Robbers snatched valuables from two people in Palo Alto Saturday and Monday evenings, adding to a string of incidents on city streets in recent months in which pedestrians have been accosted for their wallets or merchandise. Both victims were approached from behind, according to Palo Alto police.
A 31-year-old woman was approached in the parking lot behind Borders Bookstore on Monday, Dec. 6, at 9:34 p.m. by a man described as Pacific Islander and between the ages of 18 and 30. The suspect pushed the woman off balance and pulled her purse from her shoulder. He was last seen running toward Hamilton Avenue, then westbound.
The victim was not injured. The suspect is described as tall and thin and wearing a white or gray hooded sweatshirt and dark jeans.
In the incident on Saturday, Dec. 4, a 14-year-old boy was attacked in the Embarcadero Road Caltrain undercrossing at 5:25 p.m.
The victim was holding his bicycle with his left hand while walking and was checking his iPhone with his right hand when the robber approached from behind and snatched the phone out of the youth's hand and pushed the victim away with his left hand.
The robber ran into Town and Country Village shopping center. Numerous police officers tried to find the suspect but were unable to locate him in the crowded mall, police Sgt. Wayne Benitez said.
The suspect is described as a young Latino male, 5-feet, 6-inches tall and 150 pounds. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt, black ski mask and black pants, Benitez said.
Police are asking for the public's help in apprehending the suspects. Anyone with information about the two robberies can call the Palo Alto Police Department at 650-329-2413 or make an anonymous tip at Paloalto@tipnow.org.
Police also strongly urge the public not to take heroic actions or to chase or fight off the robbers. In several previous incidents, victims were approached by robbers who brandished guns. Some of the victims fought off the suspects.
"If you find that you are the unfortunate victim of a robbery, please cooperate with the suspect's demands," Lt. Sandra Brown said.
Benitez said shoppers should be vigilant during the holiday season.
"So many people are preoccupied with shopping that they forget about personal safety," he said. Police have already taken two calls from people who left their credit cards on restaurant tables. Within minutes, the cards were gone and were being used, he said.
"Most people don't know their account numbers, so they wait until they get home. By then, the thieves have wreaked havoc. They immediately use the card at Stanford Shopping Center or Fry's and go on shopping sprees until the card is declined," he said.
Benitez said the season is still young and ripe for crimes of opportunity. Shoppers should not be lulled into a false sense of security by putting purchases into their vehicle trunks.
Watchful thieves see potential victims open their trunks. When the shoppers then return to the mall to continue shopping, the thieves break in and steal the merchandise, he said.
Many of those purchases are electronic items that are highly lucrative for criminals, he said.
"People really need to be aware of their surroundings. There are bad people out there.
"When you are out shopping, put the packages in your trunk and go home," he said.