City sees spike in auto burglaries

Thieves target theaters, commercial areas and one burger joint, in particular

Nearly one in four auto burglaries reported in Mountain View this year occurred in a small, triangle-shaped In-N-Out Burger parking lot off of North Rengstorff Avenue, according to data from the Mountain View Police Department.

The lot with roughly 70 parking spaces just south of Highway 101 has taken the unenviable title of most burglarized area of the city for years, but reported thefts outside the fast-food restaurant have skyrocketed in 2017. Of the 446 reported car burglaries in Mountain View so far this year, 101 occurred in the In-N-Out parking lot. Police say the close proximity to the highway gives thieves easy access in and out of the parking lot, making it easy to hit multiple vehicles and flee within seconds.

Reported auto burglaries in Mountain View are already up 25 percent this year compared to 2016, and it's only mid-October. Police received 446 reports of car burglaries, according to the crime-tracking website CrimeReports, up from 342 in 2016. There's also a three-year trend showing that thefts from vehicles are occurring in increasingly concentrated pockets of the city rather than widely interspersed throughout Mountain View.

In 2015, there were 475 reported car burglaries in Mountain View -- comparable to this year -- but only 26 thefts at the In-N-Out Burger parking lot. During a precipitous drop in property crime in 2016, thefts in the parking lot bucked the trend and actually doubled.

Other bustling areas in the city fell victim to a similar trend. Reported thefts in the Century Cinema 16 parking lots on North Shoreline Boulevard rose from seven cases in 2015 to 20 cases in 2016, increasing again to 30 cases so far this year. Commercial centers and major thoroughfares including El Camino Real (52), the San Antonio Shopping Center (31) and the downtown area (35) have also been prime targets for car burglaries.

The Mountain View Police Department is actively investigating the city's widespread auto burglary cases, according to police spokeswoman Katie Nelson, and is working with other agencies in the Bay Area to address the problem on a regional level. While Nelson said she couldn't go into detail about the department's Crime Suppression Unit and what they are doing to prevent the thefts, she said there's definitely a concerted effort to address the problem.

"Our department is working around the clock literally to address this, which includes enforcement and serious investigative legwork," she said.

Nelson said that the problem is not exclusive to Mountain View, and that other neighboring cities are dealing with a similar increase in car break-ins. As of Tuesday, CrimeReports shows that Palo Alto's auto burglaries were up to 668 cases so far in 2017, compared to 518 in 2016, with a huge portion occurring within the city's downtown corridor.

Mountain View's auto burglaries tend to come in clusters and can shift wildly from month to month, ranging from just 14 cases in May to 74 in August and 64 in March. Following a lengthy investigation into the In-N-Out parking lot thefts in March, detectives arrested two men suspected of burglarizing vehicles, which led to a violent confrontation. One of the suspects got into his vehicle and slammed into an occupied police car in an attempt to escape the parking lot, which left one officer with serious injuries, Nelson said.

Police are advising that residents lock car doors and windows, park in well-lit areas and never leave their car running in order to prevent auto burglaries as well as vehicle thefts. Drivers should also avoid leaving valuable belongings in the car including electronic devices, purses, wallets or credit cards, especially within view.

"The most tried-and-true method still holds: Don't leave anything in your vehicle," Nelson said. "It is much easier to ensure your personal belongings are safe by taking them with you than leaving them behind because you'll be gone for 'just a few minutes.'"

Police are also hosting an informational event on residential and auto burglaries on Nov. 7, including tips on what attracts burglars as well as ways to prevent burglaries. It is the first in a series of educational events hosted by the Mountain View Police Department, and is open to the public. The event will be held at 7 p.m. in the police department's auditorium, located at 1000 Villa Street in Mountain View.

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46 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 20, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Cops and businesses know where the crooks operate. Video cameras are cheap these days. If it were my business, I would have installed cameras after the first couple of crimes.

44 people like this
Posted by Dan Waylonis
a resident of Jackson Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Dan Waylonis is a registered user.

Sounds like a good time for a "bait" car to catch the bad guys. Or at least have some officers in unmarked cars at times of greatest likelihood of burglary.

For In-n-Out, brighter lights and cameras in the lot would also go a long way to alleviate this issue.

78 people like this
Posted by Get a grip
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Maybe it is time to increase penalties for crimes. I believe criminals should also pay for their time behind bars. Throw them in for a year and tax future wages for the cost. You might see less theft?

4 people like this
Posted by kevinp
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 3:37 pm

kevinp is a registered user.

It does not hurt that in and out is one of the slowest fast food chains around. You could be waiting 15 to 20 minutes for order, especially after a concert at shoreline.

11 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Oct 20, 2017 at 3:47 pm

It's interesting that Palo Alto is 16% smaller but has 50% more auto burglary.

3 people like this
Posted by To_Get_a_grip
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 3:50 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
Maybe education in provershed areas? Creating programs like, for an example, we're in Silicon Valley- why not teach these criminals to code? Turn away from the life of a crime.

Just an idea.

34 people like this
Posted by Kevinp
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm

I doubt most of these “criminals” would be able to learn how to write code. Either your giving them too much credit or giving coders a bad rap. Lol. Do you really think that would work? Maybe you could teach them. Lol.

195 people like this
Posted by unintended consequences
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 7:40 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

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

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