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Uncovering robberies behind Cupertino's safe mask

El Estoque News



Known for its top schools, high house prices and the high-tech companies in surrounding areas, Cupertino is often deemed a safe neighborhood. Low crime rates, minimal work for law enforcement. But aside from substance abuse, money-related crimes such as robberies and burglaries are prevalent in the area. The stories below give an idea of what really goes on behind Cupertino's safe bubble.

Shoplifting in cupertino

MVHS students recall their reasons for stealing from retail stores

MVHS students recall their reasons for stealing from retail stores

By Justine Ha

All names starting with a L are used to protect the identity and anonymity of these sources.


It first happened at Disneyland. The sparkling jewels caught the attention of the 8-year-old girl to the point where she didn’t bother asking her parents for money – she just stole it.


Lily was on vacation with her family when she committed theft for the first time. Her mindset to justify stealing at such a young age was because she knew Disney was a billion dollar company and it would be able to easily cover the cost of 30 dollars.


“I was like, ‘I'm just gonna take one [jewel toy],’” Lily said. “I thought, ‘They don't care. They have [so] much money that they won't care.’”


Leah, another MVHS student, was in seventh grade when she shoplifted for the first time. She was in the seventh grade and was peer pressured by two new friends she had made to steal at Daiso, a Japanese dollar store. Although she was nervous as she knew it was illegal, she still did it and succeeded. Ever since then, the urge to shoplift has become a regular routine that she continues to fulfill.


“Well, I feel like the first few times I did it with my friends, I was super scared and I was dreading the punishment,” Leah said. “But after the first few times, it started getting easier and I started seeing it as less of a big deal.”


For Lily, she shoplifts small items such as bags of chips or an article of clothing, often because she does not have enough money to pay in certain cases. Leah also usually steals items under 10 dollars, but when she wants to steal more expensive items, she does it with friends.


“When I'm with my friends and they want to steal something more expensive like Beats earbuds or alcohol, I'm not going to be the one who steals the items directly,” Leah said. “But I'll walk out with them and I'll try to cover for them.”


As Lily and Leah continue to shoplift, they find that  it’s easiest to steal from Main Street Target due to its lack of security.


“Target is the easiest to steal from because you can just walk out and a lot of the times, there's like sensors but they don’t go off, so it's just easier,” Lily said.


Although according to Lily, manager Daisy Aguilar has caught some students as they were stealing, and she warns students that the consequences of being caught are hefty.


“If anyone gets caught shoplifting, we have security that will talk to the school and have them banned from here,” Aguilar said. “We also have the school contact their parents and let them know also.”


Although both Lily and Leah understand the harsh consequences of shoplifting, it doesn’t stop them as they both believe it’s fun. For both, they feel that once they started stealing, they couldn’t stop.


“In my head, it became more normal and I stopped thinking of it as an illegal activity,” said Leah. “I just thought of it as something bad, but not something that you can go to jail for. After, I became so much more used to shoplifting and that's why I shoplifted even more; I didn’t see it as such a big deal.”



—  Name, Title


Managers at food spots share their experience with robberies

By Shivani Gupta 

According to Spot Crime, a company that makes nationwide crime data available to the public, 30 robberies have occurred in Cupertino in the last six months. However, many go unreported and they occur in Cupertino quite often in places like school campuses, school cafeterias and stores, each with different items stolen and a variety of people doing so. Watch the video to learn more about the food robbery experiences of some in Cupertino.


House Burglaries in


Burglary stories of MVHS students and the role of law enforcement

By Rana Aghababazadeh

Remaining fears

The passed-out dog


It was a typical day in September at her after school daycare in elementary school. Kids were playing, completing their homework and waiting to be picked up by their parents. But sophomore Navya Rao didn’t see her parents walk through the daycare threshold that day. Instead, a family friend had come to pick her up. She watched as the family friend murmured a short phrase to the daycare receptionist. The daycare lady approached her.


“Your house was robbed.”


Rao dismissed the statement, laughing.


“No, I’m not kidding,” the daycare lady said. It was then when Rao started to think of every possible scenario she could, the first being the death of her parents. As she left the daycare that day, overwhelmed by the sounds of laughing children surrounding her, she felt reluctant to return home.


The front door to her Glenbrook apartment was wide open, and the chair from the living room was right next to the front door. Walking through the doorway, she noticed every closet open, every drawer in the kitchen pulled out. Jewelry, books, papers and miscellaneous items were scattered on the floor. A police officer was brushing furniture with a black brush.


Venturing further into her house, Rao noticed that the high small window in her bathroom was open.


