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As car break-ins surge, Palo Alto police laud drop in violent crime

Annual report highlights department's trends, accomplishments

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The Palo Alto Police Department statistics show that larceny cases, which include car break-ins, soared in 2019 to the highest number in the past 10 years. Source: Palo Alto Police Department.

Despite a year marred by a rash of car break-ins and two high-profile claims of police brutality, the Palo Alto Police Department saw several positive trends in 2019, including drops in assaults, burglaries and traffic collisions, according to its newly released annual report.

The Palo Alto Police Department's 2019 Annual Report highlights some of the crime trends and the initiatives that officers have been dealing with, including an increased focus on traffic enforcement and public engagement. The report also indicates that the department made fewer arrests and issued fewer citations in 2019 than it had in 2018, trends that the report attributes to "a decrease in calls for service compared to 2018, staffing and the cyclical nature of crime."

According to the report, the department responded to 29 assaults in 2019, the fewest number since 2015. That's down from 38 assaults in 2018 and 40 in 2017. The number of reported commercial and residential burglaries (not including car break-ins) hit its lowest point in at least a decade. The department responded to 179 burglary incidents in 2019, the only year in the decade when the number was below 200. In 2018, the city saw 234 burglaries, according to the report (the highest number was 332, in 2012).

At the same time, the number of larceny cases has surged, largely because of a recent spike in car burglaries. There were 1,724 incidents of larceny in 2019, up from 1,197 in 2018 and nearly twice as many as occurred in 2011, when 937 were reported. The number of robberies also went up from 30 in 2018 to 46 in 2019.

"While crime tends to be cyclical in nature ... one thing that remains constant is that Palo Alto is a safe city that continues to have a very low rate of violent crime per capita," the report states.

View the rates of robberies, assaults, burglaries and stolen vehicles from 2010-2019 through this interactive chart.

The annual report also showed a significant drop in both arrests and citations from the prior year.

The number of citations, which spiked from 5,807 in 2017 to 8,245 in 2018, went down to 6,578 last year, according to the report. The number of arrests dropped from 2,602 in 2018 to 2,185 in 2019.

While the report provides an overview of each department division, it doesn't mention two recent complaints that the department received, alleging excessive force by officers. In November, the City Council approved a $572,500 settlement to Gustavo Alvarez, resident of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, after his surveillance camera showed a police sergeant slamming him into a car windshield during the arrest and later mocking Alvarez's speech.

The sergeant, who retired shortly after the incident, was required as part of the settlement to write a letter of apology to Alvarez. The terms also required the department to undergo two hours of LGBTQ sensitivity training.

The council also discussed in a closed session last week a complaint from Julio Arevalo, who also alleged that he was beaten by a Palo Alto officer near Happy Donuts on the night of July 9. A surveillance video from the donut shop shows police Agent Thomas DeStefano arresting Arevalo by pinning him against a railing and then bringing him to the ground before handcuffing him, fracturing his orbital bone (surrounding the eyeball) in the process. The council didn't take any reportable actions.

While the annual report makes no mention of the two cases, it notes that out of more than 2,000 arrests, Palo Alto police used force in only 18 incidents.

"This is a testament to the professionalism of our officers and their ability to de-escalate tense situations and gain compliance without using force," the report states.

The annual report also includes a section on the independent police auditor, who is charged with reviewing all cases in which a Taser is used, as well as complaints reported by citizens or generated by the department itself. The auditor, the report states, is in place "to ensure that the Department's investigations are conducted thoroughly and objectively."

The report neglected to mention, however, that 2019 was the first year since at least 2012 in which the city didn't publish a single audit. Historically, the city's police auditing firm, OIR Group, has been releasing two reports per year. And in December, the City Council voted to approve a new contract with OIG Group that explicitly excludes internal conflicts within the department from the auditors' review.

The report also underscores Police Chief's Robert Jonsen's recent efforts to engage the community. This includes the launch in 2019 of Advanced Police Academy, a course for residents who had completed the Basic Citizens Academy, an eight-week program for community members wishing to learn more about police work. In addition, Jonsen's advisory group made up of neighborhood representatives with whom he meets every other month helped the department's traffic team identify the locations where enforcement should be prioritized, according to the report.

