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Town Square

Two robbed at gunpoint near downtown Palo Alto

Original post made by resident on Jan 23, 2013

A man and woman walking near downtown Palo Alto were robbed at gunpoint Tuesday night, Palo Alto police said. The victims were walking together northbound in the 300 block of Ramona Street at about 8:30 p.m. when they were approached by a man who stood in their way on the sidewalk.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 9:43 AM

Comments

Posted by Anne, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

Frightening. I don't see any leadership coming form our city council or PD to really address these issues, and practical ideas, such as cameras which other cities have, are tossed aside. Crime is up, what, 52%, according to this publication, and the general attitude is " Oh well, what do you expect us to do?"


Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:39 am

If you actually read the article, it says the only crime that is up is burglary and most of that is from unlocked homes or cars with valuables visible in the windows. The PAPD has been very active in encouraging residents to be more careful with their property and responding very quickly to 911 calls.


Posted by Just the facts, please, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

This following Gun Celebration Day last week. Good grief!

We need gun control. Write your legislators TODAY. That is something we citizens can do. Give some money to organizations that are working on thoughtful legislation for gun control.

I work often with PAPD. Their attitude is NEVER "Oh well, what do you expect..." That is an inaccurate and unfair characterization. It is completely inconsistent with my extensive experience working with them as a citizen. I have found them to be consistently professional, proactive, and concerned.

Cameras on every street are a ridiculous expense and invasion of privacy. It is not a viable option. It is NOT widely used in other cities as you imply because it is HIGHLY controversial.


Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

The only cities with surveillance cameras all over the place are those with a history of terrorist attacks, like London.


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:52 am

@resident - the 52% increase is residential burglaries, which doesn't not include thefts from cars. And I'd like to know why you think it is all unlocked homes? A majority of the recent reports have mentioned broken or pried open windows.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:03 am

oooooh, make sure you DO NOT look for anyone in a gray hooded sweatshirt and black pants. that would be profiling. of course, crime HAS gone up since the last police chief.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:04 am

> Frightening. I don't see any leadership coming form our
> city council or PD to really address these issues

During the most recent Council election cycle, Liz Kniss claimed: "Palo Alto doesn't have a crime problem."

Keep in mind that the City Charter does not provide the Council much in the way of authority--other than to determine "policy", mostly by "resolutions" and setting priorities via budget allocations. The Charter does not specifically require a police department, or the relationship between the Police Department and the City Management. Traditionally, the Police Chief has reported to the City Manager--although it's not clear how that relationship works, since this is one of the many areas of City management that is shrouded in opaqueness.

Of course, the Council could pass a so-called "Colleague's Memo"--where they could express various opinions, or requests, to the City Manager. The Council could suggest that it's time for surveillance cameras, or other uses of "hi-tech" by the Police. The Council could do something like that, but they haven't.


Posted by Concerned Neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:33 am

"a black male in his early 20s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 165 pounds. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with the hood up and dark pants". REALLY????


Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

If this happened to me in downtown Palo Alto at 8:30 p.m. I would be in shock for a long time. And very angry. After the City shuts down it is not so surprising that trouble might occur or that extra caution is needed. But c'mon even for Palo Alto 8:30 p.m. is early. Two adults should be able to walk down the city street of a university town at that hour without worrying about some punk thug. I'd like to see City Council and City Staff work more on safety. Other issues can and should be second to this.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm

So pleased the victims are alright and nobody was hurt.

So pleased the victims didn't also have a gun and start a gunfight where they could easily have shot a third party!

Get guns off our streets.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I shopped downtown this Christmas and I have to say, it's the first time in 39 years of living in Palo Alto that I was actually a little frightened to be walking to my car behind Borders. I wound up not shopping down there again, though I really wanted to, since the parking is worse in the day time, and I didn't want to be walking to any side streets again at night. Kind of sad, really.


Posted by Raymond, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Dear 'enough'; the term you are TRYING to refer to is called Racial Profiling. Hooded sweaters and Black pants do not qualify.


Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm

To Enough! Maybe you've hit on the start of a remedy: don't go there. If business dropped precipitously b/c of crime fears I bet the issue would be addressed pdq. I'd hate to see businesses suffer, but more than that I'd hate to see anyone hurt.


Posted by Think About It, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Stickups and muggings downtown--or anywhere. Yes, Palo Alto does have a crime problem. Compared to East Palo Alto? Or San Jose? Or many other places? No, it's not a severe problem. Not yet.

In past years, we've had neighborhood watch programs when crime levels increased. With furor over those innocent looking hoodies (irony intended), such programs are not so much in style. But some kind of organization like that is a better answer than a long fight on gun control.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

> Hooded sweaters and Black pants do not qualify.

