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Police probe two street robberies and a burglary

Original post made on Dec 10, 2011

Palo Alto police are investigating two attempted street robberies and one residential burglary that occurred in the north end of the city Saturday morning (Dec. 10).

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, December 10, 2011, 3:09 PM

Comments (29)

Posted by No-Surveillance-Puts-People-At-Risk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2011 at 9:14 am

If there were surveillance cameras in the downtown area, the police might actually have a picture of the man perpetrating these robberies. With facial recognition software, they might even have a name for this fellow. It's a shame that the City of Palo Alto spends so much on police salaries, and so little on technology that would help to both solve crime, and very likely, deter it also.

A City government with its head in the sand. What else can one say anytime someone claims that Palo Alto is a leader in "technology"?

Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2011 at 10:28 am

Um...obviously you didn't see that two of the robberies occurred away from the downtown area in another part of the city. One happened right outside of the area.

I'm curious why the first two people, especially the woman, held onto their money and iPods when faced with possibly being attacked or shot. Are material things THAT important? I believe that money and iPods are somewhat replaceable, your life, is not.

Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 12, 2011 at 10:44 am

rem is a registered user.

Wonder what would have happened if either pedestrian had pushed him off the bike. Bet he would have taken off running....

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

While I agree that surveylance would help, I question the expense or desirability to blanket Palo Alto with enough quality cameras to get a clear facial shot of every square foot of the city. I think that even a distant picture of the person, showing his size, clothing color, and (via multiple cameras) possibly his path to and from the crime scenes would have been a huge help. I don't see the cameras gathering enough information to convict, but I could see them gathering enough information to aid in the pursuit.

I agree that material things are not worth enough to risk being attacked or shot, but there may have been clues about the guy that told the intended victims that they could get away with non-compliance. They took a gamble based on their calculated odds, and they won. Whew. I do not suggest trying that too often.

The guy himself almost sounds like he was looking for a way to commit a crime. Three stupid attempts in about 1/2 hour, they were not crimes of opprotunity, he was hunting. However, he does not sound to bright to me, I have to wonder if there may be a drug influence. But he could be dangerous if he decided that next time he really needs a gun to make his threats stick. If he is lucky he will get caught before he hurts himself or anyone else.

Posted by Dennis, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2011 at 11:05 am

Bravo, bravo for No-Surveillance-Puts-People-At-Risk. Yet again a sensible call for surveillance cameras in Palo Alto. But it doesn't go far enough. Palo Alto needs bio-alarm/alert (BAA) technology implanted in all its citizens. BAA would measure bio-metrics indicating Sudden Increase of Stress Surges Index ( SISSI). We need a national effort to implement a Secure Homeland Emergency Exorcism Program (SHEEP).

Posted by Fight back!, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 12, 2011 at 11:09 am

rem, not all of us subscribe to the submissive position you suggest. If we all just lay back and take it, criminals will just politely (unarmed) ask us for everything we have and we'll just hand it over. ARE YOU KIDDING? Yes, I know there is a risk, but if we don't fight back, the problem will become MUCH worse than it already is. Excuse me, but I'll defend myself - and take my chances - to the extent that I can.

Posted by Jane Lamb, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2011 at 11:30 am

Surveillance cameras in Palo Alto - Ha!!! We can't even get antennas installed without a 3 year fiasco. Our technophobic brethren would block this every step of the way.

Of course if they could figure out away to get the surveillance cameras to transmit their signal over two bean cans and a line of sting, then maybe- otherwise, it will never happen.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by L. C. , a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

I lived in ( North ) Palo Alto for 30 years. Over just the last few years, I observe an escalation of these street / home / business crimes - some with guns - during our waking hours !! I think more people are more at risk (toward gang recruitment, no income and perhaps anger ) and desperate. So, more people are getting harmed and traumatized by some of them. We recently had $1000 worth of construction tools stolen in Palo Alto . PA is not the same cozy, "village" town I moved to 30 years ago - but perhaps people can collectively find a positive way to "Fight Back". Any ideas out there?

Posted by more transmitters, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Oh yeah, lets set up cameras all over town and connect them with radio transmitters. If the tech haters can't stand cell phone transmitters, what are they going to say about video transmitters?

