News

East Palo Alto's homicides this year: zero

City has reached a milestone not seen in years

For the first time in decades East Palo Alto has had no homicides this year, police Chief Albert Pardini said this week.

The news of zero homicides comes after years of high crime in the city once labeled the "per capita murder capital" of the United States.

But this year's thus-far sterling statistic is part of an ongoing trend that East Palo Alto's police department and its chief are determined to keep.

"At this point last year, we had two homicides. Last year was the lowest number in 16 years; 1999 was the last time there were three or fewer," Pardini said.

He said the force is determined to keep it that way.

"The year's not over yet. We're going to work very hard, being out there and being very proactive, working with the community," he said.

Pardini attributes the drop in homicides to several initiatives his department has in place -- and to an increasing willingness of residents to work with the department. Police now intervene early in disputes of which they're notified. Officers identify all of the parties involved in the dispute and use dispute resolution techniques to calm the situation. In most cases it works, he said. All persons involved know officers have their names and know where they live, he added.

"If we are not successful, we know who is involved. If the situation escalates we can go back," he said.

Bad deals often lead to violent crimes. The department also has "proactive patrols" in key hot spots where people gather for drug deals, he said.

"If you go to Bay Road -- Bay and University or Bay and Clarke -- you don't see 30 or 40 people out there drinking or using and selling drugs. We have no tolerance for that," he said.

The department's other efforts -- precinct walks by the chief and his supervisors, coffee chats with the chief and precinct meetings -- have helped members of the public know their officers by name, he said. Officers also more intimately understand the problems in their jurisdictions, he added.

And residents see the department attacking and resolving smaller quality-of-life issues, such as abandoned vehicles, loud parties and drinking on streets. Those efforts have built credibility and trust, he said.

Early on, the anonymous tip line only occasionally lit up, but that has changed.

"The tip line activates regularly every day, and now people are calling in directly, using their names and asking directly for assistance," he said.

The department had to call in additional officers to the scene of an assault in January because so many people were in line to give police information. One man made a trip to police headquarters the next day to file a written witness statement, he said.

"I think that is huge. It's a big turning point. Crime didn't go down because of our effort alone; it went down because of our efforts and the community getting involved," he said.

On Monday, Pardini will ask the City Council to approve a one-time state grant to beef up a school truancy program. He'll also ask the council to add three police positions from Measure P funds, a half-cent tax increase for neighborhood safety and city services that voters approved in 2016. The additions would increase staffing seven days a week and put more officers on the streets by allowing the department to create an overlap shift, he said.

The department has 36 officers and one vacant position. One person is retiring soon.

The school truancy program has been successful in keeping kids in school, which reduces their chances of joining gangs or committing crimes, he said.

When Pardini asked school principals and staff to identify their top 10 truants, officers went to the students' homes.

"No one was making the kids go to school. Parents are working two or three jobs" and don't see what their kids are doing during the day, he said.

A partnership with parents, teachers and school administrators resulted in getting many of the kids back into school, he said.

Pardini said gang activity is also down. Some gang members have left town, but law enforcement efforts such as the 2014 "Operation Sunny Day," in which 16 people from three East Palo Alto gangs were indicted on murder and other charges, have also been key. The indictments removed dangerous people from the streets and also serve as a deterrent to others.

"People are getting held accountable. With the (San Mateo County District Attorney's) court notes, you'll see a lot of people in East Palo Alto on that list in custody or with cases pending," he said.

The city is also reopening and solving cold cases. Part-time cold-case homicide Det. Mike Stasko solved two cases last year. Detectives identified the perpetrators, but both are are deceased from other cases, Pardini said. Stasko is currently working on three more cold cases.

The department is also working on additional crisis-intervention training for officers to help with domestic violence and emotionally based issues. The department's case referrals to the nonprofit Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse in San Mateo County has skyrocketed.

"Five to six years ago we referred 50 cases a year, now it is in the 300s," he said.

Pardini credited outreach by police and CORA at community events for victims' willingness to come forward.

Pardini also wants to start a traffic-enforcement program to reduce speeding and reckless driving. An East Palo Alto father of five was killed on June 16 at Kavanaugh Street and University Avenue by a speeding driver, 27-year-old Diangelo Pantalion Williams, who was going nearly three times over the speed limit. Williams was charged with one count of vehicular manslaughter and two counts of reckless driving causing bodily injury on July 24, following a police investigation.

