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Napping Palo Alto resident awakes, surprises burglar

Original post made on Nov 5, 2008

A napping Palo Alto resident awakened by a clatter found himself face to face with a burglar in his living room Tuesday, according to Palo Alto police. The burglar quickly went out the window by which he entered the home in the Stanford West neighborhood. Three other daytime home burglaries were reported Tuesday, resulting in substantial losses, police reported.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 3:38 PM

Comments (41)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2008 at 4:48 pm

I hope they left fingerprints around all over the house and papd can discover whether these crimes were committed by the same person. Then the one description will fill all crimes - whether they like it or not.

Posted by I Support the PD Officers
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 5, 2008 at 6:46 pm

"The surprised burglar was described as 17 to 20 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 180 pounds and African-American. He was wearing a cloth cap and dark clothing"....hummm...very interesting. I message to PD: All of you do a GREAT job, keep it up and keep pulling over the people you should no matter what race they are. Maybe the Chief didn't get the message across the correct way but she does have a point.

Posted by BIG GABE
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 5, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Well coming home one day on bryant the home next to ours was being
burglarized by several caucasion young men who I followed and notified
police and were apprehended also they lived in area according to police so beware they come in all colors !!!

Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 5, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Yes, buurglars do come in all colors, and when the perps were identified as caucasian I'm sure the police didn't waste their time looking for African-Americans.

Posted by Sheesh
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 5, 2008 at 11:13 pm

This is borderline comical because the chief was just bashed for recognizing the fact that most of these crimes are being committed by African Americans.

Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:08 am

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

Crimes are committed by people. Let's not make offensive remarks about any race. Catch the perpetrators, lock your doors, have alarms in your house. Carry theft insurance.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:27 am

Guess what??
It's an African American suspect.

But oh no! We can't just stop people who fit this description because that would be racial profiling...I guess we have to wait until the burglar is described as 'white' in order to arrest them.

Posted by You still don't get it
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 6, 2008 at 9:27 am

Your chief IGNORED the white suspects in her meeting last week, as if they weren't worth mentioning. Her words can also be interpreted as implementing racial profiling, which is illegal. Sometimes the laws seem to be on the side of the bad guys, but it sure doesn't help when your chief is too much of a clod to figure out how to run a public meeting without suggesting racial profiling. You all get to literally pay the price the cleanup of her mess has caused AND you still have to worry about these criminal acts.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:01 am

The Chief was referring to the buglaries occuring on the streets in and around downtown Palo Alto. These suspects in these cases were black. Sorry, facts is facts!

Now EPA is organizing a protest against our Chief. How about we start billing EPA for all the expenses our police force incurs (and Palo Alto tax payers pay) investigating cases that result in EPA residents being convicted?

Posted by Give 'em the keys
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:15 am

Damned if we do & damned if we don't.
The PAPD holds a town hall meeting to alert the public about the rash of burglaries on the rise during this economic downturn. The only thing people come away with is racial profiling.

Take note people, these public servants are trying to serve you.

Will this nonsense stop if we give African Americans keys to our homes and cities as we just did to the White House, and put out a welcome mat?

Posted by Paul
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:37 am

The police should look for people who fit descriptions - if there is no more to go on than color of skin, then that's too broad a description to be used.

If it's color of skin, plus approx age, height, build and even clothing worn, then that's at least something to start with, though clearly it doesn't mean that anyone fitting that general description is a suspect. It just means they have not been eliminated yet, and should be observed and/or questioned to see if there is anything more to go on. If questioned, it needs to be non-confrontational as there is a higher probability that any one individual is innocent than guilty, with only approximate descriptions.

This just seems like common sense, but some of the comments make me think people are losing sight of common sense here. And it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the recent election, or the % of different races in prison, or any number of other irrelevant points.

Posted by PaloAltansDemandAnApology
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:59 am

If this 'March' is allowed to cross either of those two bridges I DEMAND the heads of The Mayor, the City Manager and the City Council. if they cannot handle the business of Palo Alto, then along with the Chief, bye bye to them too...we don't need you. I bet there are jobs in EPA....knock yourselves out.

