Dinnertime burglary crew ransacks 11 Palo Alto homes in 3 weeks

Palo Alto police are asking the public to help them track down what appears to be team of home burglars that have hit nearly a dozen homes.

A department spokesman said they’ve increased neighborhood patrols in response.  

Police are calling the thieves the Dinnertime Home Burglary Crew. The thefts are happening near major roadways and are not defined to one neighborhood.  

Like most cities, Palo Alto has its share of break-ins, but what’s happening now is unusual, according to the department.

"The residential burglary things a little different. I can't recall having this number of burglaries in this short period of time," said Sgt. Brian Philip with the Palo Alto Police Department.

Since October 9, 11 Palo Alto homes have been broken into. Two on Briarwood Way were hit on the same night of October 28.  The burglaries are happening primarily during dinner hours on Friday and Saturday nights. One resident said it’s causing some concern but not panic.

"I guess we should be taking some extra care at this time but as I say, overall I think people in the neighborhood feel pretty safe. I feel pretty safe," said Richard Purkey.

Police are telling people to lock all windows and doors when they’re away and turn on alarms. 

"I’ve been making sure all the doors are locked before we go to sleep," said 30-year resident Grace Lin.

One homeowner who said her house was hit told KTVU the thieves smashed in the rear sliding glass door to get in.  Her home security system captured two people breaking in and taking off with valuables in a pillowcase.  

"Lots of jewelry, fine jewelry, small [items] like electronics and cash," said the homeowner who preferred to remain anonymous.

Police said the thieves are typically entering through side gates and breaking rear windows to get in.   

They're going after jewelry and safes, according to police and during one heist took a large safe with nine firearms inside.

"These particular suspects were very bold, and the fact that they actually dragged one of the safes out with a blanket dragging it downstairs, making a lot of noise, dragging it out of a house. Not really caring it seems if anyone saw them do that," said Philip.

One resident who opted out of alarms says he’s rethinking that decision after hearing about these break-ins.

"I have a lot of buddies that live over on Hamilton and they’ve got all kinds of camera systems and I said, ‘ah, I don’t need any cameras systems,’ but 11 (break-ins) in 3 weeks, that’s pretty alarming," he said.

In each case, police say no one has been home during the burglaries. Police don't know if that’s luck or something more.

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"It's a question we're asking too. How are they picking these particular residences? And so part of the investigation will be to look at all of those things," said Philip. "Are they being tipped off? Do they have intimate knowledge of the places that they're going into?"

Police have security footage but aren’t releasing it at this time.

They don’t have descriptions of the suspects and say the thieves are wearing hoodies, masks, and gloves.