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Wave of robberies raises concerns in Palo Alto

Original post made on Dec 22, 2010

Palo Alto police are investigating a string of 14 robberies that have occurred around the city since late September -- the largest crime wave the city has seen in more than two years.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 22, 2010, 3:44 PM

Comments (49)

Posted by Paul
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Hmmm... if you look at the numbers in the attached chart, it doesn't really look like much of a spike. Not statistically significant, seems to me.

Posted by yoyoma
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2010 at 5:47 pm

christmas presents ain't cheap!

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 10:50 pm

PAPD are working another robbery right now. Black male snatched a purse. They are sending out an area wide BOL.

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm

In the Greedmeadow neighborhood, near El Capitan and Charleston.

Posted by matthew
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Incredibly inane story and analysis. Taking their data as baseline, you'd get "crime sprees" this extreme or worse (due to randomness) in about 13% of three month intervals.

For yearly data, running numbers is an utter waste of time. Look at the numbers... 47, 34, 47, 41, 31, 36... does 36 jump out at you!?!

That said, I'm glad they're investigating crimes!

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2010 at 2:27 am

What kind of robberies are these? I guess I'm most concerned about the robberies I have read about recently where someone is walking on the street and someone pulls over and pulls a weapon on them and steals their money or possessions.

I never heard of this before in Palo Alto, although the comments here make it sound like it happens all the time ... about once a week. How is robbery defined in that chart, and are we measuring what we think we are?

I am not sure what concerns me more, if this is a spike or if it has been a normal trend? If there is a long history of this, what is in common. Hate to say it, but do the perpetrators have anything in common and how about the MO?

I don't need to feel insecure as I walk or ride around in Palo Alto, and we should be able to figure out something to cut down on this.

Posted by Lucky Numbers
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Dec 23, 2010 at 7:00 am

Posted by matthew, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, 7 hours ago

Incredibly inane story and analysis. Taking their data as baseline, you'd get "crime sprees" this extreme or worse (due to randomness) in about 13% of three month intervals.

For yearly data, running numbers is an utter waste of time. Look at the numbers... 47, 34, 47, 41, 31, 36... does 36 jump out at you!?!

That said, I'm glad they're investigating crimes!


Thanks, Matthew ill sure to use these numbers for my next lottery!

Posted by Tired of Palo Alto Negatude
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 23, 2010 at 10:54 am

ok folks, I've had it and now I am going to let you have it. What is really important here? The fact that the police are responding to people's concerns and are taking these recent robberies seriously, or that you now have some fodder so that you can MOCK whatever analysis has taken place. Honestly!! We can run in circles and get analysis paralysis, or they can arrest people (which they have done).

Keep things in perspective. The title is "Wave of robberies raises concerns in Palo Alto". The poor PA online, and the PA police, they always seem damned if they do, AND damned if they don't, there is always something to criticize, the spelling, the timing, the stats, are they responding, are they not, etc, etc.

It appears that every other article of importance contains some nonsensical angle, criticizing others while clearly showing off that bloggers prowress on whatever the topic is. Many PA residents wo post have clearly lost perspective on the article's point and start critiquing some other angle that usually has little importance to the story. How sad, perhaps a sign of too much time on your hands?

Has anyone considered why we are often referred to as "Shallow Alto?"

Anyway, Hoorah for PA online, Hoorah for the police and firefighters and all others who try to keep things in perspective and for the rest of us...chill

Posted by Thank you
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2010 at 11:17 am

Thank you PA online for the news. Please keep the information coming. And thank YOU PAPD for investigating these crimes. It's appreciated that PAPD is taking things seriously and making the streets of Palo Alto safe for their citizens.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

Dear Tired - great screen name and you're spot on with your comments. "Negatude" - outstanding!

Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

Actually, as a 36 year resident of Palo Alto, what's going on IS a spike in crime, and these crimes are more serious than usual.

I hope PAPD has the funds available for OT staffing so we can have a more visible police presence. People always think, until it happens to them, that getting held up is the loss of something material. It is not just that, there's also a loss of a sense of personal safety and trust in others. An event that can cause PTSD. These crimes, in that sense, are not like breaking a car window and stealing a laptop. They are close up, and personal.

I hope they catch every one of the creeps and give them the maximum sentence. Tired of people getting victimized by entitled fools.

Posted by life's too short
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 23, 2010 at 11:53 am

Hurray, "Mr Tired"! Thank you! My thoughts too, and I am glad you expressed them. I had decided to stop reading these negative comments, as so many were uninformed and of little enlightenment whatsoever; just an ego satisfaction, I guess.

