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Downtown Palo Alto Wells Fargo bank robbed

Original post made on Jun 26, 2008

Two men walked into the Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Palo Alto at 2:50 p.m. today and walked out with an undisclosed amount of money, Police Sgt, Sandra Brown said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 26, 2008, 6:42 PM

Comments (32)

Posted by Nick, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:49 pm

I just can't believe it! A few months ago a man on wheelchair robs a bank in bright daylight in Stanford shopping center and gets away and now this.. Is it that easy?

Posted by dave, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:23 pm

apparently, it's that easy. Somehow PA is looking like an easy mark -- two muggings, now this. The police are too busy giving tickets for wrong turns and investigating the Children's Theater to be bothered with things like violent crime.

Posted by TOOMUCH, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by john, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:29 pm

Dave - First of all, the guy in the wheelchair got away because the stupid bank employees at that bank didn't even bother to follow the guy once he left the bank and then called their corporate security who in turn called the police. Give anyone a 5 to 10 minute head start and they're gonna get away. Read the news more carefully. Second, stop making illegal turns and maybe you won't get tickets for them. And finally, how many bank robberies do you hear about in Palo Alto. Two? You think that's a lot? Go move to San Jose or Oakland where you won't even get a response if you get into a property damage car accident because they're so busy and you'll see that Palo Alto is a very safe place to be and not an "easy mark".

Posted by Time to change, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Banks are such easy targets in the U.S. because they don't put bullet proof glass us between the customers and tellers like they do all over Europe. Money is exchanged through a turn table under the glass.

U.S. banks make it so easy for the bad guys. However, it is getting to the point where bank employees and customers' lives are being put in danger. Banks won't put up a glass partitions because it's supposedly unfriendly to the customers.

Posted by Vic, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 27, 2008 at 4:38 am

Hey Dave and Too Much, do you expect the police to be outside every bank that is about to get robbed? Do you think the robbers are sending out a schedule or something? Are you that dillusional? Spare us the cheap shots. The police have a difficult job. A job that based on your idiotic comments, you would not have the common sense to take on yourself.

Posted by Sean, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2008 at 7:06 am

Palo Alto is certainly a relatively safe city but that being said the bank robbery occurred 3 blocks from the police department and right downtown! The Palo Alto Police Department is spending too much time on petty crimes and investigations of poor accounting and not enough on actually preventing or responding to an incident like this. Time for a shake-up.

Posted by Vic, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 27, 2008 at 7:50 am

How is three blocks away from the police department, or being downtown relevant? If you could also share with us Sean, how did you come to the conclusion regarding the police department's priorities? Do you know how they're staffed? What crimes they spend their time investigating? How many people they dedicate to this work? Again, spare everyone the PACT cheap shot.

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2008 at 7:58 am

Sign of the times. Bad economy, meth use on the rise. Every city has seen a rise in crime.

Posted by mhmm, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 27, 2008 at 8:51 am

thank you tim for your good straightforward comment. Too bad nobody else realizes this and tries to blame the police. Its a shame..

Posted by Heard, a resident of Triple El
on Jun 27, 2008 at 9:46 am

My mom's friend had a son who was a police officer in Palo Alto and he quit because the people were too rude. They would say things such as "we are paying our taxes. Do your job" and other demanding and snooty comments as if they were their servants. Police officers should be respected--weren't we taught that as children? PA police are required to have 4-year degrees and be polite. Every one I have met has been respectful. They have feelings too and are here to help us and people should not blame the actual officer if there aren't enough cops in PA so that the cop is late to the scene, etc. It's not any easy job! Would you rather have rude, violent, corrupt officers? Blame the city instead for not hiring enough "qualified" officers.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2008 at 10:20 am

True about the bullet proof glass in Europe. This is not only at banks, but Post Offices and similar too. I don't think they give the impression of being unfriendly, but do give the impression of being efficient and safe places to keep your money and to bank. Anytime you need to talk to a bank official for anything, you are taken into a small private room to talk about things face to face and also in privacy (which doesn't happen here) which can be as friendly an atmosphere as you want.

Posted by Blame the Banks, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2008 at 11:08 am

Blaming the police is barking up the wrong tree. Banks themselves bear the most blame for not doing enough to prevent robberies. For one thing, I am surprised not a single employee was close to a silent alarm button, which there should be plenty around for easy access - by hand, foot, or whatever. For another, there is no mention of any guard at the bank, not that the amateur old farts who usually end up on duty would do much good any way, but at least a guard or two could make the robbers think twice or thrice before taking a chance.

Also blame the rise in crime in general on the downward spiral in the quality of life. What has the feds done to lower hyper-inflation caused by the ridiculous rise in gas prices? The only reason government stats don't show hyper-inflation is because the feds have held interest rates in check but we have hyper-inflation by every other measure I am sure.

