While the numbers are still subject to change as final police reports roll in from December, the department's tally shows 622 auto burglaries occurred in Mountain View in 2018, a 12 percent increase over last year and the highest number in at least a decade. As in the past few years, car burglaries are increasingly concentrated in specific parking lots and areas of the city.
The Century Cinema 16 parking lots in North Bayshore are one example. About one in six of the reported burglaries in the entire city, 102 cases in total, took place in the theater's parking lots in 2018, according to crime tracking website CrimeReports. This includes a burglary spree in November where thieves smashed the windows of 18 vehicles on a Friday night, stealing everything from clothes to laptops.
The number of reported auto burglaries in the downtown area, specifically the two closest blocks to Castro Street, also rose sharply last year, more than doubling from 147 from 60 last year, according to the website. Though dispersed throughout the downtown corridor, the highest concentration in any one spot was the public parking lot in the 800 block of Bryant Street.
The small In-N-Out Burger parking lot on N. Rengstorff Avenue, frequently a target due to its close proximity to Highway 101, had 72 reported burglaries in 2018. Last month was far and away the worst month for auto burglaries in recent years, exceeding 100 reported thefts.
Perhaps the starkest change from last year is the rise in stolen vehicle or attempted stolen vehicle reports, which shot up by nearly 62 percent from 105 in 2017 to 170. Vehicle thefts were generally reported from residential areas north of El Camino Real and were far less likely to occur in commercial or retail centers.
The number of residential burglaries decreased in 2018 by 12.7 percent, from 180 cases to 157, while the number of commercial burglaries increased slightly, from 118 cases to 125. CrimeReports shows the neighboring Palo Alto Police Department received reports of 95 residential burglaries and 137 commercial burglaries over the same year, though the comparison isn't perfect — Palo Alto has thousands fewer housing units than Mountain View.
In terms of violent crime, robberies and attempted robberies were up compared to 2017, from 46 reported cases to 55, and a mix of assault charges — ranging from battery to assault with a deadly weapon — increased from 283 reported incidents to 298, according to police.
Arrests for drug sales or possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell were down in 2018 and primarily took place at Shoreline Amphitheatre. Arrests for sale of a controlled substance halved from 10 cases in 2017 to five last year, while cases of possession with intent to sell dipped from 17 to 14 cases.
While local law enforcement officials have been hesitant to attribute crime trends to any one particular cause, a police report published last year noted that Mountain View is not immune from broad Bay Area crime trends, and that the city — like other jurisdictions — is facing an increase in property crimes like auto burglaries.
"Suspects who quickly target unattended valuables make it difficult to suppress these crimes, but there has been some success with arresting offenders, to include the prosecution of sophisticated gang members," according to the 2017 annual report. "Preventing these crimes has also been a priority for our community engagement strategy."
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