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Palo Alto resident finds woman rummaging through car

Original post made on Oct 2, 2012

Palo Alto police arrested a woman Monday morning after a resident found her rummaging through his car in the 500 block of Fulton Street. The woman, 30-year-old Abigail Lee of Santa Clara, was found with stolen property from three other victims in San Jose and Santa Clara.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 2, 2012, 12:28 PM

Comments (21)

Posted by randy albin, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm

maybe this could be a car that is occupied by a palo alto homeless individual. how do people explain to people who grew up in palo alto about the sky-high cost of living? no one in the schools taught that this kind of fate would be realized by native palo altans. how unfair. now where are all of the 1% people living and is there any trickling down?


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Randy - the resident found this woman going thru HIS car - not a homeless person's "personal residence".


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

The owner of the car left his keys in the ignition? Now that's really smart. I hope he wasn't a product of the PAUSD.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Daniel - the article doesn't say the owner left the keys in the ignition. She had 50 vehicle keys w/her. It's a common tactic to easily break in. I've had car keys which worked in another car. My old house key also used to open my office door.

I'm glad this parasitic thief was arrested.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The article doesn't state clearly if the car was open, or she used one of her many keys to gain entry.

Altough peripheral, the article doesn't mention how she got to Palo Alto? Did she drive, our get here via other means?

It's a little too soon to ask, but will the police document if her fingerprints were found at other South Bay robbery sites?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I have just read this article having come back with groceries. It took me three trips back and forth from my car to bring in these groceries and often I bring back more groceries. During this time, my car was not only unlocked, but the trunk was open. Apart from this, my car is always locked on my driveway.

This is scary.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Had her name been Annabel Lee, I would have expected her on Poe Street.


Posted by free, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 2, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Well at least they caught her and it is proof we do have a police department. We had someone go through our neighborhood last week, and go through the two cars parked in front of our house, but the thieves didn't take enough to make it worth the Palo Alto Police to come by and take a report, it is more convenient for residents to go to police station and fill out a report. They broke a neighbor's car window to get into their car the same night. I guess we should all be grateful that the police actually came. These are the petty crimes that the criminals are hoping we will all ignore and we won't do anything about. It is frustrating that most of the people caught doing these crimes, don't get punished. It's just ignored.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 3, 2012 at 12:58 am

Will a stand against the death penalty be interpreted by some that we are getting softer on crime? (I know that's a different thread, but is there a trickle down effect to lesser crimes like this one?)


Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 3, 2012 at 8:38 am

To Anonymous in Greenmeadow,

Petty street crime is indeed an unfortunate and troubling aspect of urban life, although it could certainly happen anywhere at anytime, even here in Palo Alto. I truly don't believe however that anyone, especially the police department, is hoping that we citizens will ignore these crimes so they don't have to do anything about it. In fact, especially in the case of violent or more serious crimes like house burglaries, the police actively solicit our support and implore us to be more aware and call in suspicious activity.

Our police department has a long standing policy that if a citizen calls in a suspicious person, or reports a potential crime occurring where the perpetrator has been seen, or is believed to still be in the area, the police will respond. No matter how minor the offense, the police will respond if the incident is in progress. That is why this woman was arrested. It involved a combination of an alert citizen who interrupted the crime, and the police responding to the call which was most definitely still in progress.

In the case of lesser of property crimes, like the car break-ins you mentioned, the police would not respond if by all indications the crime took place several hours ago and was considered cold. What drives the police response, at least in the case of less serious crimes, is whether or not the crime is in progress and a perpetrator is likely to still be in the vicinity. It has nothing to do with them being disinterested or not wishing to be bothered.

At one time, going back several years, our police department would indeed have officers respond to cold car break-in or petty vandalism cases that included no suspect information. From what I've learned about the policy change, the decision to limit the response was due to the very low statistical chance of gathering suspect information from a hands-on police investigation ie: fingerprints, physical evidence, etc. The reality of police work is nothing like we see on TV or in the movies. Additionally, budget cuts and the subsequent elimination of positions and specialized enforcement units have left the police department having to do much more priority work with much less personnel and resources. Many people don't realize that the department as a whole is operating with approximately 15-20% less staffing than they had even a decade ago. Bottom line, something has to give.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

Bravo Phil! Very well put.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

> What drives the police response ..

Well, that's nice.

But what about fingerprints? Do fingerprints evaporate after a few hours? Without fingerprints, there is really not a very easy way to link these sorts of crimes to criminals that eventually get caught.