Interesting. Yet when former Police Captain Lynn Johnson said that her officers would stop anyone wearing a "head band" (that suggested gang affiliation) in the same general area of downtown, after a spate of street robberies, the City Council became unglued! Lynn Johnson was excoriated--by people like Larry Klein and Yoriko Kishimoto. It was not long after that that Lynn Johnson was gone!

Interesting what qualifies as "racial profiling" in this town.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I agree that more surveillance cameras are needed.

I suspect, until we all write emails to our council members, the city will not dive into this. I think they are afraid that all the civil libertarians will cry foul over "big brother".

In my book, street cameras with footage available after a crime occurs is not an invasion of privacy but rather a common sense precaution.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2013 at 1:52 pm

>> During the most recent Council election cycle, Liz Kniss claimed: "Palo Alto doesn't have a crime problem."

Those who voted for Liz Kniss, please take note.


Posted by Ann, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm

This is so scary! Even if they are not hurt during such a crime, people can get traumatized for life. Why can't we have some police patrolling in bikes in downtown? So many things has been happening here.


Posted by James, a resident of Stanford
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:40 pm

"Why can't we have some police patrolling in bikes in downtown?"

Because the Palo Alto drivers would run them over then blame it on the guy on the bike. If you want a nice family oriented city, move out of PA. It jumped the shark 20 years ago.


Posted by missakeyword, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Alright, She probably misspoke Palo Alto COUNCIL doesn't have a crime problem


Posted by Think About It, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I voted for Liz Kniss, and I'd vote for her again. We should be talking about how to help find solutions, not displaying our people bashing negativity here.

There were more problems with Lynn Johnson's tenure than just an offhand comment.

I don't think we could afford enough cameras to keep track of every possible crime site. But volunteer watch people could help by having eyes around, and if we publicize the program, maybe that would deter some of the not so honest folks from prowling the PA streets.


Posted by TryingNotBeRacist, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Skeptical, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I don't like seeing folks essentially say, "there's nothing we can do." There are always things we can do. I agree that comprehensive camera coverage is probably not affordable, but we could perhaps strategically place them. And deploying decoys can be tricky, but I understand has shown some success. These kinds of things are not perfect, but them can make a potential criminal think twice.

And the gun control comments on the board so far are just silly. It will be a real challenge just to try to get *assault weapons* banned. Hand guns are even on the table. (Never mind the problem of getting illegal guns off the street and the black market.) Now, having more severe penalties (like life imprisonment) for committing a crime with a gun may have some impact...


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm

> There were more problems with Lynn Johnson's tenure than just
> an offhand comment.

Really? What can you point to that was documented in the public domain? Did she receive poor periodic personnel reviews? Did any of these "problems" come up during the roasting that she was subjected to after this comment of her making this comment in public?

If a police chief is having problems, shouldn't that be an issue for the public to be aware of?


Posted by stretch, a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Cameras usually don't do any good, unless it's light enough to see the perp. A person with a hood is not going to be very recognizable, even in daylight (from a camera a distance away). And bicycle patrolscan't be everywhere at all times. The answer is not in blaming the police or council for what a robber who is on drugs or just needs money to live does. There could be cops on every other block, and robbers would figure it out and be in between. Is the answer closing off the city to East Palo Alto? No. There is no answer for random crimes. Even a better economy might slow crime down, but there would still be enough to outrage people. If meth had never spread so much, crime might be less than we're seeing now. So, many causes, no real answer. Be careful out there. Walk the other way when you see someone in a hoodie, in the dark (how I hate those hoodies!).


Posted by Think About It, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm

So nobody wants to consider citizen volunteers keeping an eye out? There are 50,000 residents here; wouldn't take many to inhibit criminal prowlers.

Wayne Martin, you never heard of the Palo Alto Children's Theater investigation? You never heard about incidents involving excessive violence by PA officers? The buck stops at the top, doesn't it?

We do have problems with the economy, and less-well-off folks feel it more. But there's more to it--gangs and drugs distort things even further. Look forward to more vigilance, not less, for quite a while.


Posted by John J, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm

What makes anyone believe that more gun laws will limit these kinds of crimes? Robbery is illegal. This doesn't stop these individuals from committing robberies. And many of these thugs have prior records so they can not legally posses a firearm. Yet they commit these crimes despite the laws. So how would taking firearms from law abiding citizens stop these crimes? And how will that get guns off of the streets?


Posted by heardthisstorybefore, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2013 at 7:39 pm

A good friend of mine was held up at gunpoint on this exact same block one year ago. They even stole her car from her nearby PA home afterwards since they had her address and keys. How scary! She found out that we have very few officers on patrol at any given time. With all the taxes we pay to live here, I'd expect more protection from violent crime.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2013 at 8:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm

@stretch - That's a deeply sad and disempowered attitude - of course you can do many things to reduce random crime. Start with more police on the streets. Then start clearing out out the homeless drug addicts that PA has welcomed to the city. Put license plate readers on the main streets in and out of town. If you have a victimized attitude, you're going to get victimized. If you don't admit you have a problem, you aren't going to fix it.


