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Despite burglary spree, stats show Los Altos crimes decreasing

Newly released crime statistics bolster Los Altos’ reputation as a relatively safe community. But a recent burglary spree has residents concerned and police scheduling a Neighborhood Watch meeting next week.

Data collected over a three-year period, from 2016 to 2018, show overall reported crimes dropped from 430 incidents in 2016 to 396 in 2017 and 360 in 2018 – a 9 percent drop over the previous year. Reported traffic collisions also dropped nearly 25 percent in 2018 from 2017 incidences.

Despite the overall favorable numbers, Los Altos Police Department officials plan to meet with residents Tuesday to discuss a rash of recent home burglaries.

Stats show burglaries dropped from 133 in 2016 to 87 in 2017 and 80 in 2018. However, 11 burglaries and auto thefts occurred during the first two weeks of 2019.

“Los Altos is now just as vulnerable as our neighbors in Willow Glen and San Jose, who have been suffering for years,” said Mary Ann Poulos, whose Los Altos home was among those broken into. “This plague is becoming an epidemic, and the perpetrators are becoming more bold and brazen. Someone is going to be physically hurt. They are here and they aren’t going away, and what can we do to protect ourselves?”

Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea responded, “We investigate every residential burglary, share the information with neighboring police departments and work hard to apprehend the individuals involved. I am pleased to see a reduction in property crimes. I am confident that this reduction in crime is through existing crime prevention programs.”

The latest stats also show reductions in larceny/theft, auto theft and domestic violence cases. There were zero cases of homicide, arson and hate crimes reported last year. On the other hand, assaults grew from 41 in 2017 to 53 in 2018, and police reported four cases of rape in 2018, up from three reported cases in both 2017 and 2016.

There were 55 fewer traffic collisions in 2018 (171) than in the year prior (226). The number of those injured in collisions also dropped. No traffic fatalities were reported in 2018.

Galea said burglaries can sometimes be isolated incidents, but other times “we experience a cluster of burglaries in a specific neighborhood.”

“There are organized teams that travel around the Bay Area and will target cities and neighborhoods,” he added. “Because our numbers are low, we react quickly when we see any crime pattern and strategically assign our officers to those areas.”

Because of its low crime rate, Galea noted that “people take notice” when incidents do occur in Los Altos.

“Neighbors share the information and want to know more,” he said. “That is what is happening currently with the recent burglaries. Many crimes are crimes of opportunity and can be prevented. … We rely on our close relationship with the community and programs like Neighborhood Watch to continue the reduction in crime.”

For the complete list of crime statistics, visit losaltosca.gov/police/page/crime-statistics.

For crime prevention tips, visit losaltosca.gov/police/page/crime-prevention.

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