"They discussed community concerns, specific locations, and the types of driving violations being observed," the report states. "This collaboration allowed for direct community input to the team's enforcement locations. The team provided feedback to the Chief's Advisory Group on observations, challenges and recommendations for each location."

From August through December 2019, the team visited six target locations 198 times and issued 651 citations, the report states. It also notes that the number of collision reports in all categories (which includes fatalities, injury, non-injury, bicycles and pedestrians) went down from 993 in 2018 to 836 last year.

"As we hire more officers to the Department's ranks, we intend to increase the size of the Traffic Team to more efficiently address traffic concerns from our community," the report states.

In his introduction to the report, Jonsen wrote that he expects the department to be "excellent in everything we do."

"I expect us to proactively enforce the law and to serve this special community with professionalism and respect," Jonsen wrote. "I expect us to positively engage our residents, business owners, and visitors whenever we can. I value accountability and take full responsibility to ensure these expectations are met."

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:40 am

“a decrease in calls for service compared to 2018...”

Sure. Everyone knows that shoplifters and car smash-and-grabs aren’t prosecuted anymore. We’ve been trained to call the insurance company instead of the cops.


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:43 am

This sounds more like a bookkeeping problem rather than a downward trend.

Whereas I am pleased to know that violent crime is down, the fact is that car break ins are up and that is an increase in overall crime. It may be the way it is done, but to anyone who has had their car broken into when there was nothing in view as well as nothing in the trunk to steal, it is still crime, it is still an awful thing to have happened to you and it is still something that PAPD must work to solve and bring down the amounts of cars being attacked. Can we have some robot security guards in garages? Can we have cameras in parking lots and garages? Can we do better?


23 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:49 am

Yes, we need cameras. Don’t wait for the city, though, which may never get its act together. Buy some Ring doorbells and cameras and point one at the street. You’ll be amazed how many sketchy people prowl around in the middle of the night.


18 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 19, 2020 at 9:49 am

While the story noted that larceny crime, which they say means car break-ins, rose by more than 50% in 2019 from historical levels, it didn't include that robbery also rose by 50% in 2019 as compared to 2018, to the highest level in the 10 year span of the report. This aligns with what San Francisco is undergoing - a massive increase in car break ins and retail crime, coupled with severe under-reporting since citizens have given up on the SFPD to do anything about these categories of crime. It would be great if the reporter would follow up with the PAPD to get their take on why this is happening, and most importantly what the city and the PAPD are doing about it. If the PAPD thinks it's the result of prop 47, which I think most people would suspect to be the case, then let's not be politically correct and let's call it out. Does the PAPD also see that people are increasingly not reporting this kind of crime, since they think that nothing will be done? Also, it would be helpful if our intrepid reporter could work with the PAPD to provide more detail on who is committing these crimes. Is it organized gangs? Is it our homeless population? Is it opportunistic individuals from another local city, or Palo Altans? What is the demographic of the typical folks committing these crimes?


15 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 19, 2020 at 9:52 am

While good news burglaries and assaults are down, kinda downplays the fact that rapes and robberies are up 50%.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2020 at 9:56 am

I think we should jettison this mercenary force and go back to “it takes a village”, “neighbored watch” the honor system and Amazon.
Who’s with me?


14 people like this
Posted by Stop Voting for Democrats
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Good thing the Santa Clara Judges and Comrade Gavin are soft on crime. These car theives when caught will get a slap on the wrist.

You guys hear about the man released by a Santa Clara Judges after being arrested with Assault Weapons, a silencer, and a kilo of Coke? Welcome to the new progressive California.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2020 at 12:31 pm

>> Posted by Stop Voting for Democrats

It wasn't a Democrat who pardoned/commuted these sentences: Web Link

Let's see now: murder, failure to report a felony, conspiracy; securities fraud; mail fraud; tax fraud; filing false reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Obstruction of justice and perjury (three counts), bank fraud, bribery, wire fraud (10 counts); conspiracy/attempted extortion (four counts); corrupt solicitation of funds; conspiracy to corruptly solicit funds (two counts); making false statements, Conspiracy to commit health care fraud; health care fraud (two counts); conspiracy to defraud the United States and to receive and pay health care kickbacks; conspiracy to commit money laundering; money laundering (16 counts); structuring to avoid reporting requirements (three counts).

