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Palo Alto police outline assault on crime wave

Original post made on Jan 20, 2011

A string of 20 robberies in Palo Alto neighborhoods is among the most serious some officers have seen in their careers because the robbers are using guns, police officials said during a community meeting where they described their response to the crimes Wednesday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 20, 2011, 1:39 AM

Comments (50)

Posted by Joe
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2011 at 6:03 am

"The city's residents "have a moral duty" to help the struggling community gain stable economic ground. Palo Alto must help build foundations for the future, he said.

"If not, they're going to spend a lot of money on crime prevention,"


Is this a threat to Palo Altans?
The first step in improving communities like East Palo Alto needs to come from the residents themselves. I commend EPA residents for coming to the meeting in Palo Alto, but lets not start threatening each other...

Posted by Not a Threat
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2011 at 7:24 am


There's a difference between a warning and a threat. The gentleman from EPA was making a pretty sound prediction. However, to expect "well-heeled Palo Alto" to take up the economic slack is just a trifle unrealistic. Suppose we poured millions into that city--would crime cease? Would kids stop entering school at 5 years old woefully behind in skills? Would drug users miraculously become drug free, productive citizens?

I don't think so...

Posted by What about the rapes?
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:12 am

No mention at all of the string of rape attempts in the western part of the city? I'm more worried about those than home burglaries.

Posted by Get an alarm
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:31 am

The only advice from Chief Burns is to get a dog?

Posted by Kris
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:44 am

I think the city must invest more in electronic surveillance (without getting creepy). Cameras are cheap. Having cameras at intersections should allow the police to track down criminals and make arrests.

Posted by homegirl
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:49 am

No, that's not his only advice. He just said that's what he did.
A dog is a good deterrent, if it barks. If someone is hiding in the bushes of your driveway, how long do you think they are going to stick around with a barking dog alerting neighbors something is lurking?
Just use common sense. There are people out there everywhere that want your stuff. It's not just Palo Alto. And lose your false sense of security. If you think PAPD is going to be there like your Mommy was every time you were scared, you have some growing up to do...

Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2011 at 9:19 am

Completely agree with Joe and don't appreciate belng make to feel responsibile for EPA's troubles. Palo Alto has been an exceptional neighbor to them and, as Joe said, they need to take charge of their own lives - read to their kids, get involved to know what their own communities are doing, etc. No amount of our money can ever impact them, unless they start within themselves. By now, there should be plenty within their own communities that know what to do...start doing it.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Kudos to the PA Police for establishing the dialog and doing what they can to serve us so well.

Posted by Palo Alto rapists
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

As far as I know, all the suspects in the recent rapes have been white men. Sketches of the suspects have been printed in the Weekly.

Posted by Facts-Not-Slogans-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2011 at 10:13 am

> The lack of jobs among young men who are out of work
> (East Palo Alto has a 20 percent unemployment rate) has
> pushed some to crime, he said.

Maybe, but EPA has had a crime problem for a long time now. The following data is being directly from a local web site that deals with real estate questions, which sometimes involve local crime rates:

Web Link

East Palo Alto is a lot better these days than it used to be, though it does have it's problems still, and did get some press due to that crackdown on the "taliban" gang.

East Palo Alto murder rate per 100k residents:

2008 - 14.9/100k (5 murders, pop. 33,513)
2007 - 21.1/100k (7 murders, pop. 32,532)
2006 - 18.4/100k (6 murders, pop. 33,210)


1992 - 172.7/100k (the year EPA was dubbed the nation's "murder capitol." 42 murders, pop. 24,322)
1991 - 83.5/100k (20 murders, pop. 23,939)
1990 - 93.8/100k (22 murders, pop. 23,451)

As of 2007 East Palo Alto wasn't even in the top 5 highest violent crime rates for the Bay Area:

1. Oakland - 1,917.8
2. Richmond - 1,190.6
3. San Francisco - 1,037.1
4. San Pablo - 1,008.3
5. Vallejo - 932.7
6. Antioch - 843.4
7. El Cerrito - 786.2
8. East Palo Alto - 785.9
9. San Leandro - 703.2
10. Union City - 643.6

Compare that with EPA's high of 2,787.6 violent crimes per 100k residents in 1992. The violent crime rate was well over 3 times higher back then.

> Moral obligation to help ..

And what can Palo Alto do? Back in 1990, Palo Alto gave EPA some of its police to patrol the streets, when the murders were going through the roof. It's so far back that most people probably don't remember it. Moreover, it was never clear how many EPA residents approved of the PA police on "their" streets.

