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Armed man attempts downtown robbery

Original post made on Feb 23, 2013

A man armed with a handgun attempted to rob a pedestrian in a downtown Palo Alto parking garage Friday night, Feb. 22, police have announced.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, February 23, 2013, 3:30 PM

Comments (41)

Posted by Surveillance-Cameras-Work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

It'S a real shame that the Palo Alto Police refuse to deploy surveillance cameras in the downtown area. In this case, the perp would have probably riden by one, or more, of these cameras while trying to find someone to rob, and so the victim might well have been able to identify the perp from the recordings. Given the very timeframe, there would not have been very much footage to have to review.

However, our police chief was probably off "Twittering" somewhere, rather than serious trying to provide the leadership that would see the downtown outfitted with whatever new technologies that would help to identify perps like this one.

Posted by 2nd amendment, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Many bicyclists are exercising their 2nd amendment rights as protection against road raging car drivers. Unfortunately, some of these 2nd amendment activists are up to no good.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2013 at 4:50 pm

It is my opinion that Chief Burns is highly committed to the police department's crime fighting efforts, and his on-duty Twitter excursion has absolutely nothing to do with that. No need to take cheap shots here.

As for the widespread implementation of video surveillance equipment in the city, I'm quite certain that any decision along those lines will have to be made at a level much higher than the position of police chief. In this town? Are you kidding me? There are so many privacy and "big brother" concerns that would arise, any notion of this would only occur after much debate and deliberation. Please, let's be real and acknowledge that any decision regarding video technology in public areas is not even close to being the sole call of a police official.

I for one would agree mightily with the placement of video surveillance equipment, especially in areas prone to a higher crime rate. Makes perfect sense to use the technology in places where there is really no expectation of privacy. I think a parking garage, as in this case, could qualify as a good candidate for video surveillance. I also believe that the police department would support the implementation as well, but again, it's not going to be their call despite how much support they may offer.

Posted by Surveillance-Cameras-Work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm

> I'm quite certain that any decision along those lines will
> have to be made at a level much higher than the position of
> police chief.

And just how many layers of "decision making" in Palo Alto do you think there is?

The Police Chief reports to the City Manager, and then there is the City Council—which makes "policy". There is actually no oversight of the Police by the Council, per the City Charter. The Council would sooner-or-later likely have to approve any expenditures for this sort of equipment, but the City Manager is free to direct the Police Chief to use any legal technology that is on the market. And the Police Chief is not prohibited by Charter, or Ordinance, from using discretionary funds (or seeking a grant) for this sort of equipment.

The Council makes decisions in public, with those decisions recorded in the town's public record. So, can you find any public decisions of the Council that deal with this matter, one way or another?

If you can't find any mention of surveillance cameras in the public record, then any decisions to use, or not use, this technology would be made by the Police Chief, or the City Manager—hardly "way up the line".

Now – there is the matter of the FBI's National Facial Recognition Database:

Web Link

Web Link

while this database is not up and running yet, what plans does the Palo Alto Police have to connect into this system? Certainly having surveillance cameras in the downtown area would give the police a leg up on beginning to investigate these sorts of crimes, since these pictures could be fed into this system directly.

There is no reason that some of these cameras should not be deployed for public safety.

Posted by I know, a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm

The crook should have just waited until today and sold the gun @ the buyback today in EPA...

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I agree with you Surveillance-Cameras-Work, and I'd be willing to bet so does the police department. You have to admit however that the famous Palo Alto "process" would weigh heavily into this equation, especially when it involves privacy issues. Let's not forget the other layers that would be added on, for example the human resources commission (HRC) which I'm sure would also be consulted.

Another consideration would be whether or not the implementation, maintenance, and review of the system would be cost prohibitive. I'm of the opinion that anything that would increase public safety and give law enforcement another edge in investigating these crimes is well worth the expense. I just don't know how it would fit into the current budget allotment considering how many cuts the police department has made over the past several years.

