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'They are back': Latest Atherton burglaries may be tied to 2018-19 crime streak, police say

There have been six burglaries, and one attempted burglary in Atherton since Oct. 1. Crime information via Atherton Police Department

Police have reason to believe recent home burglaries in Atherton — including the theft of $800,000 worth of jewelry stolen from a home on Tuesday, Dec. 8 — are linked to a crime spree in town two years ago, they shared with residents during a meeting Wednesday night (Dec. 9) over Zoom, which 212 people attended.

During the November 2018 to February 2019 spree, millions of dollars of goods were stolen in 20 residential burglaries over a four-month period.

More than 200 people participated in an Atherton police discussion about license plate readers and recent burglaries in town on Wednesday, Dec. 9. Screenshot by Angela Swartz.

Police said gang members in Southern California, who were arrested, jailed, or deported, were the culprits of burglaries in town the winter before last. They may still be communicating with others to commit crimes, such as the six burglaries in town that have taken place since Oct. 1, said Atherton Police Chief Steve McCulley.

"It appears that they are back," he said. The break-in method Tuesday, Dec. 8, on Greenoaks Drive is notably consistent with the prior string of burglaries, in which thieves climbed up to the second story of homes to gain entry. "With over 200 participants (in the meeting), people are paying attention to this issue (the burglaries)."

There is security footage from the latest burglary, and police are hopeful they will capture images of the suspects, McCulley said. Unfortunately, if it is the same crew from two years, they often make themselves unidentifiable on camera, wearing hoodies and face masks, he noted.

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The same group likely broke into homes up the Peninsula in Hillsborough, McCulley said. They tend to burglarize residents mid-week or mid-evening and come when there is still daylight, and then when it gets dark, they wait to see which homes do not have lights on and appear to be unoccupied.

"The burglary last night (Tuesday) fit that MO (modus operandi) exactly,” he said, noting the burglary happened between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on and burglars gained entry through a second-story master bedroom.

Mayor Rick DeGolia noted the mode of entry and timing of the burglary Dec. 8 "absolutely" fit with the crimes that occurred in town two years ago.

Thieves are climbing up gutters or putting furniture underneath upstairs patios to pull themselves up to balconies, said police Sgt. Anthony Kockler. He said they try to enter from the upstairs level since "very few" people install alarms or motion sensors beyond the first floor of their homes.

McCulley reassured nervous residents who asked whether the burglars tend to be violent that, like most burglars, these ones are trying to burglarize residences when no one is home and are not harming residents.

License plate readers

During the Wednesday meeting, officials also discussed how the town has installed 21 license plate readers to help deter crime and possibly capture criminals going to or leaving the scenes of burglaries. The cameras were first proposed as a response to the 2018-19 burglary spree.

Several residents offered to help fund additional cameras during the discussion.

"It certainly gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing how deeply concerned the chief (McCulley) and the police force are for our safety," said resident Ann Walker during the meeting.

Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) are mounted on police cars or on fixtures such as road signs and bridges. There were already public safety cameras at Holbrook-Palmer Park, and new police vehicles are equipped with ALPR cameras as part of their existing dashboard cameras.

In May, the City Council approved buying Flock Safety automated license plate readers at a cost of $2,000 each starting in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which began July 1.

DeGolia noted that for a town like Atherton in which residents value their privacy, 21 cameras is a large number to have installed, but the hope is that the Flock cameras were able to capture any vehicles the burglars arrived in Tuesday night and in other instances.

View a presentation from the meeting here.

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Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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'They are back': Latest Atherton burglaries may be tied to 2018-19 crime streak, police say

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 10, 2020, 4:07 pm

Police have reason to believe recent home burglaries in Atherton — including the theft of $800,000 worth of jewelry stolen from a home on Tuesday, Dec. 8 — are linked to a crime spree in town two years ago, they shared with residents during a meeting Wednesday night (Dec. 9) over Zoom, which 212 people attended.

During the November 2018 to February 2019 spree, millions of dollars of goods were stolen in 20 residential burglaries over a four-month period.

Police said gang members in Southern California, who were arrested, jailed, or deported, were the culprits of burglaries in town the winter before last. They may still be communicating with others to commit crimes, such as the six burglaries in town that have taken place since Oct. 1, said Atherton Police Chief Steve McCulley.

"It appears that they are back," he said. The break-in method Tuesday, Dec. 8, on Greenoaks Drive is notably consistent with the prior string of burglaries, in which thieves climbed up to the second story of homes to gain entry. "With over 200 participants (in the meeting), people are paying attention to this issue (the burglaries)."

There is security footage from the latest burglary, and police are hopeful they will capture images of the suspects, McCulley said. Unfortunately, if it is the same crew from two years, they often make themselves unidentifiable on camera, wearing hoodies and face masks, he noted.

The same group likely broke into homes up the Peninsula in Hillsborough, McCulley said. They tend to burglarize residents mid-week or mid-evening and come when there is still daylight, and then when it gets dark, they wait to see which homes do not have lights on and appear to be unoccupied.

"The burglary last night (Tuesday) fit that MO (modus operandi) exactly,” he said, noting the burglary happened between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on and burglars gained entry through a second-story master bedroom.

Mayor Rick DeGolia noted the mode of entry and timing of the burglary Dec. 8 "absolutely" fit with the crimes that occurred in town two years ago.

Thieves are climbing up gutters or putting furniture underneath upstairs patios to pull themselves up to balconies, said police Sgt. Anthony Kockler. He said they try to enter from the upstairs level since "very few" people install alarms or motion sensors beyond the first floor of their homes.