Right now, there is really no good reporting in place for the actual number of property crimes in PA. Overheard a conversation in a public place recently where a man claims he came home and found some in his place. The perp fled. The man didn't mention calling the police during his rendition of the incident. Maybe he did, but there's every reason to believe he didn't. Why not? Well, if people get the impression that the cops are going to come, then what's the point?

Phil often makes a lot of claims about "long standing policies" of the Palo Alto Police. It's nice that he knows about this policies, but all of this information should be on the police web-site. Every one should have access to this information--not just friends of the police--like Phil.



Posted by Democracy is not a spectator sport, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Dear Wondering,

This information is publicly available to any citizen who bothers to read a city newspaper, read the city budget, or listen to city council meetings, or read staff reports, or talk with employees of the PAPD. You don't have to be a friend of the PAPD. I find them to be very open with information, and I'm just a regular citizen who attends meetings and asks questions.

Involvement in government used to be something citizens did more regularly. This information has been in the local papers. Is this blog your only source of "news"? If so, no wonder you feel uninformed.

You can find City Council agendas here Web Link Agendas and staff reports are posted weekly, usually on Thursday afternoon for the following Monday's meeting. Watch the agendas for issues that interest you. Be an active, informed, involved citizen. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Online blogs are not "news". Most of what is printed by commenters here is ill-formed opinion based on little fact. Be a good citizen. Do your homework. The information is public in all the forms it has always been available and more, but no one is going to spoon feed you.


Posted by sue, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm

How soon will she be out on bail or on OR? Do we get to pay for a public defender now?


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm

> This information is publicly available to any citizen who bothers
> to read a city newspaper, read the city budget, or listen to
> city council meetings, or read staff reports, or talk
> with employees of the PAPD

Really? You're really going to say something silly like this, in public?

Let's start with the "long standing policy about not coming to a robbery scene if it is "cold". Let's start with the notion of "cold". How long does it take for a scene to go "cold". Given that you have identified a number of sources where you claim this information can be found—please provide us with a few links.

Most of the police "policies" are codified in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The police have guarded these from public view. That little bit of information has popped up in the papers from time-to-time. Lynn Johnson was very adamant that the public had "no need to know" what was in those documents. She even went so far as to deny access to SOPs dealing with noise ordinance enforcement, if memory serves.

So—where in the list of documents that you've mention can one gain access to the SOPs that document the police policies that we all ultimately depend upon, in one way or another?



Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Since the SCOTUS ruling on Castle Rock vs Gonzales, the po-po DOESN'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT THIS SORT OF CRIME! They think that doing the job of protecting the citizens who pay them is way too hard. That is why you have to do their job in Palo Alto.

Out in the rest of Colorado, the ARMED CITIZEN ( Open carry is legal except in the Californicated cities like Boulder or Denver ) and licensed CCW gun owners do this police ( former ) job.

That is why there is almost NO burglars casing jobs in Colorado. The life expectancy of a burglar can be very short, so the easy pickings are in the disarmed cites of Boulder and the Denver area.

The Landmark Theater shootings were in a theater with NO WEAPONS ALLOWED. The Landmark Theater is being sued because THEY were supposed to keep their patrons safe; That was THEIR job.

Aurora is one of the East Palo Alto like cities; that was why the NO WEAPONS policy notices were posted in the first place.

The cops know this; it is part of the SOPs they have. How do I know this?

When I was living in Mtn. View, some of the great LEOs were on the P.A. beats.

In CO, I worked on several contract jobs that involved working with the lowest form of LEO: the JAILERS. You had to really fail a regular beat or P/R with regular citizens to be assigned to be a jailer. ( yes, the job is handed out as a punishment for a screw up ).

Since the jobs required personal contact, I got the inside look at what REALLY happens in the jails. Eyes and Ears open; mouth shut.

The really scary part: ALL the cop shops I worked in had the same POS.

The citizens will NEVER get these SOPs. A newspaper might, if they have clout. Maybe this paper will break that solid blue line.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

P.S. One of the jobs I worked on was with the " ankle bracelet " people at BI. Another was with the Jeffco Sheriff's Department. I had a working relationship with the sheriff BEFORE the Columbine incident.

I was almost offered a job in IT and the maintenance crew; I was given a walk through and the typical lunch from the ( inmate ) cafeteria.


Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm

No need to speculate about relationships Wondering, and I express my thoughts and opinions not out of a friendship with the police, but as an informed and concerned life long Palo Alto resident.