Palo Alto is currently spending over $10M a year educating about 600 EPA children. Education is the basis of any healthy society. This program has been going on for a while. Maybe it's time to evaluate the results of the program and see if education is really the key to "fixing" EPA.

Decent societies ultimately are built on the backs of decent people.

Posted by Facts-Not-Slogans-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2011 at 10:22 am

There does not seem to be much in this article about crime "spill over" from EPA. Did the PA Police talk about this last night?

Seems that not too long ago there was a significant gang operating in EPA --
East Palo Alto's TALIBAN GANG Raided.
At least 30 members arrested by FBI & Police.:

Web Link

Have all of these gang members been convicted and shipped off to prison, or did they "lawyer up" and return to the streets to continue their "way of life"?

From reading this article, one gets the feeling that the Palo Alto police are seeing this more of a Palo Alto problem than a Bay Area problem. The article mentions that the PA Police are "talking" to other departments, but what about the local police building a data base of open and closed robbery cases, and then start looking for patterns/similarities? Or is that beyond "talking" ..

Posted by Chris
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

Installing surveillance cameras came up. Chief Burns said that discussion should take place after things calm down, because there are considerations that should not be dismissed in the heat of the moment. Tough call, but I agree. Gives me visions of eventual takeover by the TSA. Note there are already thousands of surveillance cameras in the city, e.g. at least a dozen cameras stare down at the various approaches to the El Camino / Page Mill intersection, though with insufficient resolution (as far as I know) to make out license plates or individuals. Detectives do look through "footage" from bank ATMs or other sources in the vicinity of a crime. I assume it would be legal to record the street with ones own security camera installed under the eaves.

Posted by concernedcitizen
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

Well there are a number of very interesting ideas floating around up there and I appreciate people's perspectives.

It is true that we are all people living in close proximity to one another, so the problems that affect our neighbors are likely to affect us, as well. I work with East Palo Alto children in a school. They are exceptional young people and their parents are hard-working, dedicated, and strong. For every incident of dysfunction I see among my school community, I have seen similar dysfunction among the more "well-heeled," including substance abuse, unsafe behavior, and disrespect.

I don't think that Palo Alto is responsible for the lives and well-being of those in other "neighborhoods," but I am glad that the PAPD is conscientious enough to work collaboratively with other communities. Personally, I do put energy, every day, into increasing the likelihood that a child who is struggling will succeed nonetheless. We make a huge difference through education, opportunities, and the constant message that people have value, no matter where they are from or how they look.

For those of you who want to decrease the threat of crime, consider giving one hour a week to an act of kindness. Read to kids at the library. Donate to buy a van for a struggling school, so they can take kids on field trips to places like Stanford. Volunteer to tutor a kid or help with college applications. Donate your time to a shelter, soup kitchen, something. Don't just sit back among the comforts of your blessings and assume that the worlds ills won't touch you. Do what you can.

Posted by concernedcitizen
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:14 am

One last note. Reading carefully, I just want to point out that the perpetrators of the robberies, and those under suspicion, are from a variety of communities, including Redwood City and Menlo Park. It is important to be discerning about such things. East Palo Alto is not the only community that struggles and is certainly not responsible for all of the crime that we experience in this local area.

Posted by Blondie
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:26 am

One question I wished I had asked is how many of the recent robberies and burglaries can be connected to drugs. My theory is that those who are committing these crimes are stealing in order to pay for drug/alcohol habits, etc. - not for food and rent.

Posted by Facts-Not-Slogans-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:36 am

The article does not mention if the police provided any data on the trends of crime here in Palo Alto over the immediate past. The data is available on the PA Police web site --

Palo Alto 5-Year Trends in Part I Crimes:
Web Link

The Weekly article mentions that one office said that the trends were down, but this is a well-known fact (or at least it should be). These trends have shown up all over the country.

What the police generally don't say is why these trends go up or down. One clear indicator for crime is the number of young men in the 17-27 year age bracket. Clear links have been established between these numbers and crime. It might be interesting to have someone in the thousands upon thousands of Bay Area government employees actual try to correlate the demographics of Bay Area population, and the crime rates.

> My theory is that those who are committing these
> crimes are stealing in order to pay for drug/alcohol habits

Excellent point. One can only wonder why the Police Chief didn't share this sort of information with the public, based on why the police have learned from interrogations of those arrested so far.

