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Man robs woman of backpack Saturday evening in Palo Alto

Original post made on Nov 17, 2008

A woman walking alone in the 600 block of Webster Street in downtown Palo Alto at 6 p.m. Saturday was pushed to the ground by an assailant as he pulled a backpack from her shoulders and ran off with it eastbound on Forest Avenue, Police Agent Dan Ryan said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 17, 2008, 8:58 AM

Comments (24)

Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2008 at 9:33 am

If all these robberies were committed by one person, then racial profiling is not the answer. The police have a very specific description and they should focus on that, not an entire race of people.

Posted by stop
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2008 at 9:57 am

how about we stop with the racial profiling comments. it wastes internet space. plus, if anyone REALLY listened to the chiefs comments they would realize she just didnt properly accentuate that the SUSPECT DESCRIPTION was of an african american male... therefore, it is not that the police will be looking out for black men. they will be looking out for people who MATCH THE DESCRIPTION. get over it!

Posted by Greg D
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2008 at 10:13 am

Yeah, they should stop with profiling, and start randomly arresting elderly Asian grandmothers. It works for TSA and airport searches.

Posted by YouShouldKnow
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2008 at 11:01 am

STOP: Thank you for the impeccable logic. That this is about a suspect description and not an attack on 'an entire race'.

I heard a few comments around town this weekend that no one's been hurt, let 'em have your stuff, what's the huge fuss about. Think about that. There have been older people targeted. What if someone becomes so frightened they have a heart attack? Or if someone resists or fights back? This situation is fluid people, be very careful and stop walking alone if at ALL possible. Ride a bicycle if you can.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2008 at 11:05 am

Seriously. Time to get the Guardian Angels.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 17, 2008 at 11:09 am

This description fits VERY well a guy I passed a couple weeks ago. Corner of Lytton and Alma. I was wearing a fanny pack and he seemed to be deciding if I was "fair prey" as he stared at the pack. Clothes, age, description all match.

This guy must be "working" the downtown area Univ/Alma/Train Station to the creek.

Profile, Shmoefile....

You locate the guy, have a decoy on the ready to be deployed. Catch him in the act.

Posted by Joan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2008 at 11:21 am

I have been feeling for some time that it would be smart to have some police decoys around to try to entice this guy. Almost a year ago my husband was "mugged" by two people while walking in a very nice residential neighbor near our home. He was knocked down from behind and his wallet was pulled from him. He has had a stroke and was a perfect target in many ways. Let's bring this to a stop if possible before someone is truly harmed.

Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm

I'm starting to feel like the cliche, a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. I have been in that very same area where the woman was knocked down many Saturdays at approximately the same time. There but for fortune, etc. I agree with the others who are suggesting a decoy. If police are expected to completely ignore the race of the persons who have committed these robberies, then it seems we're tying the hands of the people paid to protect us.

Posted by madmom
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Get female decoys with backpacks who can beat the daylights out of him. I am female and now fear going down University Ave. after 4pm. The chief was right all along.

Posted by Chief Was Right
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2008 at 1:26 pm

This is what happens when we make a fuss and a march over the Chief of Police doing her job. As I suspsected, these guys now have a free pass. I say "have at it" Let the people get what they asked for. Maybe next time they will keep their mouths shut.

Posted by very1silent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 17, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Sylvia: I don't think there's any serious proposal to have the police ignore skin color completely. People ARE asking that the police use a full-blown description to decide whether who they're going to stop. Seeing as the police have a not only a description, but a sketch of a fellow who appears to be responsible for 1/3 of the recent muggings, they're in a very good position to stop this suspect, while leaving others alone.

That's not too much to ask.

Posted by wait
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2008 at 1:42 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by jp
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm

maybe if we walk backwards we can protect ourselves from the thieves running up behind us and knocking us down.

Posted by one of the victims
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2008 at 8:30 pm

To those who think it is just a minor property offense: Consider the implications, just from a property point of view: (1) he knows where you live, since he has your driver's license, so you get to re-key your house immediately, because he also has your house key; (2) he has your car key(s), so you get to pay your car dealer for re-setting your car(s); (3) he has your driver's license, so you get to stand in line at DMV; (4) he has your work ID, so your office has to be notified to deactivate your access cards; (5) he may have other IDs which will force you to re-set your profile on various websites so that he cannot back into further details of your identity; (6) you have to take some days off work so that your replacement credit cards can be delivered and signed for personally, and so that you can stand in line at DMV to start over. Afer that (it's been a couple of months), you can be very fearful for yourself and your family. All this is not nothing, even though it was a "mere" property offense. Also please note that your house insurance won't pay for your out-of-pockets, because on inquiry you will find that you had a deductible. But the FAR BIGGER POINT IS THIS: the folks who could do this because we have no police patrol could also shove you into their car and take off with you for whatever nefarious purpose. Once lawlessnes begins, and defenselessness is demonstrated, things are not likely to get better. We do need more effective policing. We also need much better street lighting. And while this problem is hard to deal with since the offenses have occurred in various locations, it is hard for me to understand why I see no police presence, evening after evening, at Palo Alto main station. The station is not brightly lit, there can be a good walk to a vehicle, and the crowd thins out rapidly. Where in blazes are the cops? Last: as has already been demonstrated, some of the victims have been physically harmed, and this too, can be expected to continue until the perps are caught. It really isn't just a property crime.