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

And what if you could identify an assailant? And dragged him down to the police station by his hoody? It would just be a case of he said, she said, without any witnesses, without any weapon. Dismissed as a misunderstanding due to language barrier or intelligence barrier or sobriety barrier.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm

" (toward gang recruitment, no income and perhaps anger )" You forgot one of the biggest reasons to resort to this kind of crime: drug addiction.

"but perhaps people can collectively find a positive way to "Fight Back". Any ideas out there?"

Yes, there is a very simple, not-too-expensive way to make your neighborhood safer, and no one has a right to complain about it. Get a 4-camera (~$325) or 9-camera video surveylance system ( and install it at your home. Watch the yard, the street, the neighbors across the street, whatever. If anything happens within view of your cameras, shoot a DVD of it and hand it over to the police.

Or you could sit around wondering why no one is doing anything to solve the problem. Your choice.

Posted by just, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm

The idea of surveillance is a swell idea, but in reality the sheer number of cameras needs to "blanket" the entire downtown alone would cost way to much, to the point where the cost to effectiveness ratio would be no where near effective enough for any city to approve.
Not to mention if there were such a camera setup none of these crimes would have been captured by them since none occurred downtown.
The closest to downtown of these three locations is the 300 block of Waverly but it is not a street full of shops and would not get camera coverage either

Posted by samol, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm

same ol statements. the world of humanity is the problem, not more cameras bla bla bla...

Posted by ChrisC, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

No-Surveillance-Puts-People-At-Risk: Reduce police salaries? Why don't you take the job for minimum wage? PAPD put their lives at risk for us, oh, and then have to submit to heaped-on abuse from arm-chair cops. Yes, let's lower the wages and have them all leave for other communities.

Posted by JustNe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Dear Just, I don't know if your post was directed at me, but I will respond to it anyway. Apologies if I misinterpret, but I also wish to stress a point.

I am not advocating blanketing the town with cameras, nor am I advocating having the police or any other government agency do anything like that. What I am advocating is that, as private citizens, there is nothing to stop us setting up cameras on our own property, to watch our cars, yards, streets, etc. there is also nothing stopping you from supplying copies of recorded footage to the police to help them deal with a problem.

It is not hard to do, not terribly expensive, and if more people did that then perhaps more crimes would be solved sooner, and repeat offenders might make fewer offences before getting caught, and we would all be a littl safer.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 13, 2011 at 4:35 am

Yes, fully agree that surveillance cameras can be helpful after the fact, much better than nothing, but don't expect to read license plates or distinguish faces across the street with any "not terribly expensive" system. I believe most are still like 400 by 600 pixel interlaced video, which is pretty sparse in a wide angle lens, and has trouble with moving objects. Plenty good enough though for monitoring your front porch, back patio, and sideyards.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2011 at 9:19 am

Yes musical, you are not going to get a conviction based solely on your standard video footage, but you will still get TONS of useful information that can be used by the police to hopefully get better information. How many people were there, how were they dressed, how did they come and go, what time was it, vehicle make and model, was there anything that stood out like splotches of bondo and primer? A video is WAY better than an eye witness, you can replay it and see what happened, not just hear about it.

I am not going to blanket Palo Alto with my system, but I WILL blanket the street in front of my house. If you live across the street, that means covering your cars and yard all night. Then, if your car window gets smashed and your radio pried out of the dash with a crowbar, I have footage of it for the police. We know a lot about the guy(s) that did it.

Posted by Spiderman, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Surveillance cameras - yes!

We can place them at strategic points, and use the information gained to warn, and apprehend. Anyone who is opposed to this needs to be the next victim of a street robbery (and live to tell about it). Then, we'll see what they think.

As for the person who said he would fight back with someone who used a gun, or threat of a gun, to steal his belongings: all I can say is that Darwin well-described people like you.

Posted by bluesy, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

again, technical ''solutions'' for an incurable problem related to modern life thats so american.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm

"again, technical ''solutions'' for an incurable problem related to modern life thats so american."

What? We are SURROUNDED by "tecnical solutions" for our problems, look at the food you eat and that thing you are typing on. Or, go back to your cave. The problems may be incurable, but they are not untreatable, and they can be forced into remission.