Posted by danos
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm

PA Police Dept *maximum* staffing is 12 officers and 3 supervisors. In reality the number is much lower on each shift, with just a handful of officers actually out on patrol. Meanwhile, the Palo Alto Fire Dept has 30 members on duty each day, waiting in the station for calls to come in.

Does anyone else here see a mismatch in resource allocation? Given the valid concerns about crime, wouldn't it make sense for the city to have more patrol officers on duty per shift, and reduce the number of firefighters per shift?

Posted by Not a Threat
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Name withheld
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Wouldn't it be useful to install security lights around the homes which come on and shine brightly when someone or thing is within its range?

Being well aware of your surroundings and reporting any cars lurking with engines running (tail lights will be on or else those cars would be pulled over for vehicle malfunctions) and not turning in to your driveway if you see such a car seem good precautions.

Posted by Survallence cameras
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm

This would be a very productive way to go. The many cameras seen today on the various roads in PA are live only ( not being recorded ). Installing current technology, leveraging video archives and analytics, you could more quickly identify and arrest, reducing further robberies by taking current criminals off the street and deferring potential future criminal action by greatly reducing their chance for success.

The main issue preventing the use of this technology to make us all safer is the "big brother " concern. However, there are more details about each of us through our use of the internet and ATM / credit cards than you would get by being on video..

Posted by moved away
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I totally agree with the minority sentiment above: the EPA gentleman is simply stating the facts, not making a threat. you might wish it were a threat beause then you could easily get him to back down and everything would be fine in your world. the reality is much more complex. none of us is safe as long as any of us is suffering from hunger, drugs, poverty and/or disease. the complex reality - much more difficult than a threat - will require all of us to do exactly as concerned citizen states: do something. give a few hours a week and/or a few dollars and share our wealth and privilege. our family finally could no longer stand the smug self-satisfaction that is the majority sentiment on these pages and in the PA community where we lived for 25 years. we're now in a much more economically and ethnically diverse community and although we're wealthy and white, we breathe much more easily. oh, and we volunteer and give money - something, every day. oh, and some of the burglaries involve white kids. why wasn't this mentioned? maybe they can't catch them because they can't see white?

Posted by Name withheld
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I thought Survallence a spelling error but googling I found this: So perhaps this was a subtle

Vallance Security Systems has led the security industry with its drive to provide the most up to date security products available .....We will not only handle your Residential needs, .... from a customized Security System to Fire Alarms, Digital Video Recorders, Access Control, Cameras, ... Mechanical surveillance is costly and without property tax revenues to fund such local strategies, personal caution will have to be the first line of defense.

EPA residents don't have the luxury for such security systems, whether publicly or privately funded. The robbery rate in EPA is higher than here. The statistics of crime rates discussed above are concentrated in towns and cities with heavy unemployment, under-education, higher dropout rates and truancy from school, fewer stay-at-home parent-carers and generally less successful school programs.

I certainly didn't hear threat in the EPA speaker, but some realistic comments.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:42 pm

It bothers me that posters on this thread appear to be making the assumption that the perpetrators of the recent robberies must be coming from EPA. We have unemployed drug addicts and dishonest people in Palo Alto, too. We don't know where the robbers are coming from because they haven't been caught.

Let's focus on the positive. What can we (as individuals and as a community) do to support the PAPD effort to capture the criminals? What can we do to create a community where these types of events are less likely to occur?

Let's work toward those goals and not point fingers at our neighbors in EPA, most of whom are honest, hard-working people.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm

We need to distinguish carefully between criminal acts and the needs of "those in need" regardless of where they live.
If one is unemployed or hungry, there are numerous charities that can help fill the need. We are all sorry when the unemployment rate is high, but there are more legal, charitable, government resources in THIS country than you are likely to find anywhere else, so criticism ought to be lessened.
If one commits armed robbery, it is never justifiable in my book and the more likely explanation from what I gather is the desire for drugs and possessions to fence to get money.
From what I have read in the PA Weekly list of local recipient charities, there are a lot of charities specifically for EPA that try to help on all levels (many local citizens contribute to these charities, so reprimanding PA residents for various EPA woes seems way off the mark.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Here's an educational link about East Palo Alto history: Web Link

I wonder how many of those realtors were Palo Altans, wealthy pillars of the comminity, made wealthier at EPA's expense.