Posted by Web Cam Advocate
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

This recent series of robberies is part of a recurring situation. It is important to arrest these predators quickly. It is also important to dissuade criminals from choosing victims in Palo Alto.

Perhaps the best way to do that is to set up video cams on major roads throughout the city. Let everyone know: if you commit a crime, we will be able to track you before and after the fact, and we will find you so quickly that you won't even be able to commit a second crime here.

The city budget is busted -- can we afford this? Of course we can. The cost to saturate the city with hundreds of web cams will be on the order of $1M. And the manpower for doing the tracking and analysis? Free. There are thousands of highly trained retired people in Palo Alto, many of whom would be thrilled to use the video recordings to help police track down criminals.

Let's get these cams installed quickly, before the next "crime wave" strikes us.

Posted by Dr. W
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm

This 'wave' coincides with the increasing wage/income/wealth gap in the United States. Let's look in the mirror first, friends. Shop less, give more!

Posted by Culture of criticism
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Thankyou Tired-of- Negatude. I could not agree more. Sometimes I wonder why PA Online staff even bother showing up for work, when so many Palo Altans already know everything?
Sadly, I don't know everything, and perhaps that's why I appreciate the PAOL writers and editors so much.

Posted by givitup
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm

but ''police'' still stop people who arent ''black'' but are certainly not ''white''. meaning, they still stop anyone who looks ''different'' even though they dont in any way match the description. still going on folks. doesent matter that there are also white criminals. you will still get styopped because they want to easily criminalize people.

Posted by danos
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm

The people who are committing the recent spate of crimes are not "white". Therefore it makes sense for the police to focus their attention on people who match that description. How could anyone reasonably argue that it *doesn't* make sense?

Posted by matthew
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm

In my earlier short post, I criticized any characterization of this "wave" as something abnormal. That's a factual point, and I stand by it 100%. There was also a moral point, namely appreciation that the police are taking these crimes seriously and working to eliminate them.

I understand it may take an ounce of subtlety, but please consider for a moment that these two sentiments may not be self-contradictory.

Posted by Cynthia
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I think more video cameras is a great idea. I think if as many as robbers as possible get caught, maybe the word will spread that it's not o.k. to do this to innocent people. Thank God everyone came out safe.

Posted by Joey
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 23, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Why isn't the weekly writing about ANOTHER ROBBERY - WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN GREENMEADOW??

Web Link

Yes, another robbery...

Posted by Marv
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 23, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Interesting, all the suspects/criminals are black.

I'll keep crossing to the opposite side of the street. I'd rather be safe than politically-correct.

Posted by Pro-Racial Profiling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2010 at 12:06 am

Face, it, there is only a small population of African-Americans living in Palo Alto. If I see one running down the street in street clothes (not running apparel), I am going to be suspicious.

Posted by Agreed
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 24, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Negatude for mayor.

Posted by Happening all over
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 25, 2010 at 3:04 am

This is not only occurring in Palo Alto.

I had my purse stolen in the library in Bothell, Washington.

I reported this to the police. The Bothell police told me that it happens every week!

I took my eyes off the purse for less the 60 seconds because I had a toddler who wandered to the other side of the stacks to look for preschool movies.

I received a call from the post office informing me that someone had dropped my old coach purse into a mail box. I lost my credit card, cell phone, and all my cash. I went to the Bothell post office to collect my purse and WA drivers license.

My credit card company, and cell phone company immediately canceled service.

We must all be vigilant and carry small amounts of cash, one credit card, and buy a purse with a strap around it.

BTW - Due to the demographics in WA, the perps were likely white.

Posted by Pro-Racial Profiling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 25, 2010 at 11:58 am

Last night, Christmas Eve, I saw two African-American youths walking on Louis Rd. around 9:30. They wore dark clothes and one wore a dark colored baseball cap. A leisurely walk for some fresh air? Why weren't they with family on Christmas Eve, evening? They fit the description of the recent robbers so I reported it to the police. People should be pro-active and call the police when they see something that just doesn't look right.

Posted by Condi
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Does Condi Rice live in Palo Alto now? I wonder if she's gotten roughed up by racial profiling cops or vigilantes yet?

Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2010 at 11:11 am

If Paul's comment is right and the spike is not statistically significant, than why overreact? On the other hand, if it is statistically significant, I would argue that we should expect more and more robberies as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Trickle-Down, Laugher-Curve, maybe you rich guys should start paying your fair share of taxes. Not that we're overly republican around here, but if you're rich, it would behoove you to use some of that money to affect changes in Washington D.C. to get the rich to pay their fair share of taxes so we can help people instead of effectively turning them into criminals. You get what you pay for.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Rather than these robberies being caused by the need of the perpetrators to feed, clothe and house their families, I believe the drug problem is the real cause. I don't think we have the type of poverty that causes people to steal in the Bay Area. I do think we have a drugs and gangs problem which causes crime.