Posted by Too much, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:25 pm

To Vic and everyone else: I am not blaming the police dept., I am blaming their leader. Ms. Johnson has done absolutely nothing about the growing crime trend in Palo Alto. Most people don't know this, but PAPD used to have an undercover "special problems team" that prevented crimes such as these. I don't see that anything is being done now except responding to the scene to take a report after the fact. No, I don't expect the police to sit outside every bank, I expect the Chief to come up with a new strategy since whatever she is doing now obviously is not working.

And before you say that I don't have enough sense to take up the job, I happen to have 12 years in law enforcement myself.

Posted by Blame the Banks, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:37 pm

I agree the police needs to have undercover and plainclothes operations in place. It would indeed be a derelict of duty and not worthy of public trust if PAPD isn't taking such pro-active measures to make people feel safe around town.

Posted by Sammy, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:50 pm

I live on Tennyson Avenue. Last fall there was an armed carjacking a block away from me at 7pm. The Midtown Baskin Robbins was robbed by armed men a few months ago. It's becoming difficult to count the muggings and armed hold-ups (mostly in daylight) of our citizens on seemingly safe residential streets.

I'm not sure who is to blame, but to say that crime is not an increasing problem in Palo Alto is silly.

The ultimate responsibility (like the responsibility for our deteriorating streets and infrastructure) lies with the council. Safe and maintained streets are the basic responsibilities of local government. We're falling down on both of these things.

But we DO have a nifty environmental commissioner....and a lot of other frilly feel good government iniatives.

When is someone on the Council going to tackle what government should be there for?

Posted by Vic, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 27, 2008 at 2:30 pm

To Too Much, first off, nothing but respect for your years of service. However, to be so quick to single out the top official, seems a bit misguided. If you have some inside information about the chief having done "nothing", then please share if you can. Otherwise how do you know that nothing is being done? What statistical data do you have that crime trends in PA are more dramatic than anywhere else in our area?

For Sammy, you seem to establish this crime wave with the carjacking near your home on Tennyson last fall, and a robbery in Midtown a few months ago. For relative safety and security alone, I wonder how many people in the Bay Area would gladly trade their homes with you to live on Tennyson, let alone anywhere in Palo Alto. I'll ask you the same question. Are the crime trends in PA so remarkably higher than anywhere else? What data do you have to support this, or are you just being a critic and alarmist?

Fact is that crime occurs everywhere, and always has been. Just this week there were murders in Mountain View and Redwood City. It is a problem everywhere, but if people are going to be so quick to blame the PD for a lack initiative or preparation, then take the time to acknowledge them for their success. What about the arrest of the kidnapper who sexually assaulted that high school student last year? From what I read there was incredible work that was done. I happen to feel safe living in PA, have observed great police response at all levels, and trust the PD to contine to do their jobs. Keep things in perspective, and don't react to hyper-media coverage.

Posted by Sammy, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 27, 2008 at 3:22 pm

It's hard to understand where Vic is coming from - seeming to desire to gloss over the very real crimes here in Palo Alto.

While it may be true that crimes happen everywhere and that other cities have more crime than we do, it is also true that until recently the kinds of armed crimes reported in the press - some brazenly committed in broad daylight - were extremely rare in Palo Alto.

I've lived here for 30 years, and while we've had some noteworthy crimes in that time, I don't recall a period when so many violent crimes were committed so often. To ignore this is very much ostrich-like.

As I indicated in my previous post, I don't reflexively blame the PA police department or its leaders. For all I know they're doing the best that can be expected with the resources the Council makes available to them. But it seems to me that people like Vic reveal a certain know-nothing bias when they protest so vigorously any attempt to explore the apparent violent crime wave in town. And it's a little amusing to see the pretty droll stories about the incidents at issue hyped as "hyper media coverage". (Who's being alarmist?!)

Again, I do hold the council responsible for not putting enough attention onto this very basic local government function. Street crime may not be a sexy political issue in town, but it's something that citizens have a right to expect to be taken care of.

Posted by More-Cameras-Please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 27, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Where are the pictures from the surveillance cameras?

What about demanding that banks put surveillance cameras outside the bank, so that more than inside shots of someone with a stocking over his head is all that the public gets to see. Having cameras that see up and down the block for a couple of hundred feet would give the police a little additional help.

There ought to be a law ..

Posted by concerned resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2008 at 5:40 pm

A quote from Palo Alto online Thurs June 25
"While the department has more than a half-dozen PIO officers designated to talk to reporters, Police Chief Lynne Johnson named Brown the lead PIO in April 2006."
Perhaps the half-dozen PIO officers would be better utilized devising methods to stop the bank roberies rather than talking to the press.

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2008 at 6:10 pm

To Concerned resident,

Don't look silly. They have trained about 6 officers for PIO. So if Officer Brown is not aviable, another Officer can address the reporters.

Posted by Vic, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 27, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Again Sammy, provide some statistical support for these incidents that you have dubbed a "violent crime wave." So far all I've heard from you is that you've lived here for 30 years, and that you don't seem to recall a period of time when so many crimes were committed. Wow, very compelling. Let's just take your perception and accept it as a qualified fact. Is this a crime "WAVE", or just another part of the normal cycle that effects every community.

