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Cyclist robbed at gunpoint near Town & Country Village

Original post made on Jul 25, 2012

Palo Alto police said they are investigating an armed robbery that took place Tuesday around 10:30 p.m. on the bicycle path behind Town & Country Village. As the victim bicycled home from work, he was confronted by a man holding a black handgun who demanded the contents of his pockets, police said in a statement issued late Wednesday, July 25.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 6:29 PM

Comments (38)

Posted by steve, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:17 pm

That path has become increasingly sketchy over the past two years. During the afternoon there seem to be at least a half dozen characters just camped out blocking the bike path. (offering to sell things...) At night there are homeless people sleeping on the trail with their shopping carts full of stuff pushed off to the side. I wish the PA police would patrol that area more frequently.

Posted by Carole, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Bums are slowly taking over our town. As a woman, I feel scared. Why is our City Council turning a blind eye?

Posted by Ben, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm

The police have go to do something. Send an undercover in there on a bike, this is pretty bad when some dude brandishes a gun! Sounds like a scene from "Dirty Harry" when Clint is in that tunnel with the bag full of money, but folks this is real life. Come on Palo Alto police, clean this up before it gets really bad.

Posted by member, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I usually see what appear to be drug dealers when I ride by there, especially when school is in season. I don't really understand why PAPD or the school is unable to do anything about it. there is one guy in particular who has been there for years and also apparently sells in lytton plaza. but lately there have been campers with shopping carts and folding chairs set up blocking the path and I've also seen a relatively new man - a thin, twitchy nervous looking guy, that gave me the creeps when I rode past. I've seen standing by himself and walking with one of the long-time apparent drug dealers.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I have never ridden around there - so I have no particular knowledge - this is scary to hear of a criminal brandishing a gun while robbing someone in a sort of isolated spot yet a transit area - I wonder if anyone can ask some PALY students about what they have seen there - and if it really is like what some are saying (consistently, not just a one-off thing) then there ought to be a significant police effort to make this area safe- it's a bike path!!!

Posted by Bike, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I always bike there with my daughter to town & country & TJ during day times. I seen homeless but haven't seen anybody selling things. I hope it's still safe to use this bike path.

Posted by lights, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm

How well lit is this path at 10:30pm? Bike paths need to be at least as well lit as city streets even after midnight. Poorly lit bike paths just mean that the city isn't taking bicycling seriously. 10:30pm is not that late, especially for people biking home after dinner (either as a restaurant worker or a restaurant customer). Good street lights do greatly deter street crime by reducing the ability of crooks to hide in the dark and surprise their victim.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2012 at 9:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I am so glad the cyclist is safe. Sorry for your experience.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Unfortunately, the city council has cut the police budget to where it's mostly responds to calls, rather than active patroling. They decided things like the compost study, having an assistant to the city manager for sustainability, a tree coordinator, etc, etc. are higher priority.

I remember 15 years ago there used to be police who would patrol, for example downtown on bikes. If you look at the staffing level per shift, they pretty much are responding to calls.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm

This happened last night, Tuesday, and we're just finding this out tonight - Wednesday?
Something's wrong here.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 26, 2012 at 7:38 am

> This happened last night, Tuesday, and we're just finding
> this out tonight - Wednesday?

This is an interesting point. Last night (Wednesday, July 25, 2012 10:32 PM), the Police sent out an email claiming:

Officers and detectives from the Palo Alto Police Department are actively investigating this crime. A suspect sketch is forthcoming and will be sent out in a separate release, likely on the morning of July 26.

Presumably the police would like to do some preliminary investigation before reporting to the public, but since there are a number of people claiming that there are "unsavory" people frequenting this area, perhaps issuing some sort of notification to the public about this area's being less-than-safe after dark would be better than suppressing the information for several days.

This situation brings into focus several issues that confront us, as we go forward into an increasingly "wired world". For instance, several people have suggested that there might be "drug dealers" operating near the school. So, have these people posting on this blog reported their suspicions to the police? There is now an on-line web-page (or at least there has been previously) to report information to the police. Sadly, there still is no easy way to take pictures of suspicious activities and email those to the City web-site. You can, of course, send picture attachments via email, but this can be tedious, and clearly not as straightforward as having doing it from your phone. With the likely appearance of "wearable computers" (like Google's Glass), there will come a time when people will have the ability to stream fairly high quality video into the "cloud" wherever they are. The police will then have access to actual pictures of criminals, rather than sketches. Pooling these pictures, at least at the regional level, would help to identify these thugs. But that requires a commitment to use this new technology, and to share information among local agencies.