According to Pardini, the fatal traffic collision is not considered a homicide and does not get recorded in the homicide category, based on Uniform Crime Reporting standards.

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 28, 2017 at 10:41 am

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

The declining violent crime rate in EPA is a huge win for the community. Congrats to the Police Department and the many community groups which have worked hard to lower crime in the last few decades.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 11:07 am

This is great news for EPA. I wonder if the new Trump administration cracking down on criminal activity is also helping to deter gang violence. Congrats to the police department. Keep EPA safe!


10 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 1:09 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

People love to hate gentrification, but that's what has changed EPA from the murder capital of the US to murder free. Kudos to the police and community groups for their work, but they are drops in the river of demographic and socioeconomic changes.


17 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Resident, I don't think the Trump administration has anything to do with the declining crime rate in East Palo Alto. Most likely it has to do with the excellent efforts of the police force, the school truancy program (as noted in the article) and more job opportunities for the residents. Employment and education are the best deterrents to crime. Why even bring up the disgraceful Trump administration?


8 people like this
Posted by Yeah, but
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm

It's all about the demographic shift. Too bad it's politically incorrect to discuss gentrification in a positive way. I'm glad that the EPAPD and other groups are involved but to attribute all of the success to these programs is disingenuous.


10 people like this
Posted by Silent Majority
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 28, 2017 at 2:52 pm

I'm a Trump fan but he has nothing to do with this. My thanks is to the EPA Chief, Pardini, for his ideas and leadership. It's about time someone got it right.


4 people like this
Posted by ABC
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 28, 2017 at 3:05 pm

GREAT GENTRIFICATION !!!!!


3 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 3:27 pm

>People love to hate gentrification, but that's what has changed EPA from the murder capital of the US to murder free.
@john_alderman

Chicago is the murder capital of the US. EPA pales in numbers and population.

>It's all about the demographic shift.
@Yeah, but

Good point. Crimes and murder haven't diminished overall. The felonies simply relocated to other neighborhoods where lower-income residencies are more affordable.

Doesn't take a sociologist to figure this one out.


7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 28, 2017 at 3:37 pm

@Mark Silverman: Obviously, you are a newbie to this area. EPA for decades was a crime-infested city and considered the murder capital of the nation. From Wiki: "In the past, East Palo Alto experienced profound crime and poverty, especially during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1992, it had the highest homicide rate in the country with 24,322 people, and 42 murders, equaling a rate of 172.7 homicides per 100,000 residents."

@Mark Silverman: What does this mean? "Crimes and murder haven't diminished overall. The felonies simply relocated to other neighborhoods where lower-income residencies are more affordable." Of course, they have relocated. Are you expecting law enforcement to eliminate felonies altogether? Let me try that pipe of yours.

@Mark Silverman: "Doesn't take a sociologist to figure this one out." This is an ironic statement, based upon your posting.


22 people like this
Posted by EPA Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 28, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Man I wish Palo Alto Online would disable the comments when they write about EPA. Most of the comments are low key offensive.


5 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 3:51 pm

EPA Resident, I'd be interested to hear your opinion regarding the decreased crime rate.


8 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 4:27 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Mark - The second sentence of the article:

'The news of zero homicides comes after years of high crime in the city once labeled the "per capita murder capital" of the United States.'


6 people like this
Posted by Friend
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 28, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Palo Alto Native: "EPA for decades was a crime-infested city and considered the murder capital of the nation."
Want to make clear that it only held that title for one year (not for decades), but everyone seems to keep dwelling on it.

I also want to thank Chief Pardini and his team for doing a great job!


3 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 28, 2017 at 5:34 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Blame Facebook.


7 people like this
Posted by Thought
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 28, 2017 at 7:10 pm

It's funny that everyone likes to point fingers at EPA for the high crime rate when it was the demand for drugs up and down the peninsula that lead to the high crime and violence experienced in EPA.


17 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 29, 2017 at 12:10 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

Amazing how sure some commenters are that the reason for the change is gentrification. I suppose because poor and minority communities can't improve on their own - they need the bleach-like powers of the upper classes and Facebook to cleanse away the crime.


