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Another "incident" at Paly - suspect arrested

Original post made by Paly Parent on Jan 17, 2008

Just received an email from Paly Principal with information about another incident at Paly. Students warned to watch out, and so on and so forth.

The underlying message is that our kids do not appear to be safe at school. What can be done about it?

Comments (33)

Posted by Alyssa, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

"The underlying message is that our kids do not appear to be safe at school. What can be done about it?"

We don't know yet whether this is yet another event related to "transients", but the recent past events of this nature - and common sense - yeild the inescapable conclusion that one of the easiest ways to make the area around PALY safer would be to CLOSE THE OPPORTUNITY CENTER!

The OC draws all sorts of people into our town who can't cope well with modern society. Put these people in an environment where they are out of place, and you get more (not less) anti-social behavior.

It's one thing for the supporters of the OC to make grand social statements by drawing homeless into town whom they can point to as evidence of an uncaring society. It's quite another when this street theater gets out of hand and not only offends shoppers downtown, but endangers our children.

This is a disaster waiting to happen, and our city leaders aren't doing ANYTHING about it.

Posted by Gene, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:54 pm

So WHAT was the incident? Sexual assault, panhandling, purse snatching, unauthorized person on campus? WHAT?

Posted by citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 7:52 pm

another incident.....
another paranoid resident looks for a defenseless scapegoat....
claming its for the safety of the kids....
what a bunch of....

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:20 am

"The underlying message is that our kids do not appear to be safe at school. What can be done about it?"

If you read the article about this incident, you'll find that the incident happened about a half mile away from the school, and the kids ran back to the school for safety and help.

I'm certainly troubled by this and a few other recent incidents, but let's take a deep breath and avoid the exaggerations and confusion.

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:21 am

... and the article also says the suspect had a prior address in P.A., which suggests that it's premature at best to bring up the Opportunity Center.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2008 at 8:26 am


The email to parents from the principal is the only place I have received information and there was only the warnings about strangers on the campus and the facts that there was a suspected student abduction with a suspect under arrest.

If, as you say, the incident happened outside school, then the school is guilty of additional scaremongering by giving us the impression that this happened on campus.

I am worried when a school sends these warnings home and tells us, the parents, to warn our children to keep their eyes open for something untoward while they are at school. The idea that they have to go to classes in pairs and switch their cell phones on between classes seems to me that they should not actually feel safe while they are at school, not when they are outside the school grounds.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2008 at 9:10 am

Paly Parent - The reason the school felt it necessary to provide this kind of safety reminder is due to the fact that there have been strangers on the school grounds. Recently a transient who frequents the Opportunity Center did approach a female student at Palo Alto High School and did follow her back to the campus and did make her feel like the next victim you read about in the paper. She was alone. I think it is good advice to tell the kids to walk around in pairs whenever possible. There are many more transients in town now and they are near the high school due to the location of the homeless shelters in the downtown area. As you know, the Opportunity Center is only a block away from the high school. Everyone knows that the Opportunity Center and other shelters downtown attract homeless transients to Palo Alto. That's a fact.

Let's stop defending those in our community who continue to attract homeless to Palo Alto, many of whom have severe psychiatric problems and many of whom have a prior arrest record. The Opportunity Center should be moved away from all schools. I don't want the City conducting a grand social experiment with my kids.

SkepticAL - The person who approached the Palo Alto High School students has admitted to being homeless and a transient. Whether he once had an address in Palo Alto is in question, but there is no question about his current status as a homeless transient.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 9:23 am


Yes, I realise that it is necessary for us to warn our kids about safety issues on campus for the reasons you state. I am just saying that it is a sorry state of affairs when we can not rest easy that our kids are safe at school. My impression has always been to tell them to stay on campus at lunch times and for free periods as they are safe there. Now, I am not so sure.

Shouldn't our schools be safe places for our kids. Shouldn't we be able to have peace of mind leaving them there. It is a big, bad world out there, but while they are at school there should be some feelings of security as at home.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2008 at 11:17 am

Paly Parent - I agree. In a perfect world that would be true and wonderful for the kids. However, City Council, with all of its wisdom, decided to place shelters within a few blocks of the high school. Shelters attract some in true need, but many more who are dangerous, unstable and anti-social. They are transients, who do not function in the normal world. These individuals are being attracted to Palo Alto and because of the schools proximity to the shelters, including the Opportunity Center, our kids are not as safe as they were prior to this new, "wonderful" center being built. Unfortunately, the news of these services travels fast within the homeless community and many more are now arriving in Palo Alto and frequenting the Opportunity Center, one block from where our kids are during the day. I don't think that's acceptable, safe or helpful to anyone.