There is also Twitter, which provides an easy way to offer links to web-pages, where additional information about a situation can be provided. The Police have recently started "Tweeting", but not on a regular basis. Since "Tweeting" is extremely easy—the Police just need type a line or two, and that's all it takes.

And there are a couple of "tip lines", which should be used to help the police learn about areas of concern to residents.

It would also seem like a good idea to post sketches on the Police web-site. Generally they go out to the local papers, and are forgotten a day or two later. Having them on-line, for an extended period of time, requires very little in terms of City resources, and makes this information available to the public for more than 72 hours.

All-in-all, there are huge gaps in the police service delivery model in the "Internet Age". There are so many possibilities that are not even being discussed that would help to disseminate information, and over time, help to reduce certain kinds of crimes. We, the citizens and business owners of Palo Alto, need to become more vocal about the need for more technology use at City Hall.

Posted by Ralph, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:31 am

You can't have it all....I want more police, but less business in Palo Alto. If you want increased services, accept what comes along with it. City Council, City Council, City you really think that these people run for City Council just so they can plot how to make the city less safe, really?

More Police = More Cost
More Cost = More Revenues
More Revenues = .....I think you know the answer

Posted by downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:45 am

There are some pretty unsavory types hanging out in the daytime on Encina, from whatever that hideous building is across from the car wash.

I was accosted while in my car leaving PAMF by 2 women, standing in the middle of the street who screamrd at me because I wanted them to move so I could get to El Camino. They were blocking the street. Lots of shopping carts there too.

What is that place? Is it a residence/halfway house for derelicts & addicts? Maybe that's where the robber went?

Posted by James, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

I love Palo Alto

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

Thankfully the bicyclist wasn't hurt, but I am truly sorry to hear about this. My kids ride their bikes at all hours, so I want to know that they're safe.

Palo Alto Police, For years I keep hearing about this spot -- directly across from the high school -- is a well known drug dealing venue. Why if everyone seems to know about it has nothing been done to stop it?

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2012 at 11:17 am

Not in the least surprised to read of this attack. Not too long ago I started down that path one night, saw a bunch of young fellows hanging about and altered my course, taking a less direct route home. That pathway is great for car-free cycling, but it is remote despite being in the middle of town. Being serious about promoting PTODs should include doing all that we can to assure that it is safe to bike and walk in this town b/c if it isn't, people will drive.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

Could we be getting such a lackluster response from the police because they really want us all to feel threatened by guns in order to eventually remove guns from people's rights? Don't want to get into the gun control thing because it very well could have been a fake gun which will still be possible when or if gun control laws were passed.

I am no lover or member of the NRA, and do not own a gun myself, but I have thought about it because I read about the regularity of this kind of event in Palo Alto now.

I feel like others that this is intolerable. When I feel like I cannot walk or bike in my own hometown without feeling like I am going to be held up or have my life threatened, I think it's time for Palo Alto to do something, even if it is just to talk or get together, or even whine - we need to know that all of us want something done - demand something done.

The nerve of these thugs.

Posted by Roger, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2012 at 11:49 am

How can you expect City Council to give a rat's patootie about crime prevention when they are fully consumed and investing in maligning our streets like California, Arastradero...get with the program!

Posted by Use gun, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Are we allowed to use our gun to defend ourself at robbery?

Posted by John Murphy, a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Yet another argument for making our streets safe to ride on.

Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Why bother investigating? Our police department is handcuffed by political correctness. God forbid they go looking for someone matching that person's description and wearing that clothing, they will lose their jobs. I lived near that bike path for YEARS and have known more than one person, including my kids, who has been confronted, flashed or chased. We didn't bother to report. There's no use.

Posted by iamhmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

It's such a relief that the victim wasn't injured.

I've walked in that area w/big dogs & noticed some shady looking people. I wasn't hassled due to the dogs, I suspect.

Good point, John Murphy - but it's also because of the natural barrier of the tracks & the limitations of El Camino for cyclists.