>> You guys hear about the man released by a Santa Clara Judges after being arrested with Assault Weapons, a silencer, and a kilo of Coke?

Sounds interesting. Can you please post links?


8 people like this
Posted by When will republicons ever run a good candidate again?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2020 at 12:33 pm

"you guys hear about..."

No. You have a link or just making stuff up again?

RP


21 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2020 at 1:00 pm

I don't get it. Each week we are reading a story here about an act of violence - a gang on SU beating up someone. Lady assaulted for her purse in midtown during the day. House break-ins. Safeway broken into for drugs. Every week a reporting - worse a shooting on San Antonio. I have never felt unsafe in this city but am now very careful of where I am at what time of day. Do not agree with the assessment.


10 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2020 at 1:10 pm

One of my neighbors had their car stolen last week. I guess that it easier than breaking in and looking for valuable stuff.


16 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2020 at 1:13 pm

@Resident:

Agreed. We should have the city do an annual poll of Palo Altans to determine the real crime rate -- including robberies, vandalism, and misdemeanor assaults that are no longer investigated, prosecuted, or punished.

Spinning a drop in arrests and citations as a police success story is pretty funny.


6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 19, 2020 at 2:05 pm

Were the 2000 arrests all different people, or was it one guy 2000 times?


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 19, 2020 at 2:13 pm

Those paying attention know they're under-reporting crimes and incidents. One weekend a friend on Palo Alto Ave.complained about a double-digit weekend of car break-ins and burglaries so I checked the police blotter and only found a few reported. People on NextDoor routinely ask about incidents blocking streets and drawing a large number of emergency vehicles yet when I check the police blotter I either find no reports or a reported "minor accident/no injuries" that conflict with the NextDoor reports of people on stretchers being taken away in ambulances.

Lately the police blotters for PA have been missing from the other paper with the notation "too short-staffed to provide" or somesuch wording.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2020 at 2:47 pm

>> You guys hear about the man released by a Santa Clara Judges after being arrested with Assault Weapons, a silencer, and a kilo of Coke?

I found this, which must be it. I agree with you that this does sound like a serious judicial error. I agree with the San Jose Police Chief that the widely publicized reforms were not intended for cases like this:

Web Link

Seriously, ten years ago, petty shoplifting could result in a 10-year sentence. That wasn't right. But, the above is not right, either, and, I see nothing in the current law that requires the judge's action. In fact, it looks so unusual I'm wondering about the judge's health. (Of course, I'm not a lawyer, or a judge, and my only knowledge of this case is what I read on the web.)


6 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Maybe we need to find out how many police are on staff now compared to previous years. Maybe we need to add more staff. If the county and state are changing the way they enforce law then we need to have a meeting on that with the city staff.


10 people like this
Posted by retirement
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 20, 2020 at 6:17 am

> Maybe we need to add more staff.

Cool - more good, union jobs!

We have more cops in the Bay Area than ever, don't we? They certainly have more gear and resources.


9 people like this
Posted by Stop Voting For Democrats
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 6:56 am

For those who needed a link

Web Link

We worked so hard to pass sensible gun laws in California and now Progressive judges in Santa Clara County just release these criminals. Same thing is also happening in SF under DA Comrade Chesa Boudin


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 10:32 am

Posted by Stop Voting For Democrats, a resident of Old Palo Alto

"Stop Voting For Democrats": I can assure you that I will never, ever vote for candidates from a party whose leadership is against the Constitution and the rule of law.

>> We worked so hard to pass sensible gun laws in California and now Progressive judges in Santa Clara County just release these criminals.

I still don't understand how or how this happened. The law change appeared to mainly be about shoplifting and petty theft. We need more information about why something like this could happen with such serious weapons charges. Rest assured that plenty of Democrats do not appreciate having heavily armed criminals walking around-- as you said, we worked hard to pass sensible gun laws.

