News

Petty theft tops youth arrests in Palo Alto

Second-highest category is marijuana possession, according to police data

The most common crime for which Palo Alto police arrested juveniles over the past two years was petty theft, followed by possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.

The information came in a summary of youth arrests provided by the Palo Alto Police Department in response to a request from the Palo Alto Weekly.

In the more than 25-month period from Jan. 1, 2009, to Feb. 8, 2011, there were 454 arrests or citations of youth from ages 10 to 17, according to the police statistics.

Data as to how the numbers compare to those in other communities was not available.

Of the 454 arrests, petty theft, at 106, was the largest single category, with possession of an ounce or less of marijuana second, at 61 arrests.

"It's important to note that these are reported events," said the police department's Interim School Resource Officer Nanelle Newbom.

"Particularly with young people, a huge chunk of dangerous or destructive behaviors go unreported, in part due to our belief that children can and should be responsive to education, guidance and non-governmental discipline," she said.

Newbom said Palo Alto police rarely take a youth into custody following arrest. The vast majority of arrested minors are released to parents or guardians.

Follow-up is often through a restorative-justice model, involving community work, letters of reprimand or other forms of discipline.

In all marijuana-related categories, the number of youth arrests in the 25-month period was 75.

In all alcohol-related categories, the number was 54, with "drunk in public," at 38, the largest subcategory.

Other double-digit categories, in descending order, were burglary at 46; battery at 23; minor in possession of alcohol at 12; vandalism at 11; minor in possession of smoking instrument at 11 and grand theft at 10.

All other youth arrest categories were in the single digits over the 25-month period reported.

"The type of crime and age breakdown show that our young people get into serious trouble at an early age, where the intervention really has to be parent-driven," Newbom said.

"Once again, it's in the parents' and teachers' hands, which is why we need to keep supporting them in every way we can."

The police department is a co-sponsor with the Palo Alto Adult School of The Parent Project, a 12-week course offered twice a year for parents of "strong-willed" teens. For more information, contact the police department at 650-329-2274.

Related article:

Parents of strong-willed teens gain strategies

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Interesting.

But how many of these youths are Palo Alto residents, and how many are repeat offenders? Both of these two additional bits of information are needed to fully appreciate this data.


Like this comment
Posted by mor
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm

since weed prop didnt pass, some people are using MORE weed AND driving MORE!!! though weed is safe for driving. when you keep people from something, they will do it more, especially if it is something they know is safe and their birthright!@


Like this comment
Posted by dui is dui
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm

NORML's own "Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use" invoke a "no driving" clause, stating: "Although cannabis is said by most experts to be safer than alcohol and many prescription drugs with motorists, responsible cannabis consumers never operate motor vehicles in an impaired condition."


Like this comment
Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Wondering,

Newbom did not readily have data on how many of those arrested were not Palo Alto residents, but estimated it to be 20 to 25 percent. No information on repeat offenders.


Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm

> Newbom did not readily have data on how many of those arrested were
> not Palo Alto residents, but estimated it to be 20 to 25 percent. No
> information on repeat offenders.

Thank you for adding this information to the thread. What's sad about the answer, however, is that each of these questions could be answered with a single data base query, if the Palo Alto police had a decent database, and knew how to use it.

The Palo Alto police web site claims that there were about 1600 property crimes (excluding car theft) for 2009, and around 1300 for 2010. So, the data provided about teen crime adds a little detail to who is responsible for property crimes in Palo Alto, and to what degree.


Like this comment
Posted by Huxley
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm

There go those "strong willed teens" from Palo Alto again!


Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2011 at 8:53 am

> There go those "strong willed teens"
> from Palo Alto again!

Good point.

Which got me to wondering .. what was the disposition of these youth's cases, and how much does it cost the taxpayer to deal with these children?

Questions come to mind like:

Were all of these cases referred to the District Attorney?
If not, why not?
If not, what happens to the cases?

When referred to the DA, how are these cases typically settled?

We've seen at the School District that many parents have threatened to sue when their kids have ended up in trouble. The School District typically folds, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the damage (when it occurs) that was caused by these students. What about at the local government level? Are well-connected parents threatening similar legal action unless "all charges are dropped"?

What about arrest records? Are these kept in perpetuity, or are they expunged at some point?

And what about cost?

The Palo Alto Police Department costs about $31M a year to operate. The time to investigate and deal with the aftermath of these investigations has got to be considerable, given that there are about 225 cases a year that result in arrests. How much is all this costing the taxpayer? And why shouldn't the parents be sent a bill, just to remind them that there are consequences to the actions of themselves, and their children?

Same goes for those cases referred to the DA.

It's a shame that the Palo Alto Police Department is so opaque. The public really has a right to know this sort of information.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

Since I expect the goal is to prevent the behavior in the future - not to punish the kids just for the sake of punishing them "Palo Alto police rarely take a youth into custody following arrest. The vast majority of arrested minors are released to parents or guardians."

Kids do dumb things as did most of us when we were growing up.


Like this comment
Posted by Not a cuddly mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm

"Palo Alto police rarely take a youth into custody following arrest. The vast majority of arrested minors are released to parents or guardians."

What's wrong with this? How do we expect our kids to grow up knowing right from wrong? Some of these teens are driving already- are they not mature enough?


Like this comment
Posted by Need more data
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Agree with the first posting. Are these youths Palo Alto residents or youths from a neighboring city?


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Read it, Need more data. PA Weekly gave the info. Estimated at 20-25%. This means that PA has some work to do w/its law-breaking youth.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

El Camino: Another scheme to increase congestion?
By Douglas Moran | 10 comments | 2,065 views

Post-election reflections -- and sponges
By Diana Diamond | 13 comments | 1,685 views

Couples: Philosophy of Love
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,389 views

Trials of My Grandmother
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 929 views

Lakes and Larders (part 2)
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 248 views