Posted by bill
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm

> We don't know where the robbers are coming from because they
> haven't been caught.

according to the police press release, they have been coming from east palo alto, menlo park and red wood city ..

eight people have been arrested so far .. and the police claim that it's quite possible that some of these people have been involved in more than one robbery. That makes a lot of sense.

the palo alto police also have decades of data from previous robberies, larcenies and car thefts (as well as do the police from surrounding cities). so, it would not be that big a deal to ask them to publish the cities where these sorts of criminals live.

this is something the newspapers could do too ..

> We have unemployed drug addicts and dishonest people
> in Palo Alto, too

well, how about giving us a source for this information, so we can verify that you are correct.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I'm glad that the meeting was held, but it sounds like it brought up a lot of questions. Those of us concerned about crime on the peninsula need to keep apprised, no matter where we live. My partner is on foot in PA all the time & it worries me when he's out after dark these days; he doesn't do the same here in EPA.

I am sorry that criminals feel ok to target PA; no one wants to feel like a sitting duck - it's a horrible feeling - I've been there.

Also, I understand Beasley's attitude, but he doesn't speak for everyone here. What the heck are you all supposed to do to "help" EPA? What, you're not busy enough? You're supposed to feel guilted into helping us? People who turn to crime in a bad economy, well, they're losers. People who need more money should get a 2nd job or a better paying job, or get other family members to contribute more. While I understand the truth of what Beasley said, it's also not a legit reason to be a thug. I have mixed feelings about asking PA to help EPA. It wasn't a threat at all, but still, it's a bit disingenuous. EPA also has to keep helping EPA, and/or get rid of the parasites. We can't constantly hold our hand out to our neighbors even if part of why we're in the mess is due to recent history. There area lot of sick people in EPA, sick because they are in denial about the kids they've raised & the threat they pose to all communities.

Also, to answer a question - from the criminal descriptions, my informed guess is that the criminals are here legally. Pacific Islanders & African Americans are rarely in the US illegally.

Please note that those under investigation also come from cities other than EPA. I am also guessing that they are related by family or other affiliation (in addition to being thugs) & that's one reason they live in various areas.

For those who have the time, money & inclination, getting a dog is a fabulous deterrent. That's why I've been able to live here relatively safely for so long. On the other hand, if I didn't have dogs, I'd have more freedom to leave...but for those who own in PA, a dog can truly help deter crime.

Posted by Hopeful
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I was at the meeting and the young man from EPA was not at all threatening. He seemed just to be stating a fact he hoped would not come to pass.

The root of crime, he was saying, has much to do with hopelessness. It is very hard to understand what that does to succeeding generations of people if you have not ever experienced it. Some exceptional individuals rise above it, but many others do not.

There was a wonderful program in EPA, the Parole Reentry Program, which took people getting out of prison and jail and provided them with food, shelter, access to drug rehab, computer-skills classes, counseling for sexual abuse and sometimes jobs. The program had a recidivism rate of 20 percent compared with the county and state programs, which had a 70 percent return-rate to prison.

East Palo Alto police have credited this and other programs with the huge reduction of crime in EPA.

EPA residents generously accepted this program in their community rather than ostracizing the felons. How many other communities would be so forward thinking? They realized that if people were simply paroled without any support, the result would be a predictable return to crime.

Parolees are released from prison without any real money, might not be welcome back into their families and therefore become homeless and might still have stresses such as child support, drug habits, untreated mental illness and hunger -- all without skills and jobs.

This program was dismantled in EPA when state funding ran out and was to be revitalized within the county, but that meant less access to parolees within East Palo Alto, who now had to travel to the county center rather than having something immediately available when they are in crisis. I don't know the program's current status.

While it's easy to say these folks made their own beds, the result of casting them to the wind is that we, the law-abiding people, become victims of this vicious cycle.

The young man was really saying that if kids and young men and women are given a chance at a future -- jobs training and better educational opportunities from the ground up -- more model citizens and less crime just could be the result.

Palo Alto has so many brilliant, creative people and much money. What would happen if a large, sustainable sum was given to the parolee program so that it had a permanent home in EPA and we could see the benefits over time?

If outreach and different levels of job training become serious investments in East Palo Alto, perhaps positive change will benefit both communities.

Ironically, both Palo Alto and EPA seem afflicted by the same sense of hopelessness, but fro different perspectives. EPA residents feel hopeless that they will ever have resources for meaningful change; Palo Altans seem hopeless that any amount of resources will ever change EPA.