One thing that has changed drastically in my lifetime is the length of time it takes to get cases to trial. It used to be that the attorneys would ask for more time, if needed, to gather evidence, but now, things that used to take weeks take months. I don't have any metrics for this, but, as I read the news, it looks like everything takes 4-10X longer-- to get a hearing, to get to trial, to get to sentencing, etc. For example that shooting case in EPA where the final "Sunny Day" defendant already served 6 years of his 8 year sentence before the judicial process concluded.

>> Same thing is also happening in SF under DA Comrade Chesa Boudin

I admit I was surprised that Boudin won. After the success cities like SF have had in reducing crime by going after gang/gun violence, Web Link he apparently wants to reverse that.


5 people like this
Posted by When will republicons ever run a good candidate again?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 12:16 pm

"being arrested with Assault Weapons, a silencer, and a kilo of Coke? ”

So you lied about the kilo of blow?


3 people like this
Posted by When will republicons ever run a good candidate again?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Maybe it was a LITER of coke?

Regular, or diet?


2 people like this
Posted by chemist
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 20, 2020 at 2:56 pm

@"When will republicons ever run a good candidate again?" 1 Litre, 1 Kilo, it's all about the same when the density is 1 g/cm^3.


8 people like this
Posted by Harsher measures Needed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:14 pm

What many here don't seem to realize...it's primarily the transient meth-abuser/users who are creating much of this recent crime whether it be robbery, auto break-ins or sexual assaults.

A $40.00 a day habit amounts to $1200.00 monthly & if one does not have a viable means of supporting their 'habit' crime will prevail.

The bike theft racket is a classic meth-head occupation. A pair of bolt cutters + a few cans of spray paint & someone willing to pay $50.00 for a used bike = another day's FIX.

I am a substance abuse researcher & have come to the conclusion that fentanyl, opiod and meth adddicts are beyond help.

Once an addict, always an addict.

It's the same with alcohol..an alcoholic can abstain (given the personal willpower) but they will always be an alcoholic & the same goes for pedophiles. Any AA member will confirm that.

Unless there is a personal desire to QUIT, the problem remains...not only for the individual but for society as a whole.

Drug addicts (unless they are wealthy celebrities who can afford the habit) need to be institutionalized where they are cut-off from all self-destructive street drugs and if this means permanent lock-down measures, so be it.

And the ones who say detox is just as deadly as the habit itself...go visit the Santa Clara County jail in San Jose or Elmwood/Milpitas where many meth addicts are currently incarcerated for related crimes. Most are doing quite well WITHOUT but cut them loose and the first thing will do is start looking for their next score.

Meth also exaggerates male testosterone driven sex drive which also 'empowers' these sociopaths to attack women regularly.

The Daily Post has an account of such activity nearly every week.


2 people like this
Posted by Walters
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:22 pm

Wow.
We did not know that.
We are now terrified. Thank you for your research and condemnation of the derelicts.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.


8 people like this
Posted by Harsher Measures Needed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:32 pm

QUOTE: "Wow.We did not know that. We are now terrified. Thank you for your research and condemnation of the derelicts. Thank you, thank you, thank you"

^^^ You are most welcome Walter but no need to be 'terrified;...just vigilant.

The incoherent transients we encounter (almost daily now) are either mentally ill or substance abusers.

Most normal people do not ordinarily behave that way.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:54 pm

Posted by Harsher measures Needed, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> What many here don't seem to realize...it's primarily the transient meth-abuser/users who are creating much of this recent crime whether it be robbery, auto break-ins or sexual assaults.

>> I am a substance abuse researcher & have come to the conclusion that fentanyl, opiod and meth adddicts are beyond help.

Can you please post some links to current research articles with an analysis of these meth-abusers? In the past, I would have thought that meth abuse would have been most prevalent in semi-rural areas like Lake County and the San Joaquin valley, e.g. Fresno/Bakersfield, etc. I guess I'm out of date.


7 people like this
Posted by Will Demoncraps ever run a good candidate?
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 20, 2020 at 8:01 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by When will republicons ever run a good candidate again?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 8:11 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 21, 2020 at 7:44 am

[Portion removed.]

We need input from the police departments on what their challenges are and what they need to do their jobs. Since the reports of incidences do not agree with the city saying crime is down then there is an obvious disconnect.


Like this comment
Posted by When will republicons ever run a good candidate again?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2020 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed.]


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