Posted by @solution, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Here is a solution for crime problem around downtown. Just like the old times, have police on foot walking up and down in a couple of streets around downtown. This should provide some sense of security for citizen and hopefully discourage the criminals.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Very scary. I agree with @solution, the idea of police officers on foot is very appealing. Just as you feel safer seeing police cars, knowing there are cops are the beat would provide a feeling of security, especially when out at night.

I suppose cameras are too costly, but it's something to think about.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2013 at 6:57 am

Palo Alto does a crime problem because it's an affluent town and will always be a target, like any other affluent place. Criminals don't rob poor people. If we want to reduce crime we will have to increase the police department significantly and that will be very expensive. I personally would pay more in property taxes in order to decrease crime but I doubt many others would agree to that.


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2013 at 8:39 am

Palo Alto pays more in taxes than almost any small city in the United States. We have a beautiful downtown that should be a safe place for residents and visitors to shop and eat. We have very smart, qualified police officers who do an amazing job with the resources they have. They clearly don't have enough resources and we don't have enough police officers to have a presence downtown to discourage thieves.

The City Council needs to approve more money to beef up the police department. Someone is NOT spending our tax dollars efficiently and with the right prioritization.


Posted by danos, a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2013 at 9:02 am

More police patrols won't make a difference, because the police have been emasculated. They know who is committing such crimes - face it, we all do - but lack the public and civic support to proactively deal with such individuals.


Posted by I want to believe, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

"Palo Alto pays more in taxes than almost any small city in the United States. "

I'd be interested to see the actual numbers on this.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2013 at 10:08 am

> Children's Theater

Yes. Thanks for pointing that out.

However, while this situation made the news, and there was a lot of scrutiny on the police department after a long-time employee contested the actions of the City that resulted in that employee's being terminated—no one in the Police Department was held accountable. There was even a probe by the so-called Independent Police Auditor, which pointed out some "mistakes", but failed at many levels (in my opinion) to adequately review the Police Department's handling of the investigation that resulted from their initial investigation of a break-in at the Children's Theater facility.

Capt. Johnson retired, by the way. There is virtually no transparency surrounding the Police Department, so there is no way to know how her handling of CT investigation was a factor in her retirement.


Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2013 at 10:22 am

> I suppose cameras are too costly,

Modern digital cameras are not expensive at all. That said, a complete system of cameras, data transmission, and software to deal with the pictures/video streams would not be cheap, either. However, other cities have experience with these systems, and it would not be that hard for the police to ask for their help providing price data, as well as evaluating what works, and what doesn't.

> Cameras usually don't do any good,
> unless it's light enough to see the perp.

Cameras operate on various light frequencies. Modern surveillance systems can be constructed to record in a number of frequency bands, and then pictures reconstructed using the recordings that provide the most information.

> I had a friend robbed at the same spot.

Which begs the questions: 1) Is there enough street lighting in this area? And 2) Does the PA PD actually pay attention to patterns of street crime, and patrol accordingly?

Another question that is raised at times like this one—why can't the police hire a security patrol outfit to augment its presence in the "high crime" areas by driving around, and having a few "officers" walking around, if necessary?


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2013 at 10:51 am

Wow, all very scary after reading the latest crime downtown. I am a single women who lives downtown and across form the park. I work until 11 pm and come home late at night. I try to be safe while out and about, such as not talking on my phone or listening to music while walking, which I believe is an open invitation to be a target, though it sounds like the two people held up were doing neither. Will more police presence help, I know I feel safer when I see police cars drive by, but does it deter criminals from acting? How would the police go about "clearing out" people, where do they send them? Has crime increased, or does it seem that way to me because I have joined a neighborhood group and get more info that way? Lastly... what should I do to help make a change, write city council, police dept or a particular "city official", or perhaps all three. I would very much appreciate emails for these. I want to feel safe and secure in my neighborhood and home. Thanks neighbors.


Posted by @College, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm

If the city was not under the obligation of paying $20-$30m every year for the pension of thousands of city retirees, the city could've hired many more police officers to at least protect the tax payers who in turn need to generate the taxes for paying for the government employees. See this companion article:

Web Link


Posted by Mark, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm

People arguing for tougher gun control I agree! But not from law abiding citizens who follow the process to obtain a firearm legally. Common sense would tell me this suspect did not obtain his firearm legally. Additionally, Palo Alto Police are short officers and need more on the streets for crime prevention, but we all need to do our part. Be aware of your surroundings, be a good witness, and let's look out for one another. This is a great city and we need to stick together, I would be all for a citizen patrol program that involved mutual cooperation with the police department.

Oh and @College...city employees are paying a lot into their pensions now, don't judge current employees with past employees, (city managers) who ducked out after getting their high pensions. Your facts are wrong!