In the case of fingerprints, they can certainly diminish over time, but the reality is that only a very small percentage of property crimes like car break-ins would result in the capture of a useable fingerprint. The odds of obtaining such a print are slight at best. To utilize police resources and time on these type of cases would neither be efficient or wise, and would prevent officers from handling greater priorities. Additionally, the county crime lab and fingerprint analysis personnel, who are not employed by the police department, place non-violent property crime cases at the bottom of their priority list. Why? Because they are overwhelmed with the analysis and follow-up work on serious, violent crimes. Again, the reality of police work is not what you see on TV or in the movies. Unfortunately many of us in the public draw our opinions from what we see in those venues.

You also stated that the PAPD has a long standing policy of not responding to a robbery scene if it is considered cold. Absolutely not true, unless you have confused robbery with burglary. Why? Because robbery is considered a violent crime. It involves the taking of property from one person to another by means of "force or fear". The PAPD responds to and fully investigates all robbery cases even if late-reported by several days. The crime of burglary may occur at many different levels. It could involve a more serious offense like a house break-in, which the police investigate in every case by the way, all the way down to cold car break-ins, or even certain shoplifting cases. So if you're certain that the PAPD does not respond to robbery reports as you claim, then I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.

As for the issue of labeling a call or report as being "cold", from what I've learned the overall circumstances and suspected time elements dictate. For example, if someone walks out to their car in the morning and finds their car window smashed and property missing, what if anything took place to lead them to believe that this incident just took place. Did they see anyone suspicious running from the scene? Did they see a suspicious car speed away? Had they heard any glass breaking prior to discovering the break-in, etc. In these cases, I can assure you the police would have enough credible information to believe the case had a fairly recent time element and would respond. If common sense dictates that the break-in took place some time ago, and thereby considered cold, then I question whether or not direct police resources need to be utilized in a non-violent case that is unlikely to possess any useable evidence or chance of being solved. That is why it is so critical for our citizens to be alert and call in suspicious activity. That public support along with the police response is what leads to an arrest like in this case.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2012 at 6:27 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

FYI and to prove my point, here is the latest news out of Boulder, CO.

Web Link

Think of the burglar's life expectancy in any other place in Colorado outside the Denver-Boulder area..

Just think of how easy it would be on the PAPD if everyone was armed and allowed a CCW permit...

They might have to start investigating burglaries to justify their expensive lifestyle and existence...( we don't do burglaries, we don't protect and serve, the list goes on & on )


Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm

You might be a bit overly critical Punnisher. Arming citizens with concealed weapons permits would certainly lead to a lively debate, but to excuse the PAPD of living an expensive lifestyle, not investigating burglaries, and not protecting or serving is ludicrous.

First of all, the PAPD is in the lower third for pay as compared to the 16-18 similar size bay area police departments used as a benchmark for labor negotiations. I don't think anyone enters the police business to get rich, or as you put it, to live an expensive lifestyle. If that were the case everyone would be doing it. I would venture to say that most people wouldn't take on that job even if it paid triple what they actually make. I believe it takes a special person to be a police officer, and for the very best of them it's more of a calling than a career choice.

To suggest that the PAPD doesn't investigate burglaries is also false. They fully investigate all reports of residential or house burglaries. They fully investigate all reports of commercial burglaries. They fully investigate all reports of car burglaries, and for that matter any report of a property crime, even the lowest level, that is tied to any potential suspect information. Again, you make a blanket statement that is not true or accurate. The only burglary case that PAPD refers to a counter or self report would be in the case of a cold car break-in that has no suspect information attached.

You also accuse the PAPD of not protecting or serving. Again, that is an unjustified blanket statement that borders on being disrespectful at best. The department has made numerous high profile arrests in the past year alone for many serious, violent crimes. Not to mention the dangerous situations they have had to manage with mentally unstable people and a myriad of other circumstances. Just in tackling the rash of house break-ins that Palo Alto has experienced over the past few months, Palo Alto Online reports that the department has made upward of 25 arrests in connection with many of those cases. They have also been very proactive with crime prevention efforts and informing the public on how they can safeguard their property and themselves from crime, but also how to work with the police in a collective effort in doing so. Keep in mind as well that the PAPD is continuing these efforts, all while operating with approximately 20% less personnel than they had even ten years ago.

I'm not really sure where you draw your opinions and perceptions on the police department from, but you might want to take the time to become better informed on the facts. Have you attended a citizen's academy? Have you been on any ride-alongs with a local police department to get some first hand exposure? If not, then I think you're opinion might change.


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