Rao was only in fourth grade when her house was robbed. The burglar came during the day and stole primarily jewelry. That summer, Rao had gone on a trip to India during which her grandmother gifted Rao and her cousin matching gold necklaces that she’d spent three to four months shopping for. In addition to the necklaces, Rao’s mother’s wedding bangles had been taken.


“[My cousin and I] were both really excited,” Rao said. “And [the burglar] took that, and that was really upsetting for us. A lot of things that were really precious to us were gone.”


However, the investigation for the burglar and the missing items didn’t last long. The police were unsuccessful at finding fingerprints, and therefore had no lead on the suspect.


Until four years after the robbery, Rao was afraid to stay home alone.


“I was just constantly afraid of someone trying to come in,” Rao said. “Everyday as I’m walking home or when I have to open my garage, I still have that feeling of ‘what if someone's behind me and they want to come inside.’”


Rao’s family had already been considering moving from their apartment in Glenbrook behind Memorial Park in Cupertino. The robbery helped finalize their decision to move. In their new house in Saratoga, Rao’s family had upgraded their technology, getting a home alarm system with security cameras outside. Though her parents have tried to assure her that the incident would hardly ever happen again, Rao takes precautions, such as turning on the alarm and ensuring that all doors and windows are closed.


“Even if I hear the smallest knock or something, sometimes even when people ring the doorbell, I’m scared to open it without looking at who it is.”


When senior Adarsh Pachori came to his house in the late morning in the summer of 2018, he was surprised to not be greeted by his dog Roshan. While searching his house for his dog, Pachori discovered that the bathroom door was locked. Pachori believed that his dog had been stolen, but instead found his dog laying on the bathroom floor, put to sleep through an unknown method.


Pachori’s family had only gone out for a few hours that morning when they came back to see their dog passed out. After checking that every door to the outside was locked, Pachori’s family found that the net of one of the back windows had been cut open. The suspect had taken a couple laptops, a Wii, an XBox and jewelry. Pachori believes that the person was a teenager due to the nature of the items stolen. No suspect was arrested.


“All the stuff they stole was something a teenager would want,” Pachori said. “It was surprising that it happened in Cupertino because everyone seems like they wouldn't do anything bad but then again teenagers make mistakes, so that's also another reason why we thought it was someone younger.”


But what came as a surprise to Pachori was that the burglar knew the precise time that his family would be out of the house. With five people in his family, there was almost always someone home. Pachori suspects that the burglar had been studying the family’s patterns for some time before breaking into the house. However, according to Pachori, his family was hardly worried about the items taken.


“It wasn’t even because we have so many prized possessions in our house,” Pachori said. “We just didn't want anyone to take our dog.”


The family decided to install a security system after the robbery, but Pachori still believes that he lives in a safe neighborhood. He acknowledges that his family needs to be more protective about their household, and that exposed items can be stolen easily.


Insight and tips about burglaries from a law enforcement officer


Michael Vincent, a Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office narcotics detective, says that he had up to six calls a day for burglaries when he was on patrol. Vincent’s jurisdiction was the Saratoga-Cupertino area, though he often took calls in the Los Altos area as well.


The process for dealing with burglaries consists of talking to homeowners to find the time of the robbery, observing video recordings and surveillance and talking to neighbors. Police also take photographs of every room and they dust for fingerprints that get run through a system that can potentially match it with someone already in the database. If the suspect is armed and in the house, a S.W.A.T. team is responsible for arresting them.


In general, Vincent believes that the most popular types of crimes in the area, aside from substance abuse, include property crime, robbing, vehicle burglary and anything else money-related.


Based on Vincent’s experience talking to other police agencies and covering a large part of the South Bay Area, the types of robberies that occur are similar whether it be in downtown San Jose or in Los Altos Hills. However, Vincent believes that more robberies occur in the west side of Santa Clara County.


“These burglars know that people in those residences usually have more money, so they usually have nicer things,” Vincent said. “They realized that burglarizing there is going to be more beneficial for them.”


Despite the purpose of alarm systems and their displays at homes to prevent burglaries, such methods may actually have the opposite effect. Some suspects have told Vincent that when they see surveillance cameras, they understand that there’s probably something worth stealing in the home. Whereas, if a home lacks a visible security system, the people living there don’t have anything of value to protect.


While not commonly considered, dogs may be the best form of protection for a house. From the hundreds of calls Vincent has taken, and at the hundreds of residences he’s dusted, searched and photographed, he’d never once seen a guard dog.


“Talking to the suspects when we do arrest them, if they go there and they see a beware of dog sign, or they hear a dog barking, they’ll just go to the house next door instead,” Vincent said. “There’s no need for them to go into the house, you know.”


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