The parole reentry program and others in EPA seem to be indicating there is reason for hope if resources are positioned where the most hopeless reside.

Posted by papas
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

thats the problem right there. if a black says there is going to be aproblem if somethings not adressed, its considered a ''threat'' thats PRECISELY why people put a gun to your head. you dont listen to thjeir please of social racial torture!!

Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Disappointing how some of the 'let's throw more money at it' crew has commented here. This crime problem is driven by a culture that is going to take many years to change.

For the short term it must become unproductive for them to pull this kind of thing here.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by woody
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Not a Threat
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2011 at 9:01 pm


Oh, yes. We here in the US definitely have "more legal, charitable, government resources in THIS country than you are likely to find anywhere else, so criticism ought to be lessened."

That's why the people who were dumped from the halfway houses in CA are now living under bridges in PA. Oh, and by the way, medical care here is free for all, not like for those turkeys living in European countries. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Mike - you don't get it. Part of why murders & shootings are down in EPA is due to community involvement, police/community organization partnerships & crackdowns on crime. But nevertheless, murdering each other here can still be profitable, dependng on shooter, victim & intent.

Instead of constantly whining about budget problems like "over there" where you & the rest of the folks w/plenty of money are, we're used to not having money in the city but got serious about controlling crime. I have never seen a chief get so actively involved in the community as Chief Davis. It's really been different from previous regimes - here & in other cities where I've lived - including Palo Alto.

It's always smart to export lucrative crime to places where people call 911 all the time (Really? 3rd highest 911 call ratein the area, but lower population than other cities? Embarrassing!) but criminals still get away - & have a reputation for doing so. Seriously, all the attaboys online aside, your dept. doesn't have the best rep for catching bad guys. Yes, there are smart, educated cops, but the dept. still hasn't come back from the bad morale under Johnson. Budget woes & PC culture also hamstring your dept. & I'm not privy to the other reasons why, but that's the way it is. It's not good because people need to be safer.

It is profitable for people here to shoot each other if they gain control over drugs, turf, etc., just as it's profitable to also export it. A lot of innocent people are effected by burglaries & robberies here, as well as other crimes. But honestly, few "innocents" get shot or killed.

But again, not everyone arrested or under investigation - or unapprehended for these violent crimes in PA is from EPA, so remember that. I also wonder where the white guy assaulting women is from? We'll only know if he gets caught. What's happening in PA is truly frightening & I hope the investigations pan out & lead to more arrests.

I also agree - throwing money at this vis-a-vis donations of time or money to EPA isn't the direct route to ridding PA of these crimes. For those interested in making donations and/or doing long-term work in EPA, there are plenty of successful, worthy organizations that would welcome the assistance. But really, these crimes are for the cops to solve - & it will likely take police cooperation w/multiple agencies, not just one department.

Posted by Not a Threat
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2011 at 7:14 am

Palo Alto Online Staff:

Why did you remove part of my last post? In what way was it inappropriate? Do you have a written policy governing your censorship? Or is it just the whim of whoever is on duty?

Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jan 21, 2011 at 10:47 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Web Link

Posted by Facts-Not-Slogans-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:18 am

> Part of why murders & shootings are down in EPA is due to community
> involvement, police/community organization partnerships
> & crackdowns on crime.

The crime "scene" in EPA frequently makes the news, but rarely in any detail. For instance, in 2009, there was a big "crackdown" on a gang called "The Taliban Gang":

Web Link

The ultimate total of arrests, based on state and federal warrants, is 42, officials reported.

Davis described the Taliban as "a gang of thugs" responsible for at least 237 crimes in the city in the last several years, including "murder, assaults, robbery, extortion and other felonies."

The Weekly article at the time carried claims of "237 crimes in the city", but there is no in-depth analysis to determine if there were other crimes committed by this gang "outside the city". So, was there any spillover from this gang into Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and other local communities, or were these totally "home boys"?

Before people start talking about the positive impact of "community involvement", they would have to factor in (or actually out) the impact of this gang's activities in EPA. Anybody ever done that?
And what about the vacuum this gang left when it was "taken down"? How many gangs are operating there now?

And the question posed earlier still stands .. "where are these people now, and what are they up to?"

BTW--if there has been a positive impact because of "community involvement" by the police then that deserves a "tip-o-the-hat" to those involved. The comments in this posting are only intended to try to keep the record straight.

