By Maria Medina

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — Five teenagers were arrested minutes after allegedly breaking into nearly a dozen cars in Palo Alto Monday morning, a Palo Alto police spokesperson said.

The teens, who range in age from 17 to 19, were caught not far from where the break-ins happened in a Midtown neighborhood, said Palo Alto Police Public Information Officer Janine De La Vega.

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“A lot of times it is difficult to catch those thieves,” she said.

But in this case, an alert resident near Amarillo Avenue and West Bayshore Road spotted the suspects as they allegedly smashed windows, giving police a chance to respond immediately after the crime.

The suspects include David Foster, Salvador Rodriguez, David Taufur and two unidentified 17-year-olds. They were charged with breaking into eight cars and are expected in court on Wednesday.

Police were able to recover some stolen property found in the suspects’ car, De La Vega said.

“So right now detectives are looking into the possibility to see if these same suspects are possibly related to other auto burglaries that have occurred in the city,” she said.

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The string of car burglaries is just a part of a significant increase in property crime across the city. From January to November of 2019, there were 816 car burglaries compared to 485 in 2018. The spike amounts to a 68% increase.

That’s not counting the last few days of the year when police confirmed there were 44 car burglaries between Christmas Eve and January 2. Many of the break-ins happened in downtown and at shopping centers.

Susan Spiller, who was parked at the Stanford Shopping Center, said she never leaves anything in her car to try to avoid becoming a victim.

“The people who are doing these break-ins are so brazen,” Spiller said. “I don’t feel safe leaving my car even in highly populated areas where there’s a lot of traffic. I lock it all the time, but I still just don’t have a sense of safety.”

De La Vega said the five teens from Monday’s case were in and out of cars within seconds.

“There were burglary tools, two window punches as well as gloves in the car,” said De La Vega. “One of the suspects also had a ski mask.”

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Also on Tuesday, two teens were arrested in Hayward following a police pursuit that began in Fremont after around 30 car break-ins were reported.