Palo Alto police are looking for two burglars who crashed their red minivan through a front plate glass window at a photography shop, stealing thousands of dollars of merchandise before taking off.
Sgt. Brian Phillip said the suspects could also be related to a burglary in Mountain View earlier this month, which was captured in part on surveillance video, because the suspects appear to have driven a similar looking getaway vehicle.
And this modus operandi appears to be quite popular these days, as there have been several other smash-and-grabs where burglars ram their vehicles into store fronts to make off with the goods.
In Palo Alto, the city’s 24-hour dispatch received a burglary call at 4:32 a.m. on Thursday from Keeble & Shuchat Photography at 261 California Avenue.
Officers raced to the scene. But the suspects had taken off before police could arrive.
Police found the front door of the shop had been shattered, and the interior metal roll-down security gate had been bent, Phillip said. Interior glass display cases were shattered, and an unknown quantity of gear and products appeared to be missing.
The investigation revealed that the pair had likely reversed their van into the front of the store, smashing through the front glass wall and doors, as well as the inside security gate. While no witnesses saw the initial collision, Phillip said some people told police they saw the men getting into their van and driving away at a high rate of speed westbound on California Avenue towards El Camino Real.
Witnesses described the driver as a Latino man in his early- to mid-20s, wearing a black and white beanie with long pull cords on each side, a black sweatshirt, and a thin moustache. Witnesses described the other suspect as a tall, thin man of unknown race wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans, and dark shoes. Witnesses described the suspect vehicle as an older red minivan with dark tinted windows. The rear license plate of the van was covered with black plastic.
Phillip said employees are still compiling a list of merchandise stolen from their store, but initial reports indicate that the loss is likely tens of thousands of dollars. There is no estimate at this time on the cost to repair the damage to the building.
Detectives are looking into the possibility that this crime may have been committed by the same men who burglarized a closed Mountain View business called Audio High at 165 Moffett Boulevard in the early-morning hours of Feb. 9 because the van used in that case was similar. Some of that burglary was captured on video. While the suspects don't ram the van into the building, the video shows one of the suspects breaking into the glass with some sort of hammer.
But these types of thefts, where the burglars smash vehicles into store fronts, are occurring throughout the Bay Area. For example, suspects crashed an SUV into the Wells Fargo Museum in San Francisco on Jan. 27, stealing gold nuggets. A driver rammed a U-Haul truck into the Life Chiropractic College in Hayward, in an apparent break-in on Feb. 13.
Anyone with information should call the Palo Alto 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to email@example.com or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.