 residential burglaries reported this year through October, a 30% decrease from the 23 reported through the same time period in 2020.

Most of the burglaries that took place in 2020 occurred when the homes’ regular occupants were away for several days, Urena said. He reminded his audience that the Sheriff’s Office offers free patrol checks.

“It’s obvious that had we had information about the resident being gone for an extended period of time, maybe we could have done something about that,” he said. “Maybe we could have drove by, checked it out.”

It’s not possible to pinpoint the days and times of seven (44%) of the residential burglaries reported through October this year because they were not discovered right away. Of the remaining nine, the most common day for the crime was Thursday (three incidents), followed by Wednesday (two). One burglary each took place on a Monday, a Tuesday, a Saturday and a Sunday, and none took place on a Friday. The most common time of day was evenings between the hours of 5 p.m. and midnight (37%), followed by days between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. (19%). None took place during the early morning hours of midnight to 7 a.m.

Success stories related to the use of ALPRs in nearby jurisdictions indicate the technology might prove useful in Los Altos Hills, too, Urena said.

“Our neighbors here in Los Gatos and further south in Morgan Hill – and even in Milpitas – have seen a significant increase in catching some of these crooks, so we’re hoping we can do the same,” he said.

To learn more about crime in Los Altos Hills and access the Sheriff’s Office’s link for a patrol check request, visit losaltoshills.ca.gov/251/Public-Safety.