8 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 29, 2017 at 1:28 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@DTN Paul - The minority population in East Palo Alto is increasing, not decreasing, so your race baiting is unfounded. Guess what gentrification means? It means getting nicer. It is why rents and housing prices are up, and a perk is crime is way down. If you want to make EPA more affordable, bring the crime back.


6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 29, 2017 at 1:40 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by The barber
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2017 at 7:39 am

Why is epapd getting soooooo much credit for doin nothing at all!! Have you considered gentrification in any of this. Yeah the crine rate is down in epa "BUT" The cost of living has pushed the locals out to the valley and Stocktons crime rate rises!!! Did you fix it!?!? No the crime was just relocated!!! Why can't it be that the local sports organizations are building binds amongst the children and they are becoming a family instead of enemies. Why isn't it that all the older guys has aged and realized they want to live and be fathers to their children and decided to pull their lives together. [Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Justin Beck/5th Grade
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 30, 2017 at 9:36 am

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by 40-year EPA resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2017 at 10:38 am

To those who think it's about a "demographic shift," I've live in East Palo Alto for more than 40 years, and I see little demographic shift in the direction you are inferring. East Palo Alto had little drug and almost unheard of murders when I moved here when the community was largely African American.

Then the drugs came in during the 1980s. Things went downhill very fast. The problem's roots were economic and the lack of jobs. If you said you lived in EPA you often couldn't get a job, but people I knew who moved o another city suddenly got hired.

When demographic shifted to largely Latino the drugs and violence did not change. It was also not due to any race or ethnic shift. Once again, participation in drug crime appeared to be based in part on the economic situation. The number of residents on my street who were involved in the drug trade fluctuated based on the availability of blue-collar jobs. When the economy got better many went to work and stopped dealing drugs.

But of course that wasn't everyone. The effect of drug dealing also created a larger and more violent group of hardened criminals, to be sure. These people have always been in the minority and did most of the violent crime while everyone else tried to just keep their heads down and work and raise their families.

Today the community demographic is not that different than when there was violence. It is still largely Latino, African American, Pacific Islander and to a very small percentage, Caucasian. I see a few more Caucasian faces around town, but not that many percentage wise.

There seem to be people of all races with better jobs who are buying houses here. There are also many speculators who have bought up homes and are still loading multiple families in them. The streets are lined sometimes two cars deep because there are so many people crowded in houses together. They live together to be able to afford the high rents, and yes, they are working.

With a few exceptions the crime has gone down considerably. We don't have fights or shootings and kids on street corners selling drugs openly. The police are targeting crime in the most afflicted areas and they do respond to quality-of-life calls. So I give credit to the police department for its much better work under Chief Padroni and the community for finally getting past their fear and calling in the crimes.

What's been implied by some posters seems to be that the city and its residents can't possibly be capable of solving their own problems without a shift to white. The shift is about money and the ability to do what other cities do to help their residents.

Gentrification is in its own way an almost criminal consequence of the improved quality of life because it destroys communities of color. Most outsiders with more money wouldn't dare to come in while the crime rate was high. But with housing so expensive and better news on the crime front, now we're seeing the inevitable carpet baggers take over the town.

City leaders and the community need to insist that large companies impacting our community put money into building affordable housing for low-wage workers as well as their own, and very, very quickly. It isn't too late to make EPA a model of what other communities could be to serve lower income residents rather than push them out. But it takes a conscience.


3 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2017 at 11:50 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@40-year EPA resident - You just eloquently described the some of the demographic shifts that have happened in EPA. Anything about "shift to white" is something you have incorrectly inferred. Data shows objectively that the minority population has increased, not decreased in EPA. Also, demographics is not a synonym for race, it is broad and includes: gender, age, ethnicity, knowledge of languages, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, family status. The only disagreement is whether the gentrification led to a nicer city, or a nicer city led to gentrification, or is it basically the same thing.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Silverman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 30, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Speaking of gentrification, if a developer were to build an upscale shopping center in EPA (along the lines of Stanford Shopping Center/Santana Row), would people flock to it or would the ease of accessibility to high-end merchandise lead to an increase in crime?

Gentrification is a good catch-all phrase but it doesn't necessarily account for everything. The material world is only an illusion of real-world success.


Like this comment
Posted by Orin Bailey
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Quote: "I hate IKEA furniture but that is another topic."

