Last night our corner of Los Gatos had a Neighborhood Watch meeting at the Belwood cabaña with Sergeant Bill Hoyt presenting information to us on recent crime events as well as possible solutions going forward. I’ll share some images and what we learned.
Our neighborhood Nextdoor site has had plenty of information on the break ins. For those not aware, there were 6 of them in the Belwood – Belgatos and nearby areas of Los Gatos in 2022.
Neighborhood watch meeting agenda
We heard at the Neighborhood Watch meeting that there are four different organized groups involved. Sergeant Hoyt shared that one is a criminal gang bringing in teams for brief stints and then returning them back home, the South American Theft Group. They first began operating here in January 2020. Many of the traits listed below also appear to line up with the other criminal groups, too.
- they fly in from South America on tourist visas, are put up in a “safe house”, and don’t stay in the US too long before flying back home
- they hit high net worth areas
- they generally target homes on larger lots or backing to open space, where presumably they’ll be less noticed
- Monte Sereno and the areas off of Kennedy Road have had more problems than we have with these types of break ins
- they drive expensive cars so that they blend in to the surroundings, with Range Rovers or Mercedes SUVs preferred
- he shared that the gang removed a large safe in daylight with neighbors walking and driving past, and residents didn’t bat an eye as it was loaded into the Mercedes Benz SUV
- mostly going for cash and jewelry in the primary bedroom and have been known to remove even heavy safes bolted in place
- dogs do not appear to be a deterrent
- they most often hit between 5:30 pm and 10 pm and break into homes that appear unoccupied
- they get into backyards, smash sliding glass doors, and enter through the hole without opening that door
- he noted that most alarms don’t have motion sensors, so if the door isn’t opened, the alarm won’t go off
- if there is a motion sensor, the alarm company will call the owners before calling the police, and the thieves know they can spend a certain amount of time before the police will show up
Sergeant Hoyt stressed the importance of making the home look occupied. He suggested using smart plugs with timers to randomly have lights, music, etc. on. (It is also possible to get motorized blinds and put them on timers, as well as your outside lights.) He mentioned the appearance of an occupied house several times as the number one most important thing that can be done to convince the gangs to skip your house.
Additionally, he encouraged all of us to let our neighbors know when we will be gone so that they can reach out if there’s any unusual activtiy.
Cameras with alerts are also really helpful, he said, and encouraged their use also. He shared an example of cameras helping to identify a black car involved with two different crimes as being helpful to them in tracking down the offender.
Sergeant Hoyt spent some time discussing laws that make it harder to arrest burglars and other law breakers, harder to keep them in jail, and just generally harder to do their job in law enforcement.
Cameras that read license plates and alert the police
Finally, the Neighborhood Watch presentation on the topic of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) cameras was broached. Sergeant Hoyt stated that since the 15 cameras were installed at the entrances of the town (Los Gatos only, not Monte Sereno), they’ve been able to stop over 100 crimes before they happened. The cameras read every license plate that goes past, and if that license is on a list of known or suspected criminals, it alerts the police, who can then arrive hopefully in time to stop whatever nefarious deed was about to take place.
In 2021, the town’s leadership decided to do a 2 year lease of these cameras. The cost: $78,750.
How do residents feel about it? Clearly there are pros and cons, with some of the negatives raised in Los Gatan article: Use of digital surveillance tech by Los Gatos police questioned. Apparently, not all residents are happy about these devices being used and have concerns about privacy and their civil rights.
On the other hand, home owners in some neighborhoods are so in favor that they have banded together to pay to install these cameras privately. I believe that there are some at the two places where Alerche meets Harwood.
We had to leave the Neighborhood Watch meeting before it ended, but the topic appeared to be inching up on asking if we’d like to pay to add Flock Safety cameras to our neighborhood’s entrances. There are only 5 ways in by automobile. On the other hand, if in 2021 the two year lease price was almost $80,000 for 15 cameras, that makings leasing 5 of them today pretty likely pretty expensive.
Related: Ring Doorbells and police, too
A few years back, Ring asked owners of their systems if we’d like to voluntarily share all of our cameras feeds with police on an ongoing basis. If asked for a specific day or event, of course we would share, but I did not like the idea of a blank check. To me that’s just going too far. We have storage for our cameras and can retrieve them if needed and don’t mind sharing if asked.
Ring has partnered with over 400 police agencies nationwide, and apparently sometimes the camera feeds are provided to police without the camera owner’s consent. Ring Reveals They Give Videos to Police Without User Consent or a Warrant
I’m unaware if similar relationships exist with other camera devices such as Nest, Eufy, HomeSafe View, etc.
The pros seem to be increased efficacy of police work. The con seems to be the cost and a possible loss of privacy.