Posted by Resident Pro Redevelopment
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm

East Palo Alto owes much of the reduction in crime not only to Chief Davis, but to Redevelopment. As I see it, Gov. Brown has his nerve proposing a budget that eliminates EPA RDA activities which have reduced blight, increased economic vitality and created jobs for local residents.

If the current economy is the challenge with people in Palo Alto getting robbed, just wait until local surrounding cities with redevelopment agencies shut down. Oh you ain't seen nothin yet!

East Palo Altans don't demand hand-outs, go around using drugs and shooting each other. We are good, honest, decent hard working people many of whom have never had the multi-generational opportunties that Palo Altans have. Those of us who crossed the overpass each day to get a better education have come back to our home community, bringing our advocacy and graduate degrees. Thankful to be able to make a difference in East Palo Alto.

All things being equal - East Palo Alto would be very much like Palo Alto, but certainly things are NOT equal! Knowing that and taking away your assumptions about your neighbors will allow you to do something great...make a difference. There are great people in Palo Alto, there are great people in East Palo Alto. Let's do something great.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm

"Poverty" is not an excuse to engage in violent crime.

During the Great Depression of the 30s, violent crime statistics were not nearly as rampant as it was during the height of the Roaring 20s. There is something wrong with a society that excuses (and almost condones) armed robbery just because some men "can't" find work.

The point? There is something wrong...and people are ignoring the obvious. WE live in a society where people are used to getting something for nothing. Our charity is no longer to teach men how to fish. Instead, out of the goodness of our politicians' hearts, we provide them with an endless supply of fish, bread, bait, housing, utilities, etc... The motivation to work is not as necessary as it once was. If men run out of fish (and the other freebies), they have already learned that it is easy to just take.

Of course, these are just a few of my passing thoughts.

I suggest that Palo Alta residents should call and report ANY suspicious behavior...or people who might be "out-of-place."

When we first moved here, my husband called the police because he saw a man rummaging behind our apartment complex. While we didn't know EVERYONE who lives in our complex, my husband didn't knew that this guy didn't live here. The guy was just oddly out-of-place...nervous...disheveled...carrying quite a few bags...and he was driving a new girl's bicycle.

My husband kept watching the man through the window...and debated whether or not to call the police. He thought that it might have just been someone looking for recyclables to sell. However, my husband decided to err on the side of caution and call the police. He explained to the police dispatcher that he had not seen anything illegal...and didn't know if he should even call. The police arrived within a few minutes...but after the man had already left.

A few minutes after that, my husband was called by the officer and asked to identify the man. The officer took my husband, and they identified the man. The police officer didn't say WHY the man was being arrested...but it was obvious that he was arrested for breaking the law (and it looked like they were photographing evidence). My husband was just asked to make a report about what he saw...and that was the last he heard of it.

I suggest that people in Palo Alto report ANYTHING suspicious or that looks out-of-place. This can include someone walking around your yard/driveway...rummaging around your apartment complex...or looking through all of the bicycles at the CalTrain station. The police know how to do their jobs. Just the sight of the police arriving to the scene is enough to prevent a potentially harmful situation from happening.

Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

I live in East Palo Alto. Some thoughts:

* A lot of long term Palo Alto residents still think of East Palo Alto as being the same place as it was 20 years ago. It isn't. There were 4 murders in EPA last year, down from 40+ in the early 90s.

* If you live in Palo Alto, an extremely affluent community located a short drive from less prosperous places like Mountain View, Redwood City, EPA, and Newark, your community is a target-rich for criminals living in other places.

* The vast majority of people living in EPA are working class who cook your food in restaurants, cut your grass, watch your kids. They would no more rob your house than you would rob theirs.

* There are easily identified groups in EPA which stand out as "bad elements." However, they are massively outnumbered by law abiding citizens who live in EPA for its convenient location, affordable housing, and Bay front location.

Posted by Facts-Not-Slogans-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

The following is from the FBI's online crime reporting data:

Year: 2009

East Palo Alto

Murders: 8
Rape: 17
Robbery: 157
Assault: 214
Property Crime: 915
Burglary: 415
Larceny-Theft: 298
Motor Vehicle Theft: 202
Arson: 0

Palo Alto

Murders: 1
Rape: 9
Robbery: 29
Assault: 69
Property Crime: 1666
Burglary: 267
Larceny-theft: 1350
Motor Vehicle Theft: 49
Arson: 33

(Remember, these are raw numbers, and need to be normalized in order to do meaningful comparisons. Given that East Palo Alto's population is about half that of Palo Alto's, doubling the EPA numbers before comparing them with Palo Alto's numbers should work.)