Posted by Sean, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:07 pm

I own some property in South Palo Alto that has a carport covering on it. I have not had problems with homeless until about a year ago. Now, I get serveral tranients camping under the carport. I always try to be nice about it, and only get in their face, if they get in mine, but I can truly say that the problems has gotten much worse. Last week I found a tranient that told me he had just arrived in PA from San Mateo. I asked him why he is down here. He said the food closet and the Opportunity Center attracted him. I kindly asked him to read the "No Loitering/No Trespassing" sign. He smiled, then left. Then I discovered the broken lights that he had destroyed, his trash and the boards pulled off the wall to form a shelter. I never report these things to the police, because it would do no good. However, it is probably worth giving a shout out to other Palo Altans to illuminate that we have, indeed, become a magnet for transients.

Posted by another parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Thank you, Sean, for having engaged in a conversation with the guy who was becoming your tenant.

Enough is enough with our city trying to be so PC about helping the homeless, when the neighboring cities do nothing. The result is what we see now... the word is out, this is where they can get a shower, food, and not too much hassle about being homeless. It seems our programs have solved the other cities' homeless problems because they can come here. I wonder what would happen if our programs were shut down? Would they leave? What other cities have programs to help the homeless? Do their services attract more homeless?

Posted by Jen, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 18, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Other cities contributed to the Opportunith Center. I wonder if Gavin Newsome gives out one-way bus tickets to Palo Alto. It IS a problem. City officials - wise up and face this issue.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 18, 2008 at 4:46 pm

How come the Weekly hasn't investigated and reported on this one.

Or, is it that this is no longer news?

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Well, the guy they arrested had nothing to do with it, so I guess we can start the conversation over. Historically, the greatest threat to our high school students is from other students: driving (especially drunk driving) has caused more injuries and deaths among high school students in Palo Alto than anything else. I can't believe that a few homeless people on the other side of T&C can change this fundamental fact. If you really want to keep high school kids safe, take away their car keys. That is far simpler and cheaper to accomplish than sovling the homeless problem!

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 5:43 pm


While I do agree with you on the driving issue, that is another issue and I could say a lot on this subject but here is not the time or the place.

I have no idea where you got your information from and since there is a silence on this one, I can only go by the email from the principal. When she tells us to warn our kids about safety on campus I think she is either still living in the land of her previous school (I have no idea how safe that was) or she is serious about being cautious from this incident. I am inclined to believe the latter and ask my questions accordingly.

Posted by C me around, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 18, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Let's see...well, maybe the OC can throw a BIG Feeding Fest for the homeless and hungry between 2 and 4, that leaving enough time for the kids at Paly to get home safely.

Then also, quit giving out such good food at the shelters and the word will get around that they are getting retched food, comparable to dog food. That should cut down the traffic.

Really, HOW many that actually LIVE the OC are actually the ones that are the big problem???

You think those who do live there would be low key, thankful that they don't loose the golden egg that they are sitting on........I imagine they do try to obey the law. They know how hard it was to get their foot in the door for warm, safe shelter.
Was this problem that much greater when the homeless were tended to over at the Red Cross area????????????????? Perhaps that area should be re opened and the OC limited to just shelter for those who actually live there..................................

Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 18, 2008 at 10:47 pm

When I went to Cubberley High, I remembered there was an incident that happened with a flasher who hung out around the school area. I don't remember my parents ever being contacted about warning me about the man.
The other students banned together and watched out for each other. We HAD no cell phones then. Just common sense. There wasn't an OC to blame. (Don't know what the guys problem was, but he was caught.)

There are crazy people all over the city...the police log book can tell you that. It's just not well known WHO is doing WHAT, hushing and pushing the dirt under the carpet.....................

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 18, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Paly Parent -

You're questioning the best available facts and assuming as fact what's in question. At this point, information is that the guy had a former PA address, and you have no information (do you?) to suggest otherwise. Then, without evidence, you assume that the OC is what attracted him to PA, even though there seems to be some prior connection to the town.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2008 at 10:16 am


Don't put words in my mouth. I was not the person who mentioned the OC, or the homeless, or anything else.

I received an email from the school saying that there was a suspected student abduction and the suspect was caught and arrested. The email further gave us as parents guidelines on how to help our kids feel safe on campus and talk about safety measures.

