Town Square

Post a New Topic

Police mount efforts to stop street robberies

Original post made on Oct 17, 2008

Saying that "catching these guys is our number one priority," Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson said late Thursday afternoon that the department has taken steps to stop a rash of strong-arm street robberies that have occurred since early September.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 17, 2008, 9:27 AM

Comments (30)

Posted by jack, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 17, 2008 at 10:10 am

I was just thinking that maybe the Police was busy catching that City Hall murderer, and now that item is settled, they can focus on this robbery guy? In any case, I'm glad to see that they are putting together a town hall meeting to address concerns from citizens.

It would have been quite a sight, though, if the angry citizens decide to patrol that area themselves, with their own aluminum baseball bats!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2008 at 10:21 am

It's about time. I am satisfied that more police are put out on patrol. I like the idea of unmarked cars, so you never know when the police are watching you or are around.

Personally, I would rather have the city invest most of the money on police and safety issues year round. I dont care how much it costs. I think there should always be a lot of police out, as a preventative measure, instead of having this happen after all the crimes take place.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2008 at 10:23 am

Cameras are a good idea, and so are signs in the vicinity telling the crooks that the cameras are there, we want them to be a deterrant for more crime so the more visible they are the better then the villains can choose other venues for their crimes.

Posted by Greg K, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 17, 2008 at 10:35 am

What happened to the police bicycle patrols? Many of these robberies are on pedestrian paths that are not visible from patrol cars. Bicycles are fast, maneuverable, and can cover pedestrian areas very efficiently.

Posted by me, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:04 am

In Chicago long ago, before the days of aluminum baseball bats, I sometimes carried a wooden baseball bat to and from school. It leant me a certain air of confidence and power.
Not that I want to see us all walking around with baseball bats, mind you. . . .

Posted by born and raised in PA, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:17 am

I agree w/ "Resident" - I don't care how much it costs, I'm willing to pay. I've lived in Palo Alto for 25 years, my entire life and have never felt so unsafe in my own home since these attacks started. I live just a block and a half away from the Loma Verde incident. My mom, sister and I would take long walks at night which we just don't feel comfortable doing anymore.

Please keep eyes and ears open, and don't be afraid to report anything suspicious! We shouldn't be afraid of doing so...

Posted by south palo alto walker, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:18 am

While walking between Amarillo and E. Meadow yesterday, zigzagging on Ross, Louis and Greer, I couldn't help but notice an unmarked black and white SUV with no license plates driving slowly by. After my third encounter, watching a policeman inside the SUV stare intently towards me, I asked him if his cruising had to do with the robberies. He said yes, the police had increased their presence in both marked and unmarked cars. I suggested perhaps a policewoman walking in street clothes near the Caltrain stations might help attract the robber.

Posted by south palo alto biker/walker, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:46 am

i agree with the comment about bicycle patrol. also it seems like foot patrol is a good idea too, both uniformed and under cover. those measures plus the surveillance cameras would seem to help. plus people should probably just be more cautious, we have a tendency in palo alto to be oblivious to dangers b/c it's usually so safe. it's unfortunate that these desperate times are bringing out the dark tendencies in some people.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:47 am

Will that work? I mean, if it's that obvious, I can see a deterrent if criminals notice an unmarked police vehicle and just move to another area to do their attack/robbing but will it end up catching the criminals?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Cameras underneath the tunnels is a good as a deterrent. Cameras all over is invading.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Why is it that it's seen as acceptable for police to state that people shouldn't walk alone? In Palo Alto? in broad daylight? that's a ridiculous response, I'm sorry to say. And I'm highly offended that the police department should say that *women* shouldn't walk alone at night. This is an outrageous "blame the victim" stance. There are many other appropriate responses to safety concerns -- walk tall, through well-lighted areas, report street light outages, etc. that don't target a particular class of residents. Is it time for another "take back the night" march to alert city officials that it's unacceptable to have streets in Palo Alto that cannot be reasonably safely negotiated by pedestrians? Maybe it's time for more people to get out of their cars and walk -- better for health, better for the environment, would make streets safer for everyone, and builds community (and your house is less likely to be a target for robbery if you leave the car parked at home anyway).

Posted by Anon, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 17, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Concealed Carry Permits, politically incorrect, end these kind of attacks. The drones don't know who is armed and head off to easier and safer pickings. Just a thought.

Posted by too little too late, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 17, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Oh look who finally decides to comment. Ms. Johnson is the worst police chief PAPD has ever had. Other chiefs would have dealt with the problem ASAP. How long has this been going on now and she finally decides to do something about it? It is always Dan Ryan making statements and nothing from the top cop. We need Dennis Burns as Chief (see other story).

Posted by Anne Beaton Carey, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 17, 2008 at 7:29 pm

The city council has been completely silent on the issue, and the police seen to have just caught on to the muggings. To whom are these people accountable? To us- and we need to hold our leaders and 'protectors' to a much higher standard than they currently exhibit. Perhaps the recent crime wave will hit property values... and that should spur a reponse from the plice and council.

