Palo Alto police released a sketch Tuesday of a bike-riding purse snatcher who they said committed two crimes in the span of 15 minutes downtown on Jan. 29.
The incidents happened just before 7 p.m. In the first case, the man allegedly stole a purse from a woman who was dining at an outdoor table on the 400 block of University Ave. Police said the victim, a woman in her 60s, was having a meal and had placed her purse under the table.
Police said the man walked up to her, said, "Excuse me," reached down, grabbed her purse and ran eastbound on University Avenue. He then jumped on a dark bicycle and rode away.
One passerby heard the victim calling out for help and tried to give chase on foot, police said. The person saw the bike-riding purse snatcher ride eastbound on Lytton Avenue from Cowper Street.
Shortly after this incident, police received a call reporting an attempted strong-arm robbery that had occurred at around 6:45 p.m. at a bus stop on Quarry Road near Palo Road. The victim in this case was also a woman in her 60s. The bike-riding thief approached her at the bus stop and tried to take the purse off her shoulder as he rode by. She held on, and after a brief struggle, the man rode away westbound on Quarry Road. Police say he was seen heading south toward Palm Drive.
Neither of the victims was injured.
Victims described the thief as possibly white, Hispanic or Asian and in his late teens or early 20s, between 6 feet and 6 feet 3 inches in height, with a thin build. He was described as clean shaven and wearing a black jacket, blue jeans and possibly a white hat.
Police said there haven't been any recent crimes in Palo Alto involving suspects with this description. The most recent unsolved purse-snatch case occurred on the afternoon of Sept. 28, 2013, on the 500 block of Middlefield Road.
Since the release of the sketch, there have been no new details on the investigation, police said.
Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call the department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent to 650-383-8984.