Posted by Phil, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 7, 2012 at 10:12 pm
The bicycle patrol team, along with several other special enforcement units have been eliminated over the past few years due to budget cuts. Next on the chopping block is the department's traffic/motorcycle unit. Meanwhile the house burglary rate in Palo Alto has continued to skyrocket. The police force is operating with nearly 20% less officers than they had even ten years ago. Sad but true. These are the priorities that our city leaders have set.
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 4:50 am
There would have been no story had the man simply dropped the food and ran when confronted. A store can't just allow people to leave without paying for what they take. Soon paying shoppers go elsewhere rather than subsidizing the freeloaders. Oh oh, I feel an analogy coming on. Hope you found a good book.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 8:50 am
Budget cuts are blamed for a rise in crime. Hmm. There is a lot of money in this city compared to other cities.
If police bike patrols (which sound inexpensive to me)do make fiscal sense and are meaningful in controlling crime in downtown Palo Alto, then they should not have been eliminated. What is the case with this type of patrolling: WOULD it have possibly caught this perp or would it have been ineffective? Just wondering. A bike is pretty cheap equipment compared to patrol cars, gas, insurance, maintenance...and having one of two of this type of patrol hardly seems a burden if they are swift (in response, in a chase) in a local area.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 10:32 am
One would think neighbor, at least on the surface, but the department is having a difficult time maintaining minimum staffing levels much of the time without involving overtime.
Here's something I learned from participating in the police department's citizens academy, which has also been eliminated due to budget cuts by the way, is that minimum staffing levels for patrol involves as few as one supervisor and five officers. That's the coverage much of the time for the entire city. I quickly learned that there are a myriad of calls and situations that officers have to deal with that takes considerable time. Believe me, and I was surprised, the police department is much busier than I expected. The calls were challenging, in depth, and certainly required the need for multiple officers. Point is they run out of personnel real quick, and it wouldn't make strategic sense to have one of the few officers they have limited to a relatively small area and range of movement on a bicycle.
You also state that there is a lot of money in this city. I'm not sure if you're referring to the city budget or relative affluence of our citizens, but here's what you have to consider. It's easy to say that Palo Alto is a wealthy city, should have plenty of money, so why don't they just pay for the services they need. Sorry, but it's much more complicated than that. The fact is the city has been facing annual budget deficits for several years running. There is no remedy for this problem anytime in the near future. So I ask you, where is this "a lot of money" that you refer to?
The budget crisis in Palo Alto has systematically led to the elimination of 15-20% of the police department over the past decade. Positions cut include but are not limited to the crime analyst position, downtown bicycle patrol, participation in the regional violent crime unit, reduction in detective/investigative positions, and most recently, the entire traffic enforcement unit. These positions not only offered specialized enforcement efforts that targeted specific problems, but also provided the patrol officers an extra layer of support which they relied on heavily in the field.
Through all this the city continues to spend lavishly it seems on many different projects and services that would certainly take a back seat in my opinion to our public safety needs. Above all we must feel safe and have relative peace of mind. Without that, I really don't care about a new driveway at the art center, giving Eleanor Park a makeover, or building a bike bridge.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 10:58 am
The biggest portion of the budget goes to personnel and city worker salaries and benefits have risen astronomically over the last few decades -- way out of proportion to inflation and definitely out of sync with the economy. When someone can retire at age 50 or 55 with 100% pay and full, lifetime benefits, then find another job, something is very wrong with the system. This needs to be addressed.Examples "..also earned $407,908 in total wages in 2011, according to city data, making him the highest paid city worker in 2011. Of this sum, $212,738 consisted of "cash out" pay, which accounts for such factors as vacations, holidays and unused sick pay. His regular salary was $195,169". If firefighting is such a high stress job, how could it be done well without taking any sick leave or vacation for such prolonged periods of time? I do want to note that sick leave cash outs have been discontinued.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 11:51 am
Ralph, this just happened to be the story we landed on that led to the discussion of the greater issue. You're right, it's rarely about one thing, certainly not potato chips and peanuts. However, it has much to do with preserving our overall quality of life and the need to support law enforcement in those efforts. For example, house burglaries have skyrocketed in Palo Alto the past few months, by far leading this dramatic increase which exceeds that of any other bay area city according to a recent Mercury News article. I have to believe that in many ways it's related to the police having to do more with less.
For Neighbor in Greenmeadow, you are correct, there must be some level of pension/salary negotiation with our public safety unions. I don't think too many of us would dispute that. This is a big reason that the retirement packages for the fire and police departments have been modified during the most recent contract negotiations. However, I must point out that the Palo Alto Police and Fire personnel are never eligible for a 100% salary benefit as part of their pension. The cap is at 90%, still generous, but not at 100% as you claim. Furthermore, in order to reach the full salary benefit, personnel must complete a full thirty years of service. And how many police/fire retirees ever achieve that full pension compensation? Less than 8% according to the statistics.
I notice that people tend to discuss public safety salaries as if it were a pipeline to wealth. This is my impression from spending considerable time with police and fire fighters. They didn't go into that line of work to get rich. Quite the contrary, and in fact the vast majority of them could not afford to buy a home in Palo Alto. No, I truly believe for them it's much more of a calling, and one that should be respected and compensated fairly. I have no doubt that many people wouldn't do what they do for a living for a million dollars a year, much less for what they actually get paid. For example, to those that fret over public safety salaries, get this, Palo Alto Police personnel have consistently been paid in the lower third of comparable size cities in the bay area for over thirty years. They remain in that salary position today. There is a market rate for police and fire salaries in the bay area, and quite frankly I don't want to lose experienced personnel to other cities because we don't pay a competitive salary.
