Man says thieves broke into his car four times in downtown lot

Auto burglary reports in downtown Mountain View spiked in 2018 and early 2019

A downtown business owner said he is frustrated and ready to relocate after the fourth time his car was broken into in the same downtown parking lot. The city's refusal to ramp up crime enforcement is part of the problem, he claimed.

Tim Campos, the CEO of a small tech company on Castro Street, said thieves have targeted his car four times since October 2017, each time in the same city-owned lot near Hope and Dana streets. The latest incident last week was the last straw -- his Tesla was being repaired from the last break-in when someone broke into his rental car.

"I'm not just a disgruntled citizen," Campos said. "I'm not the type of person who is just seeking attention for themselves. I am angry that our elected officials and law enforcement teams are not doing anything about this."

Reported car break-ins in Mountain View are not only on the rise, they're increasingly concentrated in certain areas. The Mountain View Police Department's tally shows 622 auto burglaries occurred in the city in 2018, up 12 percent from the prior year and the highest in at least a decade. Perhaps the most striking change between 2018 and prior years was the number of auto burglaries reported in the downtown area, specifically the two blocks closest to Castro Street. The number of burglaries more than doubled from 60 in 2017 to 147 in 2018, according to the crime-tracking website CrimeReports.

Some of the worst months in years were in December and January, when the department received 103 and 105 reports of auto burglaries, respectively. There was a noticeable dip in February back down to 83 cases, which is still high compared to past months.

Campos said he knows he's not alone, and that he's aware of at least two smash-and-grab sprees that occurred in the same downtown lot. Although the problem isn't limited to Tesla owners, he said employees at the service center he goes to are getting between five and seven cars with broken windows each week.

"They have had enough of these that they have fully outsourced the repairs to subcontractors," he said.

When his car was broken into the second time -- in April 2018 -- Campos said a police officer told him there was no point in filing a police report because there was nothing the department could do.

Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson told the Voice that the department would never tell someone not to file a police report, and that the department works around the clock to identify and arrest burglary suspects. Investigations may take a while to complete and feel frustrating, she said, but giving police information on each incident is important and is taken seriously.

"You never know what report might help advance, or even break, a case," she said.

Acknowledging that auto burglaries are a growing problem in the Bay Area, the police department launched a new campaign called Park Smart last week, aimed at informing residents how to prevent auto burglaries. Flyers advise residents that thieves tend to target vehicles parked at shopping centers, restaurants, parking garages and movie theaters, and that electronics, purses and shopping bags should be either out of sight or taken out of the vehicle.

Campos said he didn't have anything valuable in his vehicle during the four occasions his vehicle was burglarized. He said he inquired city leaders about the possibility of surveillance cameras but never heard back, and that it feels like law enforcement and city officials alike are not taking the spike in crime seriously.

"As a business owner in downtown I can assure you I have every intention of re-evaluating the location of my business when my lease comes due in six months," he said. "It would be very helpful if the city showed an interest in actually getting help as opposed to ignoring the problem."

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23 people like this
Posted by Former resident of DTMV
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm

I had a MV police officer witness another car crash into mine and refuse to take down a report. Even though they said they saw the other man was at fault, they would not help me whatsoever.

16 people like this
Posted by ShorelineWestDude
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:39 pm

ShorelineWestDude is a registered user.

[Post removed and poster banned due to repeated violations of terms of use]

18 people like this
Posted by Surprised?
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:54 pm

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

16 people like this
Posted by Whismanian
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:54 pm

Make it to where it's a felony versus a slap on the hand.
Put up lots and lots of security cameras in Mountain View parking lots.

8 people like this
Posted by Jake O.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:57 pm

It seems that even tho the population of MV has increased over the years, I don't think the city has increased the number of patrol.
It is too bad and seems that citizens must begin to step up and protect our property and community. Not just from auto break-ins but the stevens creek trail as well.

10 people like this
Posted by Status Cars
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2019 at 3:00 pm

They are not the right tool if you want to avoid break-ins.
Buyer beware.

28 people like this
Posted by patiobear
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 12, 2019 at 3:15 pm

patiobear is a registered user.

The city council is too busy adding housing to worry about things like safety and fixing the streets that are in disgraceful condition.