Posted by anon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 17, 2008 at 8:42 pm

The cops are hiding and not doing squat because of the negative publicity the chief and their department are getting. The media and other citizens portray palo alto pd as racist based on a comment that the chief made. There is a big uproar in palo alto because of what the chief said, not because of the violent robberies that are occuring. When a cop does his or her job and conducts proactive pedestrian and vehicle enforcement stops, he or she is automatically deemed a racist because of the publicity. The Police are handcuffed by the citizens of palo alto.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2008 at 12:43 am

and where is the city council? so quick to jump on the chief for her comments, so silent when crime happens. They want to talk about "banning plastic bags", yet what about following up with the victim? Do they even think about what environment they fostering?

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 18, 2008 at 3:15 am

"we have no police patrol" ?


"The cops are hiding and not doing squat because of the negative publicity the chief and their department are getting."

This is ridiculous spin on the situation. IF the police were to decide to just hide, hang out at the donut shop and hope more muggings occurred, etc., that would be a serious dereliction of anything resembling professional responsibility!

I don't believe this is happening with the police. But if it was, it would be a reason to summarily fire the whole lot. NOT a reason for quasi celebration. Imagine if you were in a hospital and doctors/nurses/therapists all decided that they'd just sit in the break room while you decompensated---all because some family member of yours acted inappropriately and pissed them off.

Further, imagine that the police see a man who fits this mugger's description to a that neighborhood. Does anyone think that the police really wouldn't stop that person? But, even if they did stop him (assuming he is the mugger) what would he say..."gee officer I was just getting ready to mug someone but you have scared me---I'll have to go setup mugger shop some other place now". ?

I can't believe the overt racism I see expressed on these pages. Many people actually think black people should be profiled by default, even if there were to be zero crime for 10 years. Many people seem to think that the police have been handcuffed by the recent mild issue.

There are predators and there are predators. Right wingers are just using this to forment a "the police sky is falling" for their own warped agenda and perspective---politically preying on the situation with a warped spin. If they have allies in the police dept. they should be identified and gotten rid of.

But we shouldn't be surprised. I predict that outright racism will now become fashionable in circles, with the range going the social vertical scale. After Obama's win, with the national demographics changing, their only chance of getting in power again (short of paying Al Queda to attack) will be to use racism as a reason to overty and covertly deny voting rights.

Posted by Andy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2008 at 9:19 am

Not to fear monger, but rather a touch of reality - to those who keep viewing this as only an assault on property. I suggest you re-read the news articles. More than one of these incidents has involved physical assault on the victims - "beating and kicking", baseball bat to the head (this person was taken to Stanford Hospital), and so forth.

Posted by Once Again
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:05 am

The police chief was called on the carpet for advocating racial profiling because not all the suspects in these cases are black, but she only focused on the black suspects, for no good reason. If she had good reason, she should've stated that she had good reason, even if she couldn't give more detail.

These robberies are dangerous, because people are getting hurt. Decoys would be a great idea. It's expensive, time-consuming and difficult using decoys because there's no guarantee they work - and maybe the police already ARE using them. The police certainly aren't telling the public everything, and they shouldn't have to - these are open investigations.

Posted by Jenny
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:48 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 18, 2008 at 12:07 pm

It's so scarey that we can't feel safe in our neighborhoods. I miss my walks when I can't find someone to accompany me. How I miss the good ole days.

Posted by Resident of Ramona St
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I saw a man of this description in a old grey American car without headlights on (or not working) circling the block of Ramona/Channing/Addison/Bryant on Friday 11/14/2008 right after the sun went down. He did it three times.

I live on that block, and obviously he was out of place, and unless is was super lost; he was up to not good.

Posted by anon
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2008 at 2:31 pm


Did you report that suspicious person to the police? If so and they stopped him, there would be an outcry because people would say he was racially profiled just like the albert hopkins case.

Posted by BeThatOne
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Stop the nonsense! Let the police officers do their job! So that everybody can feel that this person or persons doing injury to people can be caught. Nobody on this earth is perfect. Why is it always a race,(thang) issue? Theres good and bad people in all races. United we stand, divided we fall.
Oh yes, I'm not from Africa, I was born in America, so I am a Black American.

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