Posted by peacemaker, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Since this area is also where the two fires were set is it not time to take action? Paly sustained expensive damage. This is a well known hang out for students to both purchase and use drugs during school hours. Time to set up parent vigilante group to patrol here. I am willing. Any other takers?

Posted by Two cents, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

All those for a more proactive approach from the police need to realize their staffing has been cut. There are very few officers on the street. At night, there are only 6 officers on duty and they have to go to a million differrent types of calls. There is no hidden agenda of them not wanting to investigate. They just don't have the staffing to do much.

Posted by Don G., a resident of Community Center
on Jul 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm

"There are some pretty unsavory types hanging out in the daytime on Encina, from whatever that hideous building is across from the car wash.

I was accosted while in my car leaving PAMF by 2 women, standing in the middle of the street who screamrd at me because I wanted them to move so I could get to El Camino. They were blocking the street. Lots of shopping carts there too.

What is that place? Is it a residence/halfway house for derelicts & addicts?"

That is the Opportunity Center. I've had my car vandalized while I was in it near Town and Country and tracked them to that building. Police called...nothing happened and nobody aprehended.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

The fact is that if there is a gunman prowling around this area very close to one of our highschools, the police must start being proactive against anyone hanging around there, for whatever reason.

Do we need to have one of schoolkids being shot on their way home from an afterschool activity before the police start acting?

Posted by palymom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I rode my bike to Caltrain daily during the school year and the path was blocked once by adults drinking beeer at around 4pm. I went of path a bit to get by. Palo Alto wants us to get out of our cars. I'm doing my part. But as a woman I get scared at this section just after Town & C.

Posted by Wait a second..., a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I wonder if this case has anything to do with the same suspects that robbed the gentleman who lives at the Opportunity Center that got robbed for $25k worth of jewelry?
Times must be rough.
Im just sayin!

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm

@palymom Just curious, did you call the police and report the people drinking in public and blocking the path?

Posted by skokoie, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm

beware cops are stepping up harassment and threats to non whites. we have lawyers ready to give info about cops. we know some friends of local cops. so we have info on cops extracurricular behavior and we will pass on this news to the right people.

Posted by Mimi Wolf, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm

This bike path is creepy even in broad daylight, I would never take this route after dark. Surrounded by fence, the cyclist is trapped - an easy target. Illumination will not deter predators. A camera mounted to the helmet is one way to identify harrassment. Thankfully this cyclist escaped uninjured. This will happen again, with likely a fatal outcome. Cyclists/pedestrians BEWARE of this path.

Posted by bike with dogs, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 27, 2012 at 8:49 am

I am a woman and pass through there regularly on my bike with my big dogs, though not at that time of night. I agree that the lighting issue should be addressed. A well-trained dog can serve an important function as deterrence or protection. Due to the proximity to Paly, the police should keep a better eye on this stretch. I know they are usually very busy, but writing tickets is not the be all and end all of a police force. If I know about the sketchy folks there, why don't they? There are only a few sketchy areas in town so it would be simple to address them.

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2012 at 10:05 am

Where exactly is this path? Is it on private property, or public property?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

Wondering - it runs alongside CalTrain tracks; it's a paved path for pedestrians & cyclists.

The area discussed is from behind Town & Country to past Encina Ave - which is there the robber ran. Encina runs perpendicular to & intersects w/this path & El Camino. It's also the side street on the north side of Town & Country, so many people enter & exit from Encina to T&C. The Opportunity Center is on Encina,some other businesses & part of PAMF. So it's a pretty busy area.

Posted by MJ, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Same type of "derelicts" or unsavory people will be in town once the council OK's the marijuana dispensaries. The dispensaries, like the OC, are out of sight, out of mind for most us residents (brought this on ourselves) until something like this happens, then we wonder how and why the police didn't stop it in the first place. Look in the mirror..... And please spare me the righteousness arguement in favor of the dispensaries in PA to save the drive to San Jose.

Posted by just thinkin', a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm

For those saying bike paths need to be as well lit as city streets, try walking down Alma south of Homer after sunset. It gets even worse past Page Mill/Oregon. The trees block the ligts from hitting the sidewalk except in patches, and just as your eye adjust to the gloom, a north bound vehicle goes by with bright lights, killing your night vision.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

When it rains I carry an umbrella. When it's dark I carry a flashlite.

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