Justin, I hate that IKEA crap too. It's a drag to assemble and made from cheap compressed materials. IKEA only looks good in an Eichler.


9 people like this
Posted by Rev. Teirrah McNair
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 30, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Perception is a curious creature often warped by hearsay and rarely reliable emotions. We require our youngsters to base their opinions on facts but we often fail to model that behavior before them. I am delighted to hear that the EPA homicide rate is zero and equally perturbed to see opinions attributing that decline to sources and forces outside of EPA. You see as a proud graduate of Ravenswood High School (formerly located somewhere between East Palo Alto’s Starbucks and Home Depot) I remember turning over a desk or two in my journalism class completely frustrated because there was rarely ever a positive word printed about my beloved hometown by the neighboring press, local and national. Fast forward to the late eighties or so when the town was labeled as the “murder capital” by that same press. I had graduated from college by then and had returned home to find my spot to make a difference. I will never forget looking out my front window and seeing the parade of cars keeping the drug traffic alive and thriving. Cars would pull up and I could clearly see the decal from companies all over Silicon Valley and other Bay Area environs. I don’t remember seeing that on the news. I also will never forget that that drug traffic diminished when a group of thirty or so concerned community fathers began to repeatedly gather for coffee smack dab in the middle of that spot where drug dealing flourished for a season. But I guarantee you that I am not foolish enough to attribute the decline of drug dealing on my block to that one source. There were multiple efforts from many sectors just like in any other community. Kind of reminds me of that old gospel tune that says ‘the half has never been told’. My guess is the half may never be told about the tireless efforts of East Palo Alto/Belle Haven nonprofits, organizations, task forces, churches, school, city government and private citizens who work often quietly behind the scenes to positively impact the corner they are called to work in. My earnest observation is that this zero homicide report just may mean that hope and the value of life is on the rise. I’ll be prayerfully and proactively impacting for good the corner I work in and I hope you’ll do the same. Last I looked we’re in this together, neighbor.


3 people like this
Posted by R. Winslow
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm

> It's funny that everyone likes to point fingers at EPA for the high crime rate when it was the demand for drugs up and down the peninsula that lead to the high crime and violence experienced in EPA.

> I will never forget looking out my front window and seeing the parade of cars keeping the drug traffic alive and thriving. Cars would pull up and I could clearly see the decal from companies all over Silicon Valley and other Bay Area environs. I don’t remember seeing that on the news.

Not really funny but more along the lines of ironic. So high-tech workers seeking illicit drugs is the primary reason for the earlier crime rate in EPA?

What about the sellers? There was no official mandate that they had to chose this particular outlet as a profession. They could have gone into other fields.

No excuse either way.


4 people like this
Posted by M. Driscoll
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm

No one was listening to Nancy Reagan during the 1980s in EPA. Instead most just said 'Yes'.


10 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 30, 2017 at 7:20 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

@john_alderman, I made no mention of race. If you read race baiting from my comments, perhaps it was your conscience telling you something.

After all, let's not pretend that gentrification is a term that doesn't mean anything. And it's not just your trite definition -
"getting nicer."

No-one would object to gentrification of a poor neighborhood if it just meant that the residents of that neighborhood gained prosperity. But we all know that's not what happens. What happens is that the poor residents of that neighborhood are displaced by different people from a different socioeconomic status. And that form of "getting nicer" is not always something worth applauding without considering what really happened.

And again, I don't think that's the only way a place like East Palo Alto can reduce it's crime rate. To imply so, as you have done repeatedly, is insulting.




2 people like this
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 30, 2017 at 8:21 pm

@ Mark Silverman,
Chicago is in the middle of the pack per capita.
St. Louis is the worst city.
Easily Googled.


2 people like this
Posted by Dontrelle M.
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 31, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Would Palo Alto be amenable to annexing EPA and making it another city neighborhood? I understand that Mayfield and Barron Park were brought into the fold many years ago.

We could then be a united community and our property values would also increase along with improvements to our K-12 educational system via direct connection with the Palo Alto school district.

The Woodland neighborhood name should remain but perhaps we could come up with a new one for our particular neighborhood just past the PA main post office. Something a bit more upscale sounding would be nice as we are within close proximity to Crescent Park and University Avenue.








Like this comment
Posted by JustAGirl
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 9:45 pm

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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