Normalized to 100K, the 2009 EPA murder rate is about 24 murders/100K population. While not the highest in the state, it still is nothing to crow about.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2011 at 10:08 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2011 at 11:00 am

There were 5 murders in EPA in 2008, 8 in 2009 and 4 in 2010. Is there more crime in EPA than Palo Alto? Absolutely. Is it a Wild West atmosphere where anything goes? Absolutely not. There are still challenges in EPA related to crime, but the trend lines are heading downword, and you are seeing distinctly different populations moving in, if the number of Googlers biking to work on the Bay Trail is any indication.

Posted by Not a Threat
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2011 at 11:45 am


Did anyone actually say that poverty is an "excuse" for violent crime? Or are you just setting up a "straw man" to demolish with your snide comments?

Some of us will argue that poverty, despite your lack of detail on your roaring 20s statistics, does contribute to crimes of many sorts. Some of us object to the facile solution that people in poverty should straighten up and immediately acquire all the wonderful traits of those who have always been comfortably well-off. Some of us might well object to your nasty little use of punctuation: men who "can't" find work. The unemployment rate is not a function of laziness or an entitled attitude, despite your attempts to imply that.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm

@ Not a Threat:

You wrote: "Did anyone actually say that poverty is an "excuse" for violent crime? Or are you just setting up a "straw man" to demolish with your snide comments?"

This is no attempt to build up a straw man. There is a REAL issue here. Crime is disproportionately high in East Palo Alto and, more obviously, within people who RESIDE in East Palo Alto. To claim that violent crime is motivated by poverty (as some ARE doing here) is a slap in the face to the millions of outstanding Americans who live at or just above the poverty level.

People who are out of work do not attack old ladies for their purses. Morally degenerate people do. For some reason, such individuals feel that it is easier to take what they did not earn by using a gun. I am raising the possibility that it has something to do with the influence of the entitlement mentality upon the decision-making ability of those who are given entitlements.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Crime is not just a side effect of the unemployed. Rampant unemployment is a side effect/function of late 20th Century easy entitlements. There is a decided lack of motivation for some to do for themselves and their families what our progressive society is already doing. As someone who has worked with low income and at risk minority families, I can tell you what I have seen firsthand.

But we digress.

The point? Poverty is NOT an excuse! Racism is not an excuse. Unemployment is not an excuse. There is no excuse for someone to hold up a gun and rob anyone.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Doubling crime numbers in EPA to compare to PA is not the thing to do. PA has much more commercial property, more businesses & more large companies than EPA. You can't really compare apples to oranges, so comparing EPA crime to PA crime isn't a good idea - it's a waste of time. However, what's true is that a lot of the people who commit crimes in EPA likely also thug is up in PA. But that is a whole other subject. I think what may be relevant is that the people being investigated live in EPA & some other named cities. What's also relevant is if they're working in concert, & if they're related. Figuring out affiliations is important.

There are always going to be scofflaws, thugs & predators that live off the hard work of others. All of us have to be vigilant to not become victims, whether we're mugged, scammed by fake fortune tellers, have our identity hijacked or are burglarized.

It's a big help that Mark Dinan has his facts straight. EPA has changed a lot & clearly has a way to go. The current economic climate will help shape it, & that is worrisome. It's also interesting that PA residents have microfocused on EPA in this thread. It's where I live, so it's important to me. But that microfocus leaves many PA residents somewhat blind. You have THAT many calls for police service but a lot of perpetrators uncaught? That's not good.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Nayeli, I think the point was that poverty is a big reason which contributes to crime. Obviously, if one has a well-developed conscience, one doesn't turn to crime when impoverished. Of course, many rich people commit crimes & behave as moral degenerates - you have plenty in your community who have done so, as do all wealthy communities. But your reference is to street crime, & instead of continually pointing the finger at EPA, why don't you ask the residents of the other communities where those arrested reside? Why don't you seriously study the subject, instead of thinking you have answers due to the work you've done & the conclusions you've drawn. Obviously, if you felt confident w/the conclusions you've drawn, you wouldn't be asking so many questions. Perhaps it's time for you to back off from your condemnation of EPA & really educate yourself about a complex subject.

