Break-ins are on the rise throughout the Bay Area, and police in Redwood City, Palo Alto and Fremont are trying to prevent these residential burglaries from happening. Stephanie Chuang reports.
It’s the fear that you could be next.
That is how one woman explained how she feels every day, after burglars hit up to 15 other houses in and near her San Mateo neighborhood just east of U.S. Highway 101.
April McLien has lived in the same house on Lodi Avenue for 30 years. It has been broken into twice.
Choking back tears, McLien described the pain. “Year and a half ago – it’s all wound up again. It’s hard. Are they coming back?”
The fear intensified when she and her 20-year-old daughter came face to face with two men who ran out of their next-door neighbor’s house, loaded with bags of suspected stolen goods.
That was on Tuesday.
The burglary added to a spike with 15 burglaries in the area in the month of October.
San Mateo Police Sgt. Dave Norris said in the past few days alone there have been seven more, all closer to the south end of the city.
Norris said in addition to saturating these neighborhoods with police presence, his officers are working incredibly hard to track criminal activity - even beyond city limits. “We’re also constantly monitoring other police agencies because these folks move from town to town,” Norris explained.
“When other agencies arrest someone, we might want to go talk to that individual find out if they have anything to do with crimes here in San Mateo.”
San Mateo is far from alone. In Palo Alto, police said there were eight burglaries in the first week of November.
They have just launched a new burglary task force to beef up both patrols and investigations.
Across the Bay in Fremont, police there say they’ve been successful cutting down the number of home burglaries: 89 in March, 73 in June, down to 58 last month.
Though there were some ups and downs in between, police department spokesperson Geneva Bosques said a new crime-fighting strategy that shifted officers in different units to focus on burglaries, from patrol, investigative, street crimes, to the community engagement unit.
“When our numbers were spiking at different parts of the year, we did a really good focus as a department on utilizing the resources that we had to minimize the burglaries that came from patrol being more proactive, dispatch getting calls to patrol right away when there were suspicious people or vehicles in a neighborhood,” Bosquez explained. “And our detectives also responded and participated in that proactive police work.”
The Fremont Police Department has put additional eyes on empty homes, offering a “Vacation Home Security Check” that residents can sign up for on line.
The push comes ahead of the holidays, when home break-ins can experience an uptick. The program, in its second year, is staffed by volunteers who graduate from a training program that requires 60 hours minimum, in addition to thorough background checks.
If you sign up for the service, volunteers will check the perimeter of your home while you’re gone, even picking up newspapers and other papers that may be piling up in front of your home.
“Our goal is to make it look like somebody’s home.” Bosquez added that social media has played an especially powerful role, boosting the communication and therefore relationship with residents, almost doubling the number of tips and amount of information police have gotten.
TIPS FROM POLICE: