Atherton residents worried about rash of burglaries

Atherton police speak to residents about the burglary wave at a meeting at the Holbrook Palmer Park Pavilion on Thursday night. Post photo by Emily Mibach.

Daily Post Staff Writer

In a town where residents have their alarm system hooked up to the police station, Athertonians last night (Jan. 31) conveyed how terrified they are after a recent spate of home burglaries and thefts hit their quiet town, leaving some residents to wonder if their police department is out of its league.

The town has seen 22 burglaries or similar property crimes since Thanksgiving, and Detective Jason Bollendorf told residents last night that he believes there are two crews of burglars prowling the area and committing the crimes.

Chief Steve McCulley explained to residents that similar types of property crime is up all over the region. However, one woman asked if the department is out of its league when it comes to the task of solving these crimes.

McCulley said he “completely disagreed with the woman. He then pointed out just how difficult burglaries are to solve by pointing to the nation’s 10% “solve rate” for burglaries.

McCulley also said that the department is trying to stop the burglaries by sending plain clothes officers in unmarked vehicles to patrol the town. He also said that the town is working with the Sheriff’s Office, Redwood City and Menlo Park police departments to try to crack down on these burglaries.

He added that those jurisdictions and Hillsborough, a town often compared to Atherton, have seen an uptick in burglaries.

Atherton isn’t an island

One resident it was “new information” to him that crime had increased in neighboring towns. But McCulley countered that “Atherton is not an island,” and explained that often times, burglars are coming from the East Bay or San Francisco, stealing a car at the airport, and then committing crimes at homes near main roads or freeways.

“It (property crimes occurring) is not an anomaly. The anomaly is how often it’s happening in Atherton,” McCulley said.

Residents who have been victims of burglaries said they haven’t received much follow up from police.

One woman claimed that police never followed up with her neighbors to find out if they saw anything after her home was broken into. McCulley asked the woman to talk to him after the meeting to discuss her case.

Cmdr. Joe Wade said the increase of crime “is personal to us. We may not be the ones losing the property, but we are doing all we can to go back to no burglaries happening here.”

Recent crimes

Thursday night’s meeting was called after the town saw an unusual spike in crime on Monday night, where the following occurred:

• An unlocked vehicle was stolen on the 1-99 block of Almendral Avenue,

• A purse was stolen out of a home on the 100 block of Almendral after burglars came through an unlocked side door,

• Two unlocked cars parked in an unlocked garage were rummaged through, and items were stolen on the 100 block of Almendral Ave.,

• Two unlocked cars were rummaged through and two bicycles were stolen on the 1-99 block of Alemendral Ave. The bicycles were later found.

Additionally, it was discovered that sometime between Friday and Monday, a home on the 1-99 block of James Avenue was burglarized, and purses valued at $10,000 were stolen.

On Friday, an upstairs window was smashed at a home on the 100 block of Tuscaloosa Avenue. Three people were involved and stole about $5,000 worth of jewelry.

As far as protecting homes, McCulley asked that people continue to call police if they see anything suspicious in their neighborhood.

McCulley also suggested that residents look into upgrading their alarm system, as some residents last night noted that they don’t turn their motion sensors on because of their pets. The chief noted that there are some alarm systems where you can set a minimum weight limit for your motion sensor — for example, if your dog weighs 30 pounds, you can set it so anything over 35 pounds triggers the alarm.

He also reminded people to set their alarms, lock their doors and cars, in many of the crimes that occurred recently — peoples alarms were not on or their motion sensors were off.

Residents can also sign up for the town’s email subscription service at, and get news flashes from the city’s departments.

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