Burglars Target Hospital Parking Lot, Employees

Employees want a higher police presence in the parking lot
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – Frustrated employees of a medical complex who have experienced a handful of vehicle break-ins during recent months say police have not given their cases the attention they deserve, but police say they are doing what they can to address the problem.

Thieves broke into at least three vehicles belonging to employees at the South Valley Medical Pavilion on No Name Uno within the past four months, said Colleen Nobil, who manages one of the offices in the medical center. One of the vehicles was struck twice within a six-week period.

When the burglaries were discovered, the employees called Gilroy police, who Nobil said took down the vehicle information but were “disinterested.” In one case, a burglary victim came upon the suspect while he was in her car and was able to provide some physical description and a partial license plate number of the car he was driving. No arrests were made, she said.

“If they had just sort of looked, they may have been able to catch him that day,” Nobil said. “I know it isn’t a top priority, but when it happens on such an ongoing basis… .”

She said she wants to see a higher police presence in the parking lot.

Police said they were unaware of a high proportion of vehicle burglaries in the parking lot, but said they will respond as needed to any such situation.

“Any burglary is difficult to solve just because often you are lacking evidence, lacking witnesses,” Sgt. Kurt Svardal said.

If officers receive a description of the suspect or vehicle from a witness, they will search for that suspect, he said. The description will give police a reason to immediately stop a similar person or vehicle, but will not allow police to stop someone days or weeks later. A partial license plate will contribute to that description but cannot be used to search for a suspect, he said.

Saint Louise Regional Hospital, next door to the medical pavilion, has two security guards on duty 24 hours a day, Vice President Vivian Smith said. One of those patrols the parking lot on a cart with flashing lights. The medical pavilion does not contract for security services, but the guard also patrols that building’s area. She said security reports about one vehicle burglary each quarter.

She encouraged anyone who parks in the hospital and medical center parking lot to contact hospital security in suspicious or emergency situations. Svardal said the police should be contacted, as well.

“I guarantee the officers who are out there, they want to catch people doing this kind of stuff,” he said. “If it’s a significant problem, what we’ve done in the past is, if we can develop a pattern … (we put) plainclothes officers out there. But I don’t know that they’ve had a significant problem.”

This spring, thieves repeatedly struck vehicles in one area of Gilroy – as many as 12 times in a one-week period. When a large number of burglaries take place over the course of weeks or even days, officers will perform additional patrols of the area targeted in an effort to catch the burglar in the act. This strategy helped officers arrest two juveniles for the earlier break-ins.

To protect against vehicle burglary, police recommend placing all valuables out of sight, either in the trunk or underneath a seat. Any particularly valuable items or personal information, such as a driver’s license or Social Security card, should not be kept in the car if it can be avoided. Lock all windows and doors and park in as visible a spot as possible.

Any detachable stereo faceplate should be removed.