The bottom line in my opinion is that a critical part of our civic foundation is public safety. That is what preserves our quality of life and greater peace of mind. Without that strong foundation, it makes it difficult to enjoy the many wonderful offerings that Palo Alto provides.
Posted by Glad to get out of Palo Alto, a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm
Why would a store employee initiate a confrontation over a $10 shoplifting incident? Good grief, the Palo Alto Police Department is a block away. The problem isn't city employees as some posters to this thread have claimed, it's someone who lacks common sense. Hey "neighbor", if you want to blame someone in the city, maybe your time would be better spent on why city employees have no confidence in the city manager or police chief as managers. Your concerns over employee early retirements is magnified by the cost of current employees leaving in mass exodus costing the city millions to replace and train new employees. I congratulate those who served their community, unlike yourself, and wish them the best in their retirement or new jobs. As Martin Luther King stated " Free at last, Free at last, God Almighty I'm Free at last" Best wishes to those that have joined the exodus.
Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm
"Through all this the city continues to spend lavishly it seems on many different projects ... I really don't care about a new driveway at the art center, giving Eleanor Park a makeover, or building a bike bridge."
Or millions for a needless "garbage to energy" project.
Posted by John Galt, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm
Standard Democratic Political Machine bullying tactics."If you won't give us all the money we want to spend (buying us votes by the way) we will cut teachers, police, fire fighters, and parks". So shape up and vote unlimited funds! Cut spending? It is "against their Prncples", can't violate their "principles, can they?
Posted by Anon, a resident of another community, on Aug 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm
Has it ocurred to any of you that crime is up everywhere? It's called a recession. Non-violent property crimes always go up during harsh economic times. This tells us that people lose their jobs, they get hungry, they get desparate. No one has ever said "ooohh, Palo Alto has 20% less cops, lets go rob their CVS." Here is one link to a report on a study: Web Link. I've read others, I'm sorry I don't have time to pull more links right now.
Bottom line is this small crime has nothing to do with your favorite soap box, city employees. It has to do with the fact that crime happens. Even in this little utopia. Until you put a gate around your city, crime is going to happen. . . oh wait, it will happen even with a gate. Never mind.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm
Undoubtedly certain levels of street and property crime are effected by an economic downturn, but it doesn't mean that we have to accept that as an excuse and give these crooks a pass. I also know that there will be crime always, yes, even here in Palo Alto. That statement doesn't enlighten anyone, but it does reinforce precisely why we need to staff a police department capable of being proactive, and not reactive toward crime.
Cuts in the police department have eliminated many of these proactive positions that specifically targeted crime problems like house burglaries. Our city has experienced a 63% spike in these crimes, significantly more than any other city in the bay area according to a recent Mercury News article. So absolutely, I want the police department to be proactive. As a city we should insure that they have the staffing, equipment, and assets to accomplish that goal.
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm
Regarding house burglaries, would it be more cost effective to harden the target than to hire more police officers? I don't want to see bars on everyone's windows, but maybe there is some miracle of modern electronics that could reduce our probability of an unfavorable outcome.
And tell me, did I hear correctly at some recent neighborhood meeting, that one reason for burglary waves every few years is that most of these guys are repeat offenders, and they tend to all get arrested, and then released at the same time?
Do retail outlets with video surveillance use facial recognition yet to identify the presence previous shoplifters?
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 8, 2012 at 10:27 pm
The police department would be the first to recommend hardening the targets for burglars and other thieves, but the greatest deterrent in my opinion is having a proactive, productive police agency. We will always need police officers to ultimately investigate, track down, arrest, and facilitate in the prosecution of these criminals.
Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford, on Aug 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm
I preferred when it was Long's and after one of tfe rude clerks insulted a customer that customer returned and robbed the store. All of these lOng winded comments over a non-news story abuser a ten dollar theft. Maybe Thiefy was hungry or had the munchies. What does it matter?!
Posted by @midnight, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2012 at 12:19 am
To appease people who believe stealing $10 merchandise from a store is not a big deal, how about the stores create a new checkout lane for shoppers stealing, say, less than $50 of goods. The manager can even be nice and bag the stolen merchandise. For any amount more, please see the cashier.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2012 at 11:14 am
Hunger isn't a justification Kyle. There are multiple outreach services in the downtown Palo Alto area that provides food/nourishment on a free, walk-in basis daily. We play host to the Opportunity Center on Encina Avenue as well as the Food Closet operating out of All Saints Church on Waverley. Apparently this was a condition that you weren't acquainted with.
Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community, on Aug 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm
BTW- Before it was CVS, Longs used to have a special announcement over their intercom system (Like "Mr. Green to the front of the Store") that employees all knew meant to come at once to a certain location to assist an on-going incident. One time I heard the announcement while in a store, and guys came flying from every direction to subvert the situation. Those days, they took shop-lifting seriously and actively attempted to deter it.
Probably CVS, a huge Corporate entity, has attorneys that don't want Employees wrestling with potential thieves, for fear of bodily harm to the employees, so... folks can attempt to "rip-off" with impunity. And, as a PAYING customer, I shall assume the price I am paying reflects all the inventory "shrinkage" due to others' stealing habits.