My personal belief is that criminals commit crimes because, whatever *reasons* that they have (poverty, drug addiction, desperation), they also *want* to commit those crimes. And that's not just the referenced demographic - that's all criminals who have the intent to commit a crime. You have to care very little about others to rip people off, especially if you use a weapon. Clearly, that's the big difference between them, you & me - we care, they don't. Caring trumps all other demographics.

Posted by The Closer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2011 at 8:02 am

Time for a Police Chief with only Police Department duties on his or her plate!

Posted by Not a Threat
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Although you're almost totally wrong on every one of your points, you deserve credit for defending your spurious logic with such energy.
First, just as no one claimed there were "excuses" for violent crime, nobody claimed that there was no issue with the crime rates in East Palo Alto. There are clearly many issues. You have moved from the straw man fallacy to the shifting ground fallacy. Very agile indeed!
Hmmm has already pointed out the problems with your next points, except that I should add that it's no "slap in the face" to people in poverty to point out that poverty can be a contributing factor to the rise in crime.

Finally, you come back to this "excuse" business. You just can't stay away from the straw man technique, can you. Nobody that I know "excuses" crime. We should try to prevent crime. We should punish criminals, with appropriate penalties. We should do a much, much better job of educating people before they commit crimes, and after they have committed crimes. We should move away from blaming "entitlements" for unemployment, when essentially criminal misuse of the financial system was one of the major contributors to the mess we're in.
That's part of my answer to your question about how to help solve these problems, which was removed, I'm not entirely sure why.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm

@ Not a Threat:

Although you may fancy yourself to be quite "witty" with your insults, you're lack of points demonstrate that you have nothing important to add to this subject. I also think that YOU are the person guilty of a rather ridiculous (and quite pointless) straw man fallacy.

As a Hispanic female, I wouldn't DARE walk down some streets of East Palo Alto, Oakland or Richmond. If you are so "understanding" of the causes of violence, then I invite you to have your wife or daughter walk down the streets of East Palo Alto or Oakland while carrying a nice purse and listening to a shiny new iPod. If she feels any trepidation about this, should we blame it on cultural racism, profiling or her own understanding of criminal statistics?

I don't pretend to know the answers to why crime is so high in East Palo Alto or amongst certain demographics. However, I get upset when I hear people infuse a "reverse racism" when they assume that criminal activity has something intrinsically to do with race.

I am from a very large but extremely poor family. We immigrated (legally) to the United States while I was approaching my pre-teen years. As poor as we were, not one of my family members has ever been arrested. We didn't steal. We didn't smile at violence. We were taught better than that.

In fact, my parents refused to accept any government welfare handouts (other than free school lunches). My parents reasoned that they were meant for people who REALLY needed them -- even while we lived in a one bedroom travel trailer as we performed migrant work around the country.

Unfortunately, we have seen firsthand the "entitlement" attitude that was prevalent amongst our neighbors and friends. We knew people who believed the "class warfare" propaganda that is spread amongst the poor -- that the successful always make money on the backs of the poor. People who lived in the projects near our home always used to justify criminal activity (like theft) saying that it was permissible due to the idea that corporations are "evil" too.

One time, I asked my neighbor (who had stolen a bicycle from a worker at a Subway restaurant), "What does that person have to do with corporations?" His reply? "They are selling themselves to the company...and it is their fault that they didn't put a better lock on their bike." Within a week, this young man was arrested and spent the remainder of his youth in juvenile hall.

The "entitlement" society makes people think that they DESERVE things that they did not work for. If you have never been poor, then you have no idea how deeply prevalent this notion is amongst the poor. It is often ignored by the very people who think that they are helping.

Posted by Not a Threat
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm


Thanks for sharing your background and more personal reasons for your point of view. Your rhetoric makes you sound like a conservative far removed from the realities of life on the street;hence my scornful comments. Your last post gives a different picture. I taught in EPA, went to night meetings in the gardens, worked with hs kids who read at the 5th grade level, worked with kids out of Hillcrest and CYA (back when CYA wasn't quite so hard core.)

I think it's important to separate our notions of the causes of crime from the attitudes of the criminals. You know about the realities of life on the street. You have a strong moral upbringing, not part of every person's upbringing, rich, poor, or in-between. Few of us have a really clear picture of who we are and why we do the things we do. In the case of folks in the criminal justice system, their self-perception is almost always extremely limited.

I tend to listen to people who have worked out there in the streets day after day, not on a brief project, the in-n-out burger of the academic world. But they also need the rigorous training of logic, empirical observation, and the scientific method.

Not many of them about...but there are some.

Thanks again for your openness.

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