Robbery at California Avenue train station injures one


Police are looking for a man who allegedly punched a commuter in the face and robbed him as he waited for a train on Sunday, Nov. 2, according to a joint statement by the Palo Alto Police Department, Transit Police Bureau of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and Caltrain.

The robber approached the male victim who was at the California Avenue Caltrain station at about 1:27 p.m., assaulted him, took his wallet, and escaped on a non-motorized scooter. The victim sustained minor injuries.

Officers responded to the incident, but were not able to locate the robber. Deputies from the Transit Police Bureau of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, which has primary law enforcement jurisdiction at the location, responded to investigate the crime, police and Caltrain spokespersons said.

The victim, a man in his 60s, was seated on a bench on the southbound platform waiting for the next train. The victim had his wallet in his pants pocket, connected to his belt with a metal chain. The chain was visible and hanging outside of his pants. The robber walked up and stood behind him, then suddenly reached for the chain and attempted to pull the wallet away from the victim. The victim pulled back, at which point the robber punched him once in the face and ripped the wallet and chain from the victim's belt before riding away on a non-motorized scooter. The wallet contained cash and miscellaneous personnel property, officials said.

The victim received a small cut and swelling around his left eye. He was treated at the scene by the Palo Alto Fire Department and released.

A witness described the robber as a black male, about 25 years old, wearing a white shirt and light-colored blue jeans. The man was unshaven and had dreadlocks. He was riding a silver scooter with electric-blue wheels. The victim and witnesses last saw the suspect on the train platform headed south.

If the victim is able to meet with a police sketch artist, police will release that sketch as soon as possible, they said.

No other robberies at train stations in Palo Alto have been reported recently, according to officials.

The follow-up investigation is being handled by detectives assigned to the Transit Police Bureau of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, who are working in close collaboration with detectives with the Palo Alto Police Department.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office anonymous tip line at 800-547-2700. Anonymous tips can be emailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

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5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm

All I have to say is that the train stations would be safer on weekends if the trains ran more frequently. More people would use the trains and you wouldn't have to wait so long for the next one to arrive. Once an hour is really silly for a major public transit system.

4 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 4, 2014 at 4:16 pm

I have never used this train station, so I don't know the answer to this question: are there any video cameras there - while I don't think they should be everywhere, perhaps an obvious location like this for opportunistic robbery should have cameras and a sign stating "area under video surveillance." Hopefully, this would make the place safer. Otherwise, a lot of people are discouraged from public transit use....

3 people like this
Posted by Michelle
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Why isn't there video surveillance at the stations? Considering the cost to use Caltrain you think they would set aside funds to have video surveillance that is monitored in real time to dispatch for the closest help to arrive.

4 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 4, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Something like this happened in Redwood City a while back, and there were video cameras. Public places like this should have video cameras, and ?? I don't know, maybe people should be required to check in when they go into a space like this.

You have no idea who is standing right next to you in some cases, are they going to try to push you on the tracks or rob you.

A little over a month ago I finally took BART for the first time ... and I was thinking, what a cool thing this is ... or would be, if it were not for all the weirdo people on the cars. A lot of creeps. Looked like some derelicts wearing their pants down to their knees with dirty underwear showing. People walking around talking and singing to themselves. People taking their bikes on the cars ( maybe this is allowed ).

Now, I am reasonable sure that nothing bad is going to happen to me, by the statistics, but you never know, and anyone can be the exception. We need to design these places with some safety in mind if we expect lots of people to use them.

Ugh ... I probably would not take BART again, but it could be a very nice system.

2 people like this
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm


Welcome to the real world. Palo Alto is a little bubble where everybody looks more or less the same, and where the socio-economics of inhabitants is very, very uniform (save for the few homeless in downtown).

On BART, you see a real slice of humanity as it is outside of the walls of Palo Alto.
Personally, I like to get out of Palo Alto and see the real world, such as on BART. BART is actually very safe overall. It is a shame people fought so hard against it when we had a chance to get BART on the Peninsula. Picture that. It would be so convenient.

2 people like this
Posted by Rose A
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 4, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Rose A is a registered user.

I'm very shocked and saddened to read this. The California Avenue Farmers market would have been closing down at this time, so I'm guessing that there would be a large number of people a block or two away. I hope the victim recovers quickly.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm

@Michelle, the cost to use Caltrain is only half the cost to operate it. There are no funds to set aside.

1 person likes this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm

I regularly use the California Avenue Caltrain station, but when I've been there, there are almost always other people there. If I'm alone, I'm always walking back and forth and looking around, just being aware of my surroundings wherever I go. I'm not glued to my cell phone or iPod. You don't have to be paranoid about being robbed, just be alert and see who else is around you.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jinga
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 13, 2014 at 6:52 pm

[Post removed.]

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

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