Instead of issuing a firm statement to this 'Mayor' of EPA that Palo Alto can take care of its own business, they have allowed this situation to proliferate until it has blown up in our faces.

It will cause the Chief to have to be fired or resign, based on the actions and of a DIFFERENT CITY IN A DIFFERENT COUNTY.

A city that has more problems than ours by far. Anyone remember that not in the too distant past EPA was the MURDER CAPITAL OF THE COUNTRY?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Over-edited
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:09 pm


The first two postings were completely wiped out as if they never existed and they were in no way as bad as these postings.

Posted by How about EPA residents demand raises
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Maybe all of my fellow EPA residents who work in the fair city of PA should demand raises from their PA-based places on employment!

Wow, the attitudes on this board - mostly condescending, lacking in understanding of the law, not understanding the details of why this is an issue - appalling for a city that prides itself on being progressive and educated. The majority here type like educated thugs! You could all get together and run a gang with your bigoted, self-serving thinking.

Posted by To Paul
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Thank you for your insightful, intelligent comments. To avoid racial profiling but be able to consensually question potential suspects, the police of course have to be very careful in how they interact with the public. Officers learn this quickly, what they can/can't do, while maximizing their ability to legally get information from those they detain. This has to be the way to do it, since we don't live in a police state. It's very unfortunate Johnson didn't have the skills to adequately communicate this.

Posted by Not about community pride
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Our chief did create a big problem with her gaffe and people are not trusting that racial profiling won't happen. There are a number of issues at hand, and of course people have the right to march for or against something they believe in. People keep trying to make this into an us versus them issue, but it's really not. Her gaffe has nothing to do with Obama, with other town's crime rates, etc. It has to do with her messing up, publicly. She needs to be better than that, more skilled, more professional, more intelligent.

I truly hope this march goes peacefully, with a large turnout. There is at least one Palo Alto church involved in the march, and I think that's excellent.

Posted by Crystal
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 6, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Not about community pride -

I beg to differ. it has everything to do with the privileged and under privileged. that's where Obama comes in, the same spread the wealth mentality.

Posted by TiredOfThis
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 1:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by To TiredOfThis
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 6, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Maybe I'm missing something, but how is the EPA mayor making PA's decisions? How are PA's leader throwing themselves on a different bandwagon?

What are you doing to deal with your disgust? Have you contact your civic leaders? Are they involved in the march?

Posted by molehill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2008 at 1:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by TiredOfThis
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Charleston resident: of course I have taken the proper steps to let our City leaders know what I personally feel.

How is the EPA mayor calling the shots here? You call screeching for an apology, then a firing then a March on Palo Alto NOT calling the shots? Have YOU seen anything definitive happening from our City leaders except to also slam on Johnson? Have you seen them take any strong measures to stop all of this? I can tell you what they will do, they will allow the Chief to be hung in effigy as a peace offering to that Mayor that started all of this. Then they will proudly hand her head on a Silver Platter to all those who are running with this and hope that is the end of that. Next they will institute some ridiculous panel or some such, to make sure such shameful things never happen again. You know, to make sure that human beings won't be human beings and make mistakes.

Posted by To TiredOfThis
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 6, 2008 at 4:28 pm

So how have the leaders of Palo Alto responded to your comments about how you feel about all of this? Did you send email, make phone calls?

What strong measures would you like them to take - to prevent a march that they have no legal right to stop? To allow the police chief to continue to publicly advocate racial profiling?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Regardless of what the Police Chief said, didn't say, meant to say... it is clearly open season in Palo Alto and the criminals are not afraid. And now everyone has to be particularly careful who the consider suspicious!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2008 at 5:15 pm

And in the meantime, there has been another daytime mugging.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:21 pm

As a Palo Alto resident and the parent of an African-American teenage son, I can tell you that he is stopped 3-5 times a week and told to 'go home where you belong.' This is assumed to be East Palo Alto. His cousin visiting from Oakland was made to produce identification and my phone number and address to prove he 'belonged' long enough to walk to the grocery store on an errand for me. One of our son's African-American friends in middle school, sitting on the sidewalk in front of his own house in S PA, was confronted by the Police and told to go back inside the house because he was scaring a neighbor who had called in to report 'a suspicious-looking person who doesn't belong here.' A PA policeman who befriended our family after one of the bogus reports on our child, and is incidentally white, strongly recommended we move out of town because of the climate here. A teacher who left the area did so after the 3rd time in one week she was stopped by the police while riding her bike to work; this after she was handed a mop and told where to clean up on her first day of teaching.