I have seen no articles in the paper and heard no rumours from school via my high schooler.

My concern is not that I think anything will happen to my child, the odds are high against it. My concern is that we have to teach our kids to be cautious on their own school campus. My concern is that we are living in Palo Alto, that we have paid a premium to live here because of the schools and because we thought that this was a safe, relatively crime free area, and now we hear that the kids have to be especially cautious on school campus, going to the bathroom and classes in pairs with their cell phones switched on. While I feel that being sensible is a good idea, I do not want to use scare tactics to make my kids feel that school is not a safe place.

I have no facts first hand. I have no idea who or what the suspect is and what happened other than the email.

Others have read more into this than I.

Posted by Alyssa, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2008 at 4:21 pm

I am the person who first brought up the OC, and I stand by my remarks. Whether this particular "transient" can be "proven" to have been drawn here by the OC is not the issue.

It's undeniable that since the OC opened, there are many more homeless inhabiting our town. Some of these people come here to avail themselves of the OC "services". Some are hangers-on in the greater homeless "community", who are more comforted in the welcoming environment Berkeley, SF, and now Palo Alto have created for them.

It's undeniable that many of these addicted and mentally ill persons wander (and in some cases camp out 24/7) near schools.

To suggest this situation does not constitute a threat to our children is to elevate ideology over reason to a dangerous degree.

There is enough "evidence" of this for the city to investigate ways to make our city - and our children - safe from this threat. If we wait for some sort of tragic incident as "proof" shame on all of us.

Posted by Enough is Enough, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Where are your stats, Alyssa? It's not enough to go by your "intuition" or your highly sophisticated "observation skills."

You say that "It's undeniable that since the OC opened, there are many more homeless inhabiting our town." Really? Where are your stats? Like we all learned in high school, back up your statements with evidence. There's no substance to your claim.

False statement number two: "The OC draws all sorts of people into our town who can't cope well with modern society." Ever gotten to know some of them, Alyssa? I have. And some are actually quite nice. Maybe it's you who can't cope with today's society. Open up your eyes and look around. After all, who's the one exhibiting the "anti-social behavior" you claim they have? Inadvertently, you've shown to have some yourself. (As do I, and every other single person on this planet.)

It's true that many have a substance abuse problem -- 26%, according to the National Coalition for the homeless. But that leaves 74% who don't. And by the way... ever heard of the "most of us survey" conducted at Paly several years ago? It found that 69% of Paly Students do not drink alcohol in a single month... or rather 31% who DO. That's higher than the homeless. And the number who had used tobacco? 22%. Pretty darn close too.

My point-- and I apologize if I've come off sounding antagonistic-- is to stop making these blanket statements and halt your fear machine. Find your evidence. Site your sources. Then, by all means, say what you want. But until then, please. Enough is enough.

My sources: Web Link
Web Link

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 19, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Paly Parent -

So you admit you have very little information, haven't read the details of the incident, and you want credit because you weren't the *first* person to bring up the O.C....

Did I put words in your mouth? Let's say I interpreted... you say the O.C. attracts homeless people and this crime was committed by a homeless person. If you're not trying to imply a connection, then I can only conclude that you were feeling a bit unfocused and wrote about two separate issues in one post. I assumed that you were suggesting a connection since you mentioned these things together. (Sort of like Bush mentioning 9/11 when talking about Iraq). You mention a prior incident, then that the O.C. attracts transients, and this new incident involved a transient. So I was putting words in your mouth by assuming that you were aiming to link these things? Fine.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2008 at 9:01 pm


Re-read this whole thread, reading in particular who signed the various posts. I have only used Paly Parent on my threads.

When you have done that, comment on what has been said.

Otherwise, I will be very sceptical about what you write.

Posted by Member, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Dear Enough of Enough,

