Daytime burglars ransack Willows neighborhood

'Unprecedented' spree gets highest priority

Describing the crime spree as "unprecedented," Menlo Park police met with Willows residents on Wednesday, Sept. 22, to discuss a recent string of break-ins.

Ten burglaries and two attempts have occurred in September -- nine in the past week -- during the hours of 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., when most homes sit empty while residents work.

The burglars crossed yards, leaped fences, crept in through doors unlocked and locked, and even squeezed through a doggy door to snatch electronics, jewelry, and money.

At the request of Councilmember Kelly Fergusson, about 60 residents sat down at Cafe Zoe on Wednesday night to talk about the break-ins with Police Chief Bryan Roberts and Sgt. Jaime Romero.

Who's there?

The thieves might knock on doors first to scout a home, claiming to look for a lost pet or a friend, Sgt. Jaime Romero said. He asked residents to call the police if that happens.

He also promised response times would improve, after one woman said a dispatcher told her no one could respond to her call about a possible break-in for five to 10 minutes.

Calling 911 from a landline might help, Sgt. Romero explained, because cellphone calls near U.S. 101 may be routed through California Highway Patrol dispatch first before reaching the Menlo Park police department.

Police spokesperson Nicole Acker told The Almanac the average response time for in-progress crimes is a couple minutes, if that, but it could be longer if other high-priority situations are going on at the same time.

Suspect information remains elusive. Police believe the burglars might be teenagers and young adults skipping school, so they're checking truancy reports. They don't know yet if the crimes are linked. But based on stolen check activity, investigators think some of the thieves hail from Redwood City and East Palo Alto, and are coordinating with other jurisdictions.

On Sept. 16, residents reported seeing a suspicious green sedan and a blue van with a gray stripe in the neighborhood, and police encouraged everyone to keep calling whenever something looks out of place.

Police have stepped up both regular and undercover patrols throughout the neighborhood.

Safety tips

Police urge people to work together to make the neighborhood safer. Individuals should also stash valuables out of sight, while making the exterior of the house less welcoming to thieves by keeping a clear line of view to the street and removing anything like bricks that could be used to smash a window. Locking doors, of course, is also a good place to start.

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Like this comment
Posted by Mayberry's Finest
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm

We have to graciously thank the generous households that leave doors and windows open all around the Willows. 7 out of 10 of these crimes were not forced entires. Your cluelessness endangers us all!

Like this comment
Posted by Wow
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Nice work MF...while what you say may be factually correct, way to kick the victims while they are down and feeling unsafe and violated. I hope your finger waging superiority makes you feel good.

Be vigilant, call the cops when you see suspicious activity. Don't wait...just call as soon as you see something. Write down license plate numbers, descriptions, etc.

And I hate to agree with MF, but lock up your home when you leave.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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