If we as a society and the police in particular could get a handle on dealing with drugs and gangs, I feel that crime would diminish also.

It is a cause and effect situation. The crime is only the effect of a subculture of problems. Get the subculture dealt with first and the secondary reward would be lower (petty) crime rates.

Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Thank you Tired, I agree as well. However, I suspect the recent 'wave' of trollish negative comments are the work of a few folks, like 'Matthew', who for some reason think it very important to straighten out anyone who might see things differently from them. Also, I'm afraid the perpetrators of these recent crimes are protected from being caught by the strange rule we have in Palo Alto that you can't use the description of a perpetrator to narrow down your list of suspects. Since the police are required to question only people who do not fit the description, any non-white perpetrators are safe to do what ever they wish.

Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:39 am


Are you serious that you would blame drugs on anything? Drugs are things anybody can get and take, and nothing has nor will change that. We're adults, we do what we feel like doing. That's ok with me as long as I'm not affected. You come along and tell me how to live? Think again.

Posted by A generous heart is a blessing on us all
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 11:52 am

Dear Resident,

You don't think we have enough poverty in this area to cause people to resort to criminal behavior? Please look at the number of children who qualify for the federal school lunch program in our very own PAUSD. Then check EPA. Second Harvest is having trouble providing enough FOOD to meet demand from hungry people affected by the economic downturn.

I hope that those of us who have been blessed with plenty (meaning those who have enough to eat, not just those able to afford a BMW for Christmas) will share in proportion to what we have been given.

'Tis the open our hearts and share fully with others.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Observer - your comments are so inaccurate that they're silly. Of course the cops are looking for people who match the suspect(s) description. That is not illegal at all. Racial profiling is the problem, a problem that of course the cops always find ways to work around. Why the media are now more PC is a bit of a puzzle. Is it because they now have a policy not to contribute to racial profiling by givign out suspect descriptions? However, suspect descriptions do still get reported - it's pretty confusing. I wish the media, such as PA Online, would clarify their policy.

Where I live we watch peoples' behavior rather than their ethnicity because we live in an area that actually has true diversity, unlike much of your town. It's freeing to be able to pay attention to behavior rather than race, gender or ethnicity.

If I still lived in PA, I'd be paying attention to what thin black males were up to, especially at night. That's not racist, it's paying attention.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Alex and Generous Heart

Since you have both been getting at me about my position on drugs and gangs leading to crime, rather than hunger, I will address my comments to you.

If hunger were the cause of crime we would be finding food and money being stolen. If the criminals were just hungry people, they would not be going for goods which they then have a problem with as they need to transfer these goods into food. I also doubt hungry people wanting to obtain money for food would target the elderly but instead try to obtain cash or food from stores which sell food or have easy access to cash.

I have volunteered with food banks and shelters. The people here are often very grateful and very honest, not usually the criminal type. They are more likely to beg or offer to work for money rather than try to steal. I am not saying that they are all like this, but the ones I have met don't strike me as those that would threaten violence in return for what they can get from someone.

On the other hand, those that are in debt to drug traffickers and are scared for their lives, are in need of their next "fix", or mix with gangs and other low lives, are the ones to be concerned about. They strike me as the type without scruples who would do their utmost to come up with cash or goods to keep their lifestyle going.

There are gangs in many areas around here, Redwood City, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Mountain View as well as across the Bay. They are attracted to Palo Alto for many reasons to commit their crimes.

An improvement in the economy, in my opinion, will not do a thing to improve crime statistics.

Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Don't tell me to 'give' more....I give plenty. I just prefer to give voluntarily.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Generous Heart

As for kids on free/reduced school lunches, take a good look at these families. They often have parents who smoke, drink, and are able to afford many "luxuries". I don't think you can generalise that the parents of these kids are likely to be our criminals here.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Resident - I agree w/you. There *is* hunger in EPA & East Menlo. I have seen it. I live in EPA, have done volunteer work here for many years & I have worked in EPA. All these things give me different but overlapping perspectives. The hunger, overall, isn't as bad as it is for people in more remote locations who can't access transportation to food closets, etc. But if it wasn't for places like Second Harvest & Ecumenical Hunger Program, we'd see a lot more hunger, but we are truly lucky that so many people care so much for others that they donate generously & are well organized w/their distribution. It's always the older folks & the kids who have less control over getting food.

The people who are stealing are more likely to be drug users and/or just lack ethics & are greedy & don't care enough about societal boundaries & pacts, so they commit crimes that can lead to serious injury or death.