7 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:08 pm

psr is a registered user.

This is not just a problem here. It seems that everywhere in the area city governments are ignoring the safety and security of the residents while they spend their energy (and our tax dollars) on their own pet projects. It's a disgrace.

There was a break-in at my family home (in a nearby community) while I was in the middle of selling it. My cousin, who lives near the property, was alerted by a neighbor and arrived while the criminals were still on the property. Rather than responding, the police simply talked to the culprits on my cousin's phone! No arrest, not even an appearance by the police. Is this what our tax dollars are paying for? If it is, we are being overcharged. I should also add that my cousin was in her late 70s at the time.

If the police don't respond when a crime is in progress, why on earth would a criminal have any reason NOT to commit crimes? When you know that nobody will stop you, why should they avoid doing these things? In many communities, the police will not come if no firearm is present. Meanwhile, city councils worry about packing more and more people into our cities, increasing the targets for crime and also introducing more culprits into our midst.

Until the local governments start to concentrate on the current residents rather than their own agendas, this will only get worse.

14 people like this
Posted by always right
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:29 pm

always right is a registered user.

If it doesn’t have $$$$$$$$$ in it for Mountain View. They don’t care.

5 people like this
Posted by Sarah A.
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Sarah A. is a registered user.

My car (also a Tesla) has been broken into 3 times in this same lot. But we need to be fair to our MVPD. They have been extremely helpful, but there is nothing they can do. These guys are fast. I caught them on camera once, including a license plate number, but even that is not enough. The owner of the car involved in the crime can claim someone else borrowed it, and they can't prove it without a face ID which is hard to get through a car windshield.

The best thing we can do as citizens in the community is to all keep a careful watch on suspicious activity and call PD asap if we see anything. All three times my car was broken into, it was a busy time of day (dinner hour). People were likely around.

Nothing was in my car to invite them to break the window, and therefore nothing was stolen. I'm going to start leaving my trunk cover off so thieves can see there is nothing in the trunk. I suggest this to other Teslas owners. Use your frunk (front trunk) instead. Perhaps then the thieves will stop smashing windows to pop open our back trunks.

1 person likes this
Posted by a MV resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:28 pm

a MV resident is a registered user.

The pattern of Teslas, perhaps it's the cars bluetooth or other signals that's making thieves think a laptop is in the car? Have you seen if your car is emitting any electronic signals? Some laptops still emit bluetooth when in sleep mode.

8 people like this
Posted by Sarah A.
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Sarah A. is a registered user.

MV Resident... good idea, but an electronic signal doesn't seem to be the issue. I had this theory also. But I watched the thieves in my security camera and they did not stop or scan the vehicles for signals. They came in from a distance, quickly ducked between the cars, smashed the window, reached through the broken window to pop the trunk down, then they reach in the trunk to see if there is anything inside. It takes no more than 20 seconds per vehicle.

I think they are targeting Teslas because it's easy to pop down the trunk. The newer models now have any-theft for broken windows. I'll look into a third party device to put on the windows of my older Tesla.

Also, there has never been a laptop or other electronics (on or off) in my vehicle.

It was pointed out to me that I might have been too kind in my comments to the PD. 622 auto burglaries is far too many. It is going to start hurting our businesses because people will be afraid to come to Mtn View. It should be taken seriously in an innovative way. Each time my window is broken, it cost around $1k to fix. Add lost contents that people may have, and this is a $1m/year dollar issue.

10 people like this
Posted by Mtn View Mom
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 12, 2019 at 9:03 pm

Mtn View Mom is a registered user.

In the last year our car (and several other cars in the SWAN neighborhood) was broken into. Also, someone cut a chain and stole new bike in broad daylight as we shopped at the Farmers Market. So frustrating that the police can’t do anything.

A good friend from Menlo Park parked her Tesla in the Smart and Final parking lot and it was broken into in the middle of the day. Some customers from Burger King caught the license plate number of the escaping thief and reported it to the MVPD and they STILL did nothing. So infuriating! I can’t underdtand why they can’t follow up and investigate this.

The issue is becoming so well known that MV police don’t investigate crime that it may be attracting more theft.

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

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