There is an alarming trend in Santa Clara, a rapid rise in thefts from vehicles. The Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) says car burglaries are up 121.2 percent in the first five months of 2019, compared to the same time frame last year.
“It’s an epidemic and the one message that I want to convey is don’t leave anything in your car that you’re not prepared to lose,” said SCPD Lieutenant Alan Wolf. “There’s a number of different apps out there that can actually, using Bluetooth technology, determine if there’s a laptop in a car. They can actually tell what part of the car it is, the trunk, etcetera. They’re driving through the lots, they’re locating cars with laptops and those are the cars they’re hitting.”
Wolf says thieves usually hit their targets Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and they hit large parking lots next to freeways and expressways because they’re easy to escape from.
“They use very radical and dangerous tactics to escape,” said Wolf. “They know the police won’t pursue them if they drive 110 miles per hour trying to escape with their lights off the wrong way down Lawrence Expressway. Of course it’s prudent, we don’t want anybody hurt and they know that so that’s what they do. They drive like maniacs when they take off.”
Santa Clara isn’t the only city facing such a problem. In fact, SCPD is working with police departments in neighboring cities like San Jose and Sunnyvale to try and catch the thieves.
“These crews of auto burglars are professionals and they rove around,” said Wolf. “Literally we see a pattern. Okay, San Jose just told us the tan Nissan is hitting and then sure enough it hits in our city and then it hits Sunnyvale and then it hits Mountain View.”
Kansen Chu, the State Assemblymember representing Santa Clara, knows that this is a growing problem. He made sure the new state budget included $3.75 million in funding to help Santa Clara, San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont and Newark fight the recent spike in auto burglaries.
“I know the local PD, they’re working on a very tight budget,” said Assemblymember Chu. “Hopefully the local police [will] be able to use that money for a lot of education and also do whatever they think is necessary, like putting out signs and also installing cameras.”
Santa Clara will receive $750,000 and the Police Chief is already working to determine where the money will be best spent.
“I imagine it’s going to be a combination of equipment, enforcement, intelligence. Everything we can,” said Lieutenant Wolf. “The money’s certainly going to come in handy based on the frequency of the crime here.”
Police say the key is, don’t leave anything in your car, even for a moment.
“The more vehicles we have that’s just a broken window that means they don’t get anything,” said Wolf. “The more we frustrate the criminals…the less lucrative it is and maybe they’ll move on to something else. That’s kind of our hope.”