The police department is operating with approximately 15-20% less personnel than it did just over a decade ago. Budget cuts have led to the elimination of specialized units, some that were devoted to take a pro-active, rather than a reactive approach to crime trends. They have also axed the traffic enforcement team, detective positions, the downtown bicycle patrol unit, and two canine officers. Officers working in those position have been reassigned back to basic patrol in large part to keep up with minimum staffing requirements. Bottom line, they're really having to do more with less.

I learned a a great deal by participating in the police department's Citizen's Academy, which by the way was also eliminated due to budget cuts. I entered the program as a skeptic of our police operations in many ways, and came away with a very different perspective. The program went a long way toward their efforts to be more transparent, accessible, and give people a broader perspective of the realities they face. It's a shame the program had to fold. I think everyone involved was very surprised at not only the level of training, evaluation and education that's involved in the work, but also the myriad of activity they have to respond to and deal with. It's not always as quiet and serene in our town as people think.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Couldn't we at least put cameras in public parking garages? It shouldn't be any more controversial than cameras in office buildings.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Well, relax everybody. If crime e$calate$ on California Avenue, at least that redecorated $ite will be pretty' and redecorated. We'll have a $tate of the art bridge over Bay$hore. We'll have more new employee$ feeding at the trough.....but more police back? $adly no.
No money.

Posted by Can't have em, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Don't you think he police would love to have surveillance footage of the crime? You give them so little credit, you don't think they have ever considered this?

I think the pd would love them. That said, if we pressure our city council, with the way they might be open to the idea. Lets do this, and put our money where our mouth is.

Posted by palo alto police script, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2013 at 10:25 pm

The police chief and his unammed social media officer seem bent on selling the public a script that there is very little crime in Palo Alto. They have done twitter days where they do their best to act like Sheriff Andy in Mayberry. Why not acknowledge what is really happening?

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2013 at 7:54 am

I hang out alot downtown and the only crime I've witnessed besides traffic violations is the guy urinating on the corner of University and Waverley at 11pm next to the "Downtown Beautification Project" sign. Next time I'll bring my own video camera and share.

Posted by XDOW, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2013 at 9:06 am

First of all, it is NEVER a good idea for anyone to wrestle with a guy who is holding a gun. What if the gun discharged and a bullet hit the victim or someone else within range? A bullet can travel far and hit an unintended target. Secondly, where is the security? I will say the Palo Alto Police Dept. is probably one of the best in the nation when it comes to defending the home turf. However, I believe the private sector is lacking here. So why don't we see a security guard in the parking garage? Aren't they making enough money to afford one?

Posted by Surveillance-Cameras-Work, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 24, 2013 at 9:39 am

> Don't you think that the police would like to use surveillance technology?

Well, how is one to know what the police do, or do not want to use, unless they tell the us (the public) via the standard means of communication: press releases, staff reports, and technology plans? Can you point to any on-line evidence that the police (Palo Alto Police) have actually put together a coherent plan, or point-of-view, to communicate with the public about their intentions?

Now, the Police have been reported by the media, from time-to-time, as having used the surveillance recordings of various businesses in order to identify perps. This happened just a couple of weeks ago, which a fellow from Oakland business fake/stolen credit cards at the Stanford Shopping Center. Unfortunately, the police have never put together any information for public consumption that would be helpful in understanding the use of this technology, from a police point-of-view. For instance, how many times they use private surveillance recordings, and how helpful these recordings have been locally. This sort of information should be collected from other police departments, in order to provide as fully-formed picture of the opportunities offered to police by this technology.