Posted by Art Kraemer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Maybe if our motorcycle police paid more attention to the people in the downtown area instead of spending most of their time giving out minor traffic citations, they might spot the bad guys before they harm people. Substitute walking and bicycles for the motorcycles.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2008 at 8:48 pm

I commute on the train to and from the California Avenue station. I carry pepper spray. A lot of good that's going to do me against an armed assailant. When the days get shorter, I just might resort to carrying a concealed baseball bat. Woe to the jerk who messes with me. -- A P.O.'d and unafraid woman.

Posted by Mark, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 17, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Assistant Chief Dennis burns is a great cop. Great work Chief Burns. Keep it up!

Posted by Chris, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2008 at 8:58 am


1.) Graffiti in downtown PA. Yes, Graffiti. See, for example, the buildings on Alma Street that face west, just south of the new Pampa's restaurant. See the graffiti on the University Ave. CalTrain station. See the graffiti on newspaper stands all over downtown PA.

What's my point?

Downtown PA has become a comfortable place for persons who spray paint. A comfortable place for assailants to hang out. What message are we citizens sending them?

Message we send: It's ok guys, continue the graffiti. We're not going to notice and we're not going to clean it up and look for you.

2.) We continue to tolerate persons who disobey sit/lie ordinances, like those found begging outside of Whole Foods, that continue bother people on a daily basis.

Message we send: it's ok guys, continue. We're tolerant and long suffering here.

What we need is an attitude adjustment. Our lack of effort, until now, sends criminals and vagrants the message that downtown PA is easy prey and the police and residents are soft.

Posted by Mark, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 18, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Hey Chris, good points. The cops should focus on targeting graffiti and sit/lie ordinance violations, not violent crime. Solid.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm


I agree with you, violent crime protection trumps policing of graffiti. Obviously.

But I think you missed my point. Perhaps I wasn't clear. I feel PA's inability to police or handle smaller items, like sit/lie and graffiti, perpetuates an environment or culture where those who wish to do wrong can do so comfortably here, or with little to no consequence. I feel this no action by PA on small things sends a message to criminals that they can have success here.

Posted by o06, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm

hasnt anyone rad mercury news about corrupt district attorneys in the county,and drunken policewoman? the same DA that prosecuted an innocent non white who was being harrrased by white upperclass man in palo? when you accuse because of race,there will be a balancing of the cosmos

Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I have lived in Palo Alto for over 30 years. This robbery spree is as bad as I remember.

To the police:
If you see someone walking around who doesn't seem to fit the neighborhood, stop them to talk to them! I know you are worried about racial profiling, but the truth is that sometimes it is necessary, especially when all of the assailants seem to be from the same race.

To the residents:
Program the Palo Alto police # into your cell phone 329-2413 so that you can call for help in an emergency!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2008 at 10:33 am

Isn't the graffiti typically gang related?

Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 20, 2008 at 2:20 pm

The last police decoy I remember seeing was at the corner of El Camino Real and Los Robles. There was a female decoy officer primping herself sitting on a bus bench to attract horny males. It worked~ there was a write up in the local paper about the "sting" that was done which netted quite a few unsuspecting males for solicitation for sex. They even printed the mens name in the paper.

I have been writing about having "flat foot" patrols in Palo Alto now for the last several years. About time some are finally paying attention, but look at what it finally took for others to get this thinking started..........sad.

Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2008 at 5:28 pm

if I read correctly joe is stating that anybody who doesn't look caucasian doesn't "belong " in his neighborhood. (what other meaning can be concluded by his mention of race?)
What an awful thing to say!

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2008 at 5:26 am

Have you been to London lately? There are cameras on every street corner, stop light and building. It looks like we are headed in the same direction. This is the world we now live in sorry to say.

Posted by James, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 21, 2008 at 11:25 am

It is interesting to see these are happening in affluent sounds like the assailents are using the trains as a means of egress and entry to/from the area. The assailants see the vulnerability and high value of their targets. I can bet a thousand to 1 most of the people going through this area have 1) no self defense training and/or 2) carry no guns, knives, numchucks or stun guns. Criminals are stupid but not stupid enough to go after prey that might match them. Forget about cameras, they're great if they just happen to be positioned in the ideal spot which is a rarity. Cops do the best they can but can't be everywhere..Wolves are seeking sheep not other wolves. My advice make yourself a wolf and they'll never go near you.

Posted by Pro Cameras, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 22, 2008 at 5:17 am

The robberies near the station seemed like it happened when it was dark. Do cameras work efficiently in such situations?

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2008 at 9:12 am

The man hit with the bat was robbed about lunchtime. It wasn't dark.

Yes, low-light cameras work just fine, and infrared cameras are also cheap. Isn't it lit at night under there though?

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2008 at 9:17 am

James, I am a little nervous about people arming themselves in response to these threats, especially with more lethal weapons. I am 6'4" tall, good shape, and I may look threatening, and I don't want some little-old-lady taking me out because she thinks I may be a threat.

I was wondering though is people might start using walking sticks to hike around Palo Alto, nice hefty ones made of hardwood,...

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Foothills Park: a world away
By Sally Torbey | 17 comments | 1,827 views

Universal Language
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 1,483 views

On Tour at Selective Schools: Chapman, La Verne, Redlands, Whittier
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,442 views

The dress code
By Jessica T | 13 comments | 1,250 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 12 comments | 803 views