So I'll ask you again, since you're the one that brought it up originally, could you please simply justify as you put it this "increasing crime problem", or "crime wave." Until then I will respect and acknowledge the work that our PD puts in, realize that their job is a difficult one, keep things in some perspective, and trust that they are making every effort to prevent crime and capture criminals. Again I feel safe here, as do I'm sure the vast majority of people who live in PA.

Posted by Sammy, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 27, 2008 at 7:04 pm

To my knowledge there is no database that would reveal the number of crimes that are brazen gun crimes like that described in the local press in the past year or so. Thus probably the best evidence available to those participating in discussion groups like this is the collective perception of long time residents.

A lot of posters on this forum seem to be people who think that violent gun crimes are getting out of hand. This probably is better evidence than Vic's sample of one perception that he "feels safe".

For the record, I feel pretty safe too, but that does not mean I'm not concerned about what appears to be a rise in violent crime, and it doesn't mean that I'm not concerned about the complacency shown thus far by our Council and by city management on this issue. Seems like it's at least as important as Climate Change...but we've seen hours of discussion at City Hall about that...and not a peep about the muggings, robberies and burglaries that have been reported in the press.

I'm not sure why Vic seems compelled to shill for the PAPD when writing about my posts. I've not cast blame there at all. Perhaps he's an insider there and feels defensive about PAPD performance for a reason. In any event, it does appear that he protests too much.

If Vic is a PAPD insider or is as familiar with the issue as he pretends to be, he knows that the crime data available online isn't specific enough to address the concerns I and others have expressed about gun wielding criminals. It only shows numbers of various broad categories of crimes. Moreover, the most recent data is for 2006, and most of the stories about crime are more recent.

But Vic is big on challenges. Maybe he has some data to back up his blase' perspective. But one has to question the judgment of anyone who can refer to violent crime as "part of the normal cycle that effects (sic) every community." If that's the attitude of the PAPD, then maybe we're not really as safe as Vic says we should feel.

Posted by FanOfSammy, a resident of University South
on Jun 27, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Nicely done Sammy.

Posted by Numbers-Don't-Lie, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2008 at 8:47 pm

> To my knowledge there is no database that would reveal
> the number of crimes that are brazen gun crimes

Both the FBI and the CA DOJ maintain data bases that provide this sort of information. The databases are on-line.

Posted by More-Cameras-Please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 27, 2008 at 8:55 pm

> Ms. Johnson has done absolutely nothing about the
> growing crime trend in Palo Alto.

There are two kinds of crime that occur in Palo Alto--violent and property-based. Violent crime is very low--and has been forever.

Property-based crimes come in two categorical types (less than $400 and more than $400). There is a fair number of less-than-$400 crimes in Palo Alto--often the result of people not locking their cars, while leaving valuables in plain sight. There really isn't a lot the police can do about this.

Chief Johnson has been very opposed to surveillance cameras, however. While the jury is out on surveillance cameras as a general impediment to crime, they have been useful in tracking down the terrorists who bombed in Spain and London. Chief Johnson has added surveillance techniques in Police cars, and soon on the Tasers. However, she has been very opposed to the general use around town.

Time to give this technology a chance.

Posted by Eric, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 29, 2008 at 1:59 am

For those of you who are calling for the police department to have "a special problems team" may I remind you that the Police Department is very short staffed right now. You are probably the same people who will complain when the salaries of Police Officers are made public that they are doing far too much overtime, and getting paid too much.

As for surveillance cameras they are only useful if you've got the personnel to go through the many hours of tape they generate. If you want surveillance cameras get the City to budget for them and the new hires you will need to monitor them.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2008 at 11:41 am


You and many others live in the dark age if you think surveillance cameras generate tape. It takes next to no time to find the right time to check on the digital monitoring systems after a crime has been committed and the systems get wiped clean regularly if they are not needed.

Bullet proof glass and more cameras are the best deterrant best bang for the buck.

Posted by urgh, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 29, 2008 at 2:53 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Eric, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 29, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Resident: What are you proposing? We install cameras and nobody looks at them. Whatever kind of camera is used someone must monitor them and that someone must be hired by the Police Department. It all costs money they don't have.

Posted by urgh, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 29, 2008 at 5:09 pm

[Comment removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Actually Eric, you are right. That is what I am proposing. The cameras do not have to be monitored. After the initial cost of installing them, there is little to do as they work by themselves. They record their surveillance and after a period of time, they wipe themselves clean unless they are needed for solving a crime.

Bullet proof glass is the same. If both of these were installed by banks, the costs would almost once off. Then they would save money both by not having any money stolen and not having to offer rewards. If a robbery did take place, the police time would be spent anyway and monitoring the cameras would take a minimal amount of police time compared to the total time of the investigation.

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