As to "privacy" issues, it's pretty much a well-established fact that people walking around in public spaces have no expectation of "privacy". Now, that said, there are issues involving the long-term maintenance of this sort of information, and just how "public" the collection might be. There have been cases of divorce attorneys using electronic payment records from public highway toll stations to track parties in divorce proceedings. The idea that the police could use facial recognition software to identify everyone that passes their cameras, and then sell that information to Google, or Microsoft, in order to increase the data in their "social networking" packages is not something that people looking to this technology to fight crime would be expecting of their police departments. However, without new laws, with teeth, and a commitment by the police chiefs and the District Attorneys that they will ruthlessly root out any/all police officers, or civilian employees, who in anyway violate the public trust, and misuse this data—then we do have something to worry about if/when this data is routinely collected.

By the way, some of these articles on the FBI's National Facial Recognition system suggest that all local police departments will have access to free client software that will allow access to this system—

Web Link

Posted by PA_U, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2013 at 11:35 am

If you need a cop in Palo Alto, just go to the Starbucks at Stanford Ave/El Camino. You'll usually see two there, sometimes up to four. About 1/3 of the time there's 3. Sitting there. Sitting there when I go in. Sitting there when I leave.

And how about these guys in the falafel shop a while back:

parked backwards in the red zone during meal break-

Web Link

Posted by Cynthia, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

Surveillance cameras can be pretty effective crime solvers, if not deterrents.

The Las Vegas Strip shooting last Thursday started with an altercation in the valet parking area of the Aria hotel and casino at City Center. The Aria deploys the most sophisticated face recognition equipment available.

As the details of this case unfold, we will undoubtedly learn that the Las Vegas police sought immediate help from Aria security to identify, using Aria surveillance data, those involved.

The suspect SUV was recovered within 48 hours and a suspect mug shot is running in papers nationally. Web Link

Posted by Why, why, why, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Why is Palo Alto, a supposedly upscale city, run like some cheesy Podunk town? Most downtowns elsewhere have city-installed surveillance cameras. Many other areas have surveillance cameras installed by the shop owner or company. many crimes have been solved by them. With all the violent crime here, it is insane NOT to have them.

At some point, victims will start suing for lack of such a precaution.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm

@Why, why, why - If Palo Alto can't even do obvious free things like making it illegal to sleep in your car, why would they ever even try to do something that costs money and would generate protest like putting in cameras?

Things have to get worse in order to get better. Spending money on art projects, bike bridges, and widening sidewalks are the priority over more police and cameras until the headlines are "50 year old man shot an killed in armed robbery attempt."

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

I wish I had started charting these incidents b/c it sure seems like the frequency is increasing, along with the use of guns. Apparently one must be not just with one other person, but preferably a few other people when out and about in Palo Alto. It is very clear that being alone is risky business. Yet this is still regarded as a great place to live; hate to think what that means for other communities. Very glad this man was unhurt. I cannot imagine trying to wrestle a gun from a bad guy's hand.

Posted by To: 2nd amendment, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:20 am

This wasn't a bicycle activist! This was a criminal who happened to be on a bicycle! sheesh - where is your logic?

Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

I was stunned to read that the guy wrestled with the robber who was holding a gun. What reckless behavior! Sure, he managed to hold onto his wallet, but he risked his life.

The police always recommend handing over your property to anyone with a gun.

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

XDOW: Your suggestion does not make sense. Downtown parking garages are not private. They are city owned.

Posted by Jared Bernstein, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:39 am

Don't just hand the guy your wallet; hand him your iPhone! ...and track him.

Posted by MadamPresident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

@Surveillance-Cameras-Work - it's twitting, not "twittering"

@PA_U - true, police officers spend a lot of time at PA cafes

solution for PA police budget - fire "expensive" cops, hire more "cheap" ones, more headcount

just read in "In the Empire od Dreams" book: a Japanese man's solution to avoid injuries when being mugged when jogging in the US - keep a $50 bill in your breast pocket & give it to the robber

Posted by u people, a resident of Southgate
on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

you people dont care about anything. adress the real problems that are unadressed. so many problems. harass drivers ,not pedestrians and bikes. leave bikes alone. go after cellphone drivers. make lots of ticket money. leave pot heads alone.