As for the cameras, please note I am not suggesting any government agency should do this. I would resist any effort to that effect, too 1984-ish. If you want cameras, buy them, install them, maintain them. The more of us that do that the better. But it should NOT be Big Brother that does it for us.

Posted by No-Surveillance-Puts-People-At-Risk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm

> obviously you didn't see that two of the robberies occurred
> away from the downtown area in another part of the city.

This time. But what about next time? And what about last time?

The issue here is technical augmentation to help the police do what they can't do--which is to be everywhere at once.

Let's suppose that people who wanted to rob shoppers walked around town casing stores, and looking for likely targets. The surveillance cameras would capture all of the foot traffic and maybe the license plate numbers of cars moving in/out of the downtown area so the the police would have a log of images for the last 24-48 hours that could be used to show the robber victim(s) to see, if just by chance, the robber had walked in the footprints of the surveillance cameras.

Obviously the coverage for the whole town is not readily possibly, but certainly the highly visited areas are. The police can easily produce a list of addresses/zones of the town where robberies have occurred in the past, so that they would be able to target these areas first.

Moreover, they could coordinate with various companies that have their own surveillance cameras to quickly gain access to their recordings, if there happened to have been robberies in the vicinity of their cameras.

With facial recognition software becoming more reliable, sketches from victim's memories could be scanned, and possible suspects from the daily downtown recordings possibly located with software--with secondary identification by the victims.

It's time to be experimenting with this technology.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

There are three quick exit-access routes in and out of Walter Hays Drive. 1) Newell,
2) Embarcadero, and 3) Channing. Unless the bike thief was hiding out enroute waiting for the search to be discontinued, odds are that he was using one of the three or a connecting side street. I doubt the latter because this perp does sound like the sharpest knife in the drawer. It also sounds like a gang initiation - "Bring back something of value" and he also hasn't been 'over the border' very long. Puzzling why the PAPD could not spot him at that time of day.

Posted by No-Surveillance-Puts-People-At-Risk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Here is an example of how the London police are engaging the public to help find/arrest/try those who were involved in the recent riots that destroyed millions of pounds of private property--
Web Link

Scotland Yard has released CCTV images of its 213 "most wanted suspects" in its investigation into rioting which took place in London in August.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 14, 2011 at 11:04 am

How odd that this thread on this wanna-be idiot receives so many comments vs. the PA resident fraudster who's done damage. I've noticed this in the past- a big focus on street crime vs. other kinds of crime. I'm wondering why that is? Is it that sometimes a weapon is used? That it seems like it can happen to any of us? That ideas for crime prevention can be discussed?

Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 14, 2011 at 11:46 am

rem is a registered user.

Hey "Fight back!" TRY reading my comment AGAIN. I do not think PUSHING the robber off thee bike is "submissive". It is a fight back attitude..

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

One problem with most of the personal video camera systems out there is that almost all of them only work with or all fully-functional on PCs or the Internet Explorer browser. There are some expensive server systems out there that collect, manage and play-back video, but most of them only work with Internet Explorer.

It seems so odd that in our market driven society that as there have been more and more security video solutions the prices have not really gone down very much, nor have the capabilites gone up. At Frys there has been a growing section of consumer video security products which are mostly not very good, but have not gone down much in price or up in features and quality.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2011 at 1:37 pm

"One problem with most of the personal video camera systems out there is that almost all of them only work with or all fully-functional on PCs or the Internet Explorer browser."

I don't think that is so Anon. Check out this unit:
Web Link

It is self-contained, except you might want to attach a display to the VGA connector on the back. You can also access it from your PC and IE and stuff like that, but without any other hardware it will still monitor and record. And it is not all that expensive. It records in color during the day and works with IR at night.

If that one does not suit you, search Amazon for "video surveylance" and pick another make/model. Plenty to choose from.

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Most consumer grade video survey acne gadgets are not very high quality and recognition of details over more than a 100 ft is questionable.

We should stop offering our belongings, which are not worth fighting over, as some suggest, and fight back. Any suggestion to hand over your belongings when confronted by a burglar/mugger is an open invitation for repeat offenses of that sort and I'm sure there is a grapevine where advise as to what city is the least likely to fight back is traded.

Once the word goes out that citizens are not allowing this to happen in a community we will successfully deter such events. But perhaps this is not of interest to some ?

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