It's wonderful that you contribute & I hope that you continue to do so. All of us who feel connected to others, no matter what our differences, donate money, food or other useful goods. We are compelled to help fill in the gaps & help others. I think a different awareness & attitude needs to be taken w/someone who trespasses & threatens innocent people. None of us want to be prey, so we have to be alert & identify potential predators & take precautions.

Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Bravo "Tired of Palo Alto Negatude"

Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Dear Hm, I tried to understand your post, but I can't understand it. Are you aware that we had a police chief who was fired for asking the officers to question people who fit the description of a perpetrator? In trying to find someone who has been robbing people here in town, if the police are required to 'observe' everyone's behavior instead of using the witness or victim's description of the perpetrator, the task of arresting the perpetrator becomes impossible. I look like any number of people in this town, but if the police spend their time observing all those who look like me, not only will they be quite bored, but they will never witness any crime worthy of an arrest.

Posted by East Haven
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Racial profiling worked in this Connecticut city (Associated Press report): Web Link

Posted by To "Happening all over"
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Yes, Observer, I am well aware w/what happened w/your former lame-o chief.

There is a big difference between cops racial profiling & individuals being aware of suspect description so they can stay safe.

My point re my neighborhood was that since I live in a truly diverse area, the way to stay safe is to observe behavior, not ethnicity. It's probably different where you live. The cops are not supposed to profile based on race but on suspect description, which includes race, but suspect descriptions can be more than racially based. Have you read up on racial profiling & law enforcement? If not, you may want to.

The failure of your former chief to *also* state publicly that the cops were going to look for the white suspect was one of the nails in her professional coffin. She also didn't say that her officers would "question people who fit the description." She said something to the effect that she'd have them stop every black man. Big difference between what she said & how you described it. Again, she also said nothing about the white suspect, who wasn't exactly behaving like a nice guy.

In many ways, non-sworn citizens have more freedom than sworn peace officers w/re to how we act upon our suspicions. Since this current bad guy is black & you may not have a lot of black males in your neighborhood, it will serve you to keep your eyes open & be cautious if you see a black guy - especially at night. In my neighborhood, the black guys I see are just going about their business - according to their behavior, which is what I judge them on. After awhile here, I notice less about ethnicity & more about behavior because I live in an area filled w/multiple ethnicities.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 9:14 pm


I think the previous chief actually mentioned not just the color of the suspect's skin but what he was wearing on his head when she said that she should stop all black men wearing doo rags. To me, that is a fairly distinct type of description. Most African Americans have black hair, but a caucasian can have blond, red, auburn, brunette, etc. hair so an African American with black hair is not very distinct.

I think a description of a particular individual has to take into account that most descriptions pertaining to African Americans, Latinos and Asians means that hair color is going to be black or gray, unless we are talking about an elderly person where there may be some graying. A caucasian on the other hand can be identified by hair color as well as skin color.

Age is another factor. Build and height is slightly more difficult to gauge as the witness' own height will affect their opinion. Likewise with build, stocky, skinny, well built, fat, overweight, are all relative to the individual witness' perception of what the various words mean.

Try describing yourself as a witness may see you and then ask several others to describe you in similar style. It is an interesting exercise to see just what you could be described as from one person to another.

a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I am 40 years old... lived here my ENTIRE LIFE. Grew up with the Shallow Alto Attitude and am now raising 3 WONDERFUL AFRICAN AMERICAN SONS WHO GO TO PALY HIGH!!!


I'm so sick of you shallow, selfish minded people. I live on a legal secretary's salary and STILL GIVE BACK. Will give my last dime. WHAT ABOUT YOU????

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

It's a crying shame that in this day and age I'm constantly teaching them about B.S. like this! You try being a minority... it's not easy!!

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Profile THis!
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 28, 2010 at 12:18 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Pro-Racial Profiling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Profile This
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Profile this - I totally understand your desire to protect your sons and I have to say that to a person, every African American child I have met in the school district is a nice kid. The boys on the Paly football team - black, white, or any other ethnic group - were just that, a team. They worked hard, supported each other and accomplished a lot. That said, kids (and adults) of any race will be judged on their appearance and clothing, minorities even more so than white. It is unfortunate.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Sounds to me like PROFILE THIS makes a lot of sense from her perspective. I must be awful - scary, insulting & disrespectful - to read comments that are racially based when her kids might fit the general description of the suspect. I'm very sorry she has to deal with this.

Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Why would one grow up in Palo Alto and choose to raise children here if they were not happy here? Perhaps move to another city instead of mothering with anger, which cannot be good for the children and transfering the chip on the shoulder to them. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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