African-American boys in Palo Alto in our experience are assumed guilty until proven innocent. And when, like and with their white friends, they're all up to something - like firecrackers in middle school and smoking in high school, then the African-American kid is invariably singled out and given the harsher 'sentence:' expulsion when others are suspended, suspensions when the white friends are given a warning. We have a long way to go, as this discussion demonstrates, and it's made harder because we think we're already 'past all that.'

That said, buglaries by any one are wrong, and should be stopped, and descriptions should not omit anything that will enable identification. The problem is using any identifying characteristic to generalize to suspicion of a whole group, so that anyone in that group can depend on getting stopped several times a week, and assumed to be guilty unless he can prove his innocence.

Posted by joan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Helen Stevens
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Everyone spouting their racist comments and saying things like "the march could turn into a riot, the police better have horses" is, I noticed, not willing to sign their own name. Hmmm...could that be because you are afraid to be labeled the racists that you are?
Shocking that these attitudes persist in this time and place.

Posted by sophie
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 6, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Helen Stevens

You have obviously never been mugged or raped by these thugs.

Those who have need to remain anonymous, do you agree?

If not why not?

Posted by Hero
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 6, 2008 at 9:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by joe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 6, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Where is the presence of the elected leadership (Mayor and City Council) in this crime wave mess? There has been no statements, no action plan, nothing. What kind of jokers do we have running the city here.

Posted by Worked in PD before
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2008 at 12:22 am

Wow, back to the crimes... please Do be aware, and get as good a description as possible. Noting the most remarkable features - be it sex, hair length, skin color, height, clothing, vehicle color, model, or movement (limping, aged, youth) - would be MOST helpful to apprehend the criminals.

If the description was only of a 5'8" tall man, seems quite a lot of MEN would be stopped! Anyone fitting the description until a better one comes up ought to be stopped for identification. Cooperation with those who serve to protect would behoove us to help apprehend the criminals. Isn't that what we want to happen?

Blacks / African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Indians generally ARE featured similarly in their race groups (Blacks - dark-skinned, dark-haired; Asians - black haired, medium-skinned, eye shape; HIspanics and Indians - dark-skinned, dark haired). Not many blond, red, or brunettes in these groups unless it's a dye-job!

It isn't surprising when a description can fit several people of the same race. That , in a sense and unfortunately for Whites, makes distinguishing Whites / Caucasians more specifically as suspects (variety of noticeable hair and eye colors). A description of the suspects isn't racial profiling. Any deaf person can see that.

As for the blame game, get off it. We don't have time for finger-pointing. Working Cooperatively, not Combatively, would benefit us all. It'd also cost less, and engender a more pleasant community.


Posted by joe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2008 at 12:38 am

Maybe Hero has a point. Wonder if we can borrow some of the Los Gatos police? As a youth, those guys really knew how to demonstrate a presence in the community and kick some ass out of the neighborhood when indicated. Notice that it is PA, and not LG, that is in the San Jose Mercury News as having a crime wave!

Posted by august Juhl
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 7, 2008 at 8:27 am

The county and the city are making it difficult to get a copy of the traffic study, on the Oregon Express Way project. It's public record, can you help.
We are concerned about the safety of all the students in the area.
Thank you,

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2008 at 8:50 am

My son, in middle school at present, has had a couple of African American friends since early elementary days. They are good friends and have been to each other's homes, played on sports teams, hung out together at the park, and are buddies. I know the parents, know where the kids live, wave to them if I see them on their bikes, and they are part of the community. These boys are growing quickly and probably look older than they actually are, but they are definitely known in the community and to their neighbors. My advice to our African American friends who live here would be to make sure you know your neighbors and continue to be seen in the neighborhood.

I would find it hard to descibe an African American male, not because they "all look the same" but because there is little that can be said to differentiate them. But when you know an African American as a friend or neighbor, then it is very easy to identify them even if you can't find the words to describe them as being different to any other.

