News Digest | September 24, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 24, 2021

News Digest

Three arrested for spree of robberies

A yearlong, multijurisdictional investigation involving a group that allegedly targeted victims of Asian descent in muggings in four Bay Area counties has culminated with three arrests, police and prosecutors said Sept. 17.

The San Jose Police Department's robbery unit, with assistance from the department's covert response unit and detectives from the Hayward Police Department, concluded the investigation by initiating the arrests and eventual apprehension of the three suspects, who worked in concert to commit dozens of robberies throughout Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Asian females were frequently targeted, and many of them were injured in the robberies.

Anthony Michael Robinson, 24, of Stockton; Derje Damond