I agree with Alyssa and find your statements to be ignorant regarding the safety of our community particularly children (and I don't even have any children). Perhaps you should align your stats before throwing out numbers that do not align nor make sense for comparison. First of all, according to your facts, the high school stats are for those who drink alcohol in a single month versus the homeless stat of a "substance abuse problem" aka ADDICTION. Having an addiction (which could be substances other than just alcohol) versus drinking alcohol monthly (or even more frequently than monthly) is of no comparison. Would you want someone high on meth hanging around your 15 year old daughter's school? Secondly, according to the National Coalition for Homeless, I located the following statement regarding homeless (specifically veterans which comprise a large percentage of homeless): The vast majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45% suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. A close family member of mine works for the National Alliance for Mentally Ill; therefore, I am very senstitive to this subject. However, I am also very knowledgable about the dangers of those on the street who are not medicated or do not respond to medication as well as the dangers of those who affect their state of mind with chemically-altering substances such as illegal drugs and alcohol. Let's not forget that it was a mentally ill individual who burned down Walgreens on University Ave. I personally live downtown and I know some homeless - I provide food for them and occasionally buy them clothing. However, these are the few that do no appear threatening (who am I kidding though as I'm no professional to determine thier mental state). Alternatively, there are MANY MORE who make me feel unsafe and uncomfortable, and I don't think it is safe for anyone to have them lingering near schools or the downtown area many of us like to support without being accosted by homeless. Many of these individuals need to be in medical and rahab facilities not roaming our streets. Alyssa, I think you were wise in your statement to be proactive about this situation before we have another incident that is even more serious than previous ones.

Posted by Will, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2008 at 9:48 pm

The Paly principal's e-mail was a follow-up to this story (and didn't have anything to do with transients, the homeless, or the OC:

Web Link

Posted by Night Owl, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2008 at 12:59 am

People are always quick to criticize, but slower to offer a solution.

If we close the OC, what should we do instead? Please stay reasonable and humane... nothing like "shipping them out to SF" as I've seen in some other threads. THANKS!

Posted by Nadine, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2008 at 6:41 pm

I feel sorry for the homeless people but the overwhelming majority of them choose that lifestyle and unfortunately many of them are not of the modest and humble type, but much more "in your face", demanding, shocking, even aggressive. Creating a magnet such as OC attracts more of that parasitic type, not the philosophers and free thinkers who are on the streets to get away from teh materiality of the world (not that we can do anything about it)

Posted by Isabelle, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Why was OC open in PA and not EPA, the latter would have been a much more suiting place for the homeless. Bring more in and see the neighborhood going down the drain. That is what happened to many many beautiful residential areas in San Francisco.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 20, 2008 at 8:05 pm


I now see that the high speed chase news item was the one about Paly students. I thought that they were unrelated issues.

What appeared to be more concerning to many (including the Daily and Weekly) was the fact that this was a high speed chase. The part about Paly students was missed on me as I skimmed through it.

Consequently, the email from the principal scared me more because she gave no details and with all the instructions about keeping safe on campus, I put 2 and 2 together and made 5.

I am pleased that the campus appears to be safer than I had thought. My apologies.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Paly Parent - The recent high speed chase that a transient took the police on down California Avenue is separate from the transient that recently approached a Paly student while at Town and Country where he proceeded to follow her back to the campus. The issue here is that the OC and other shelters are very close to the high school. I don't give the City or PAUSD my permission to place my kids in any potential and foreseeable danger. The students have no choice but to attend school and the PAUSD has a duty to provide a safe environment and to warn and remove any and all foreseeable dangers from the environment in their control. City Council should begin the process to relocate the OC and other shelters out and away from the local schools and the downtown areas. I don't want the aggressive, drunk, high on drugs individuals that I see everyday downtown wandering onto the school grounds where there are many kid targets for them. Don't get me wrong. I am not making the case that all transients and homeless are bad individuals. Unfortunately, it is a population where anti-social behavior flourishes and I don't want that threat near my kids nor near me when I attempt to use the local downtown areas. Services can be provided, just not near the schools and not near a vibrant downtown area. It's common sense. It's good for the City, kids and transients.

Will - The principal at Palo Alto High School is concerned about the safety of the kids while at the school and that most definitely includes the nearby transients. They do wander onto the school grounds and they have approached kids there. Don't be naive in order to further your own social goals. Kids should not be used in this manner. Safety first.

Posted by Paly student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 21, 2008 at 7:18 pm

How much safety can you possibly expect? I feel very safe on and around the Paly campus. Nothing's ever happened to me there. I walk past the OC -- alone -- all the time, and have never been harassed. Those people aren't being "attracted" into the area. If they weren't staying in the OC they'd still be out on Lytton Plaza. I mean geez, people, lighten up.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 21, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Paly Student - They are and will continue to be attracted to Palo Alto as services increase. Just look at Berkeley, Santa Monica and San Francisco if you need any proof of that fact.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Will - Then why was the Principal's email about how to be safe on the campus itself? Your statement doesn't make any sense. The Principal is trying to help students deal with an ever-increasing number of individuals that wander onto the campus at Palo Alto High School. It's something that is happening to the kids right now. This is not a time to play social engineering games. Schools are off limit for your agenda.

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