At times like these, it is imperative to know our neighbors, get used to seeing those that come to their homes frequently whether it be house cleaners or relatives. And I say this to all of us regardless of our race or where we live. The only way to see someone who doesn't appear to fit into the neighborhood is because we really know who does belong. The FBI looking into counterfeit money don't spend all their time looking at counterfeit money to see what is wrong with it, they look at real money and know it so well that they can spot a forgery easily. If we know our neighborhood residents and their visitors really well, it would be much easier to spot someone who doesn't belong.

It is now time to be the nosey neighbors for the right reasons.

Posted by PA Faithful
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

Racial profiling is obviously wrong and I don't think any cops should be pulling over what appear to be law abiding black citizens for any reason, that to me is completely wrong. If there are people of any race driving around in a beat up or lowered car with loud music and four guys sitting low, it would make sense to look at them a little more closely, running their plate or what have you. Those characters fit the profile of a troublemakers. Not that they all are, but many times this is the case. Drugs and violence tend to be part of the package and the police have every right to check them out in our neighborhoods.

Posted by surprised
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2008 at 11:33 am

Wow, I have lived in Palo Alto for 21 years and have always believed it to be a special place. Not because the houses are expensive and the people can afford new cars but because of the non-visible values that somehow filled the neighborhoods in the area - values like intelligence. love of knowledge, caring, and openmindedness.
The narrow minded, fearful comments I am reading are sad and reflect poorly on the individuals making them.
Sure we all want to be safe, but name calling and hateful comments aren't going to do that!

Posted by Cal Ave Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2008 at 11:38 am

I put PAPD on the speed-dial of my cell phone and call them ANYTIME I see one of those sketchy afro-american or white wannabe-an-afro types in my neighborhood. There is simply no reason for them to be in Palo Alto proper. God knows that those scumbags can't afford to live here anyway.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 7, 2008 at 4:25 pm

I have a story for "Parent" who says we should know who belongs in our neighborhood. And if you see something "questionable" - action stations.
A problem - sometimes there are visitors who ARE legitimate. You really can't totally know everything and everyone and it is a free world and we do have the right to traverse the streets of all the local cities.
My story: I am a Palo Alto resident and my daughter associates with students in various cities. Some months ago I parked my car in a upscale Saratoga residential street because I was waiting to pick up my daughter (who would be returning with a group driven by a mother -- all students in the Arts--) Within one minute I had a scare myself because a man approached me in my car and spoke to me VERY harshly and suspiciously -- what was I doing there??? Note: this is when I had a slightly older car. Not sure if that made a difference. I believe it did. So - we are judged by whether we drive a Mercedes SUV or Beemer or not (I don't).
Anyway, I was horrified and embarrassed to have to "explain" my very presence sitting in a car waiting to pick up a child who had been in a carpool situation. You see, the man did not recognize me. I felt humiliated and also had a shock because, after all, maybe the MAN could have been a bad guy approaching my car. My heart was pounding. I sort of get the way some African-Americans may feel when inquires are made about them. Moral of the story: you can't rush to judge people.

Posted by palo alto transplant
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 7, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Wow, just wow. I cannot believe I live amongst racists. Wow, just wow.

Posted by Hm
a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 7, 2008 at 10:11 pm

I am staggered by the amount of posts that the Free Speech Nazi's have removed from this forum. If you post a left wing elitist view, you are ok. If you have ANY other opinion, you are a fascist, racist and altogether bad person. At least that is according to the last six posts or so. Oh, AND the Palo Alto weekly staff!

Posted by To Surprised
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Someone has been living a sheltered life...
Values like non-visible values like intelligence, love of knowledge, caring, and open-mindedness are still present in Palo Alto. Unfortunately, these values have been largely replaced by greed, fear, political correctness (aka tyranny with manners) and a my way or the highway attitude. Are things better in Palo Alto now than they were 25 years ago?

The sad truth is that people in the Bay Area really do not like each other, and do not like outsiders. They have different ways of defining 'outsider', but usually a people fall under suspicion if they are in an area other than their own neighborhood for no apparent reason. Sometimes that suspicion is justified, sometimes it is not.

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