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'Operation Safe Neighborhoods' launched

Stung by wave of burglaries and robberies, city officials announce major boost in efforts to curtail 'opportunistic' crimes throughout town

A strong, coordinated counterattack is needed to curtail the continuing surge in burglaries and robberies in Palo Alto neighborhoods, Mayor Judy Kleinberg said Thursday in announcing an "Operation Safe Neighborhoods" anti-crime effort.

"I don't want to create a police state but I do want us to send a united and visible message that Palo Alto has a zero-tolerance policy for crimes in our neighborhoods," Kleinberg told the Weekly.

The message is that "we're not an easy mark and wrongdoers should be on notice that we will use every tool available to us and leverage every resource to make our neighborhoods safe," she said.

"I want Palo Alto to have a reputation as a community that will not tolerate this kind of opportunistic crime."

She said a heightened concern that has built all year increased the past week after three women were mugged and a purse was stolen -- despite their fighting back -- near Eleanor Pardee Park in a residential neighborhood on National Night Out, a crime-prevention neighborhood-gathering event held Aug. 1.

She and other city officials -- including Assistant City Manager Emily Harrison, Police Chief Lynne Johnson and Fire Chief Nick Marinaro -- held a 3 p.m. press conference Thursday afternoon to outline the new initiative, which Kleinberg said was developed this week at a meeting on Tuesday.

Tools available include further increasing police patrols beyond the unmarked-car patrols already instituted by Johnson; encouraging city meter readers, firefighters, public works crews and park rangers "to become more alert eyes and ears as their go about their normal city business"; pulling in some retired police officers to help in the "special push" against the crime wave; and expanding the training of the city's police volunteer corps to make volunteers more effective in crime prevention.

In addition, she said the city needs to work more closely with neighborhood groups and other community organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, to "foster a climate of teamwork and collaboration whereby we leverage all the talents and energy of our residents and businesses."

Jay Thorwaldson

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