Posted by Surveillance-Cameras-Work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2013 at 12:34 pm

XDOW said:

"So why don't we see a security guard in the parking garage?
Aren't they making enough money to afford one?"

David Pepperdine replied:

" XDOW: Your suggestion does not make sense. Downtown
parking garages are not private. They are city owned."


Well, Pepperdine might be right, but that doesn't mean that they are prohibited from putting security gaurds in these parking structures, and it doesn't mean that the City isn't making enough money to do that.

It also doesn't mean that they can't put surveilance cameras in/around these structures, either.

Posted by asharpe, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm

This is outrageous. This is the *fourth* incident in the same area. So, why don't I see an increase in patrol cars, or even -- gasp! -- actual police walking around on a beat? Is this relegated to Norman Rockwell paintings? Their response, "Detectives are actively investigating this incident" -- hell yes, they better be, but it isn't the full response that I would have thought this warranted. Something like, "... and we are increasing police coverage in the downtown area until we apprehend these guys" would have been more appropriate. What a great way for Palo Alto to revitalize downtown: make everyone too scared to go there!

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 25, 2013 at 9:05 pm

@asharpe - downtown already gets a disproportionate number of police officers. Should there be more on the street? Of course, but they should come via hiring, not shifting out of the rest of the city. If you think we need more police, please make a call and write a letter. The city's top priorities don't include increasing public safety, and that should change.

Posted by asharpe, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2013 at 9:49 pm

@Mr.Recycle - Well, I've lived here for 8 years, on Everett, and I *rarely* see squad cars driving around (perhaps once every few months, if that!). And I have *never* seen police on foot or on bicycles here. If there really are a "disproportionate" number of police downtown (how many, actually?), they are in full stealth mode. Indeed, if we have this many police downtown, why have they taken as long as they did to arrive at the scene of these 4 incidents? The last one is claimed to be 2 minutes, which is good, but apparently not good enough to do any sort of search to find the assailant.

Posted by Caregiver, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm

This latest crime occurred close to an area where many seniors and handicapped people live and walk. Should put in more large, bright lamps to deter criminal activities in dark areas. That garage is quite dark inside and all around. This is another crime committed in a parking lot/ garage in Palo Alto.

Posted by Cassandra, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:50 am

The area where this latest attack has occurred has been badly lit for years. The garage itself is brightly lit, but as soon as you step outside its walls, the sidewalks are often pitch black. I have started carrying a police whistle and a small flashlight with me when I have to be in Palo Alto alone at night. I sincerely doubt the whistle will actually summon a police officer, but the sound is obnoxious enough to scare someone off, I hope. I completely agree with the folks above who wonder where Palo Alto's police are. The one time I needed one around 10:00 pm on a Thursday night TWO BLOCKS from the main station, there were none to be seen. I thought I was being follewed. A kindly private security guard, employed by NoLa's, walked me to my car, checked it out, and stayed by until I was safely ready to drive away. If the same thing happened in downtown Mt. View, I would have been able to find an officer easily.

Posted by Too much crime in Palo Alto, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:48 am

The real question - what is happening to this city? Why do these suspects committing, or attempting to commit these crimes feel they can make such attempts? And the activity is rather aggressive - front doors being knocked down to enter homes; people approached at their home or garages; and now, bike riders with guns trying to rob people. Certainly, with the high salaries PAPD officers receive, the under staffing excuses need to stop. I say, the issue is prioritizing what is important. And, why do PAPD officers ride around in cars, one officer only, when they should be patrolling the streets, or certain sections of town in pairs, either on foot, or bicycle? Get out of your cars, and start walking in the neighborhoods. Meet the residents, and know your community. Active presence in the community and collaboration should be the first step in mitigating these types of crimes. We don't pay you just to be traffic enforcers.

Posted by Surveillance-Cameras-Work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:57 am

> A kindly private security guard, employed by
> NoLa's, walked me to my car,

There is no reason that the Merchants/Businesses can't install surveillance equipment on their properties, which would provide video of people walking in public spaces. And there is also no reason these same Merchants/Businesses could not hire a private security service to patrol the downtown area from sunset until say, 10:00/11:00PM.