McCulley reassured nervous residents who asked whether the burglars tend to be violent that, like most burglars, these ones are trying to burglarize residences when no one is home and are not harming residents.

During the Wednesday meeting, officials also discussed how the town has installed 21 license plate readers to help deter crime and possibly capture criminals going to or leaving the scenes of burglaries. The cameras were first proposed as a response to the 2018-19 burglary spree.

Several residents offered to help fund additional cameras during the discussion.

"It certainly gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing how deeply concerned the chief (McCulley) and the police force are for our safety," said resident Ann Walker during the meeting.

Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) are mounted on police cars or on fixtures such as road signs and bridges. There were already public safety cameras at Holbrook-Palmer Park, and new police vehicles are equipped with ALPR cameras as part of their existing dashboard cameras.

In May, the City Council approved buying Flock Safety automated license plate readers at a cost of $2,000 each starting in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which began July 1.

DeGolia noted that for a town like Atherton in which residents value their privacy, 21 cameras is a large number to have installed, but the hope is that the Flock cameras were able to capture any vehicles the burglars arrived in Tuesday night and in other instances.

View a presentation from the meeting here.

Comments

RanchGal
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 11, 2020 at 2:48 pm
RanchGal, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2020 at 2:48 pm

I still say this will never decrease when we have committed felons running around on their seventh and eighth offenses with no long term jail time ! I would love to see statistics on the actual prosecution and prison time served for these criminals. It’s a revolving door and we are the victims of liberal judiciary


Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Dec 11, 2020 at 9:15 pm
Thoughtful, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Dec 11, 2020 at 9:15 pm

Crime is not up in Bel Air, California – and they are part of the same state and legal system we are up here.

Bel Air has private patrol to augment the LAPD. Their crime rate is 50% lower than the national average, with property crime 47% less than the national average. Atherton's crime rate is just 32% lower than the national average, with property crime just 28% lower than the national average. (FBI report from September 2020).

Otherwise, the communities are remarkably similar in terms of affluence and other factors that might influence crime rates. However, Bel Air is not paying for its own police department

In Atherton, we pay very dearly for police resources. Because the town is so small, and the cost for overhead and officer benefits is so high, there are not many officers on duty at any given time.

If we outsourced to the Sheriff, and used the millions in savings to hire private patrol, this would have a real impact on property crime. The same dollars (or in fact a lot less) would lead to a lot more crime prevention boots and vehicles out on the streets.

This would also have the advantage of not continuing to bankrupt the Town's future through growing unfunded pension liabilities.

Unfortunately, you won't see any of the council members talking about this or other logical solutions to make our tax dollars go further to accomplish goals for the residents. The APD is a "sacred cow", and they've made sure all the council members know that.


Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:26 am
Thoughtful, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:26 am

Neighboring San Carlos, which did outsource its police department to the SMC Sheriff, has a crime rate 52% lower than the national average, with property crime also 52% lower than the national average.

Neighboring Woodside, which did outsource its police department ot the SMC Sheriff, and has a similar affluence level to Atherton, has an overall crime rate 64% lower than the national average, with property crime also 64% lower than the national average.

You can look these statistics up here (and for Atherton, and for Bel Air):

Web Link

The net result is we are paying a lot more for police services, but have (much) higher crime than neighboring communities that outsourced and are paying less!

Town Council, are you listening? Do any of these facts actually matter?

"In Woodside you have a 1 in 111 chance of becoming a victim of crime. Woodside is safer than 70% of the cities in the United States."

"In Atherton you have a 1 in 60 chance of becoming a victim of crime. Atherton is safer than 56% of the cities in the United States."

You are not spending our tax money in an efficient way, that delivers solutions to residents. You're simply perpetuating a tradition.


Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:33 am
Thoughtful, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:33 am

By the way…Atherton's crime ranking cited above is BEFORE this latest burglary wave started. It would be even worse now, and likely below the median of all cities in the U.S. The notion that APD reduces crime in Atherton is simply not true according to the actual data.


joine
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:34 am
joine, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:34 am

$95 an hour! Seriously I don't know why more people haven't tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.READ MORE Heres where I went,

Copy Here══════►►► http://www.newapp9.com


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:43 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:43 am

"The net result is we are paying a lot more for police services, "

Atherton pays roughly twice as much per capita for police services as does Woodside. And Atherton also pays a small portion of the costs for the Sheriff's Office.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:53 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2020 at 8:53 am

And Atherton has a BIG unfunded pension liability for its police department while Woodside has no unfunded police pension liability.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 12, 2020 at 9:50 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2020 at 9:50 am

Atherton residents, in the main, seem to want their own police department and are pretty adamant about it even in the face of the monetary cost and higher crime rates than other wealthy towns. One can only surmise why. Because as residents they are never written traffic citations by APD? As residents they are never arrested for DUI by APD? Because they like to see police officers doing menial things like picking up newspapers, water lawns and bringing keys to locked out residents?

Atherton could contract with the Sheriff for police services for half the cost and no unfunded pension liability. And spend a small amount of the savings to pay a private security service to patrol the town in addition to Sheriffs Deputies. This could result in around $2 million a year in savings and no debt (unfunded pensions). The people of Atherton are not stupid. They didn't get wealthy by being stupid or financially imprudent, yet when it comes to paying excessive costs for a police department they choose to do it. It just lends credence to the possible reasons posited above.


Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2020 at 9:52 am
Thoughtful, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2020 at 9:52 am

@Meno Voter – I would hypothesize it's because most residents are completely uninvolved in the issues, and the Town Council has abrogated its fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities with respect to the police department because of political pressure by the police union.


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