Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 20, 2012

News Digest

Police report uptick in residential burglaries

Palo Alto has seen a "significant increase" in residential burglaries since the beginning of June, police announced Monday, July 16.

There have been about 20 residential burglaries, most of them in the northern section of town, Palo Alto Police Sgt. Brian Philip said.

Unlocked rear doors and windows are the typical means of entry, he said.

Sunday morning, Palo Alto police arrested Michael Holden, 36, while he was seeking treatment in Stanford University Hospital Emergency Department after hearing from Santa Barbara County sheriffs that the man had an outstanding warrant.

Following the arrest, police Monday searched a Tanland Drive apartment where Holden had stayed with "a friend of a friend" prior to going to the hospital. There, they found laptops and cash that had been stolen from an apartment across the hall in the same building on the previous Saturday Philip said.

In addition, police arrested one adult and two juveniles overnight between Sunday and Monday, after finding them breaking into vehicles in the 1400 block of Edgewood Drive.

Philip said police are trying to determine whether the three are linked to other recent burglaries. A map of the locations of recent burglaries has been posted on the department's website at www.cityofpaloalto.org/police.

Police are encouraging residents to call 911 or the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413 to report suspicious behavior. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent by text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Copper thieves strike Mitchell, Greer parks

Thieves stripping copper wiring from light poles and electrical systems at Palo Alto parks have caused thousands of dollars in damages and risked electrocution, city officials and Palo Alto police said this week.

On July 12 at 7:35 a.m. a Mitchell Park employee reported that 27 "Christy" electrical boxes were open with wires hanging out, according to Linda Clerkson, city communications manager. The thieves stole several thousand feet of copper wire from the boxes. The wires were "live" and had 220 volts/60 amps of electricity running through them at the time, she said.

The electrical wires were pulled out throughout the entire park, which cut power to the small building that includes the Tiny Tots restroom and kitchen facility, the playground water feature, and 27 of the 36 light poles located throughout the park, she said.

"The city's priority was to immediately make the area safe. This work involved locating the affected areas to shut off live electrical circuits, cover exposed wires and secure the Christy boxes throughout the park," she wrote in an email Tuesday morning.

A similar incident occurred about two months ago at Greer Park and affected the wiring between eight light poles and the irrigation controller.

She said that cutting these wires is "an extremely hazardous thing to do. Individuals can easily be electrocuted or at minimum receive a very strong shock from these kinds of criminal activities.

"Because copper theft is a crime and can also cause bodily injury and possibly death, if anyone sees suspicious activity, please notify the police immediately through the non-emergency phone line at 650-329-2413," she said.

City of Palo Alto website gets a brand new look

After years as the subject of tweaks, complaints and frustration, the City of Palo Alto's website finally received a dramatic and long-awaited overhaul July 16.

The redesigned website, which remains at www.cityofpaloalto.org, includes a host of new features, such as videos, slideshows, colorful departments pages and an increased ability for users to organize information and customize their homepage. It also includes a heavier social-media element, allowing users to easily share information from the site with their Facebook and Twitter networks (among others). The homepage prioritizes links by popular usage. The prior website was a topic of derision within the famously tech-savvy community for its bland layout, static interface and heavy use of stock images.

The redesign was spearheaded by city officials in collaboration with a Website Advisory Committee composed of volunteers. The city "soft launched" the beta version of the new site two months ago to solicit comments from the community before the new look became official at midnight Tuesday. City Manager James Keene said in a statement that the city's collaboration with the citizen committee, along with community feedback during the beta period, made the "great initial redesign" even better. Nearly 5,000 users tested the beta website, according to the city's announcement.

Even though the site launched this week, city officials emphasize that it remains a work in progress. The city plans to continue to update content and navigation features and to make further changes to keep the site consistent with the latest changes in technology and city programs.

— Gennady Sheyner

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