The police can do only so much. The Merchants/Businesses have more money than the police, so there is no reason that they should not provide for some aspects of their own security—both inside, and outside, their businesses.

One has to wonder what the value of the Chamber-of-Commerce, and the so-called Business Improvement District, might be at times like these?

Posted by lockNblock, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 26, 2013 at 10:11 am

I urge the PA police to start ticketing these bikers without helmet in the high crime area now! Once they're identified, they may think about it twice.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2013 at 11:10 am

I don't know if this is still true, but at one point there were police dedicated specifically to traffic issues. I doubt too many of us could tell the difference. As was explained to me (by a traffic officer) there are 2 distinct areas of responsibility and rosters of officers. I was surprised to learn that traffic officers are not neglecting criminal activity whilst ticketing errant drivers. Perhaps what the city should do is dedicate some traffic officers to street patrol. If I have to choose between deterring armed robbery or deterring illegal left hand turns the choice is simple.

Posted by member, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2013 at 11:52 am

I'm not going to do anymore business in downtown Palo Alto. I can go to Los Altos, Mountain View and Menlo Park, or Redwood City and get everything I need and not fear for my life!
Those of you who own businesses in downtown PA - I feel sorry for you because this is going to hurt you the most.....demand something be done about it.

Put more police back to work in Palo Alto by eliminating programs that are TAX DOLLAR WASTEFUL. It's time that PA citizens demand reasonable basic services and fiscal order in our town.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Annette, at one time our police department did have a traffic enforcement team made up of one supervisor and at any given time 4-6 officers. Last year that team was eliminated due to budget and personnel cuts. The officers were reassigned to basic patrol duties in large part to cover minimum staffing requirements.

In addition to operating with 15-20% less officers than they had even a decade ago, the department has also eliminated several other positions. They've lost detective positions, the crime analyst, crime trend team, downtown bicycle patrol, narcotics position, and two canine officers. Like I said before, they are having to do more with less, especially when it comes to operating in a pro-active manner. These reductions have caused them to become much more reactive in nature.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

@Phil - thanks; makes sense. Apparently the bad guys are paying attention to where the vulnerabilities are in affluent communities. @Member - yours may be the only practical solution. I will certainly think twice before going downtown alone.

Posted by Los Altan, a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 26, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Yes! Please come to Los Altos! Just yesterday, at lunchtime, I saw 3 of the Palo Alto patrol cars parked by a restaurant in Los Altos. Not only do we have our own police but yours too! oh. That was supposed to sound humorous but I guess since it is true maybe it's not so funny...

Personally, I think the police do a great job overall. They don't have the budget to do as much as we would want them to do. But it is also our responsibility as citizens to do our part to help keep ourselves and other members of our community safe. Does that mean we should all get guns and form groups to prowl the streets to rid ourselves of the bad element? No need to be that extreme. But how about we all watch our for our neighbors - and ourselves - a little better? If you see something suspicious, do something about it or at least tell someone about it.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I appeal to the merchants of downtown Palo Alto to get involved. This is scary, especially to women. On week nights I sometimes used to shop alone, up and down University Ave., have a bite to eat, and walk in the darkness to my car. No longer.
We need a budget for more police and sophisticated cameras, as Cynthia mentioned.

As for the pedestrian, I say bravo to this brave man! While his actions obviously aren't recommended, clearly he didn't want to be a victim, or his instincts kicked in. That is his choice, no matter the outcome, and I have much respect for him.

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 26, 2013 at 8:23 pm

P.S. What a "cruiser style" bicycle? One of those lower to the ground types?

Posted by asharpe, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:52 pm

A cruiser bicycle is one with wide handlebars and fairly fat tires; the antithesis of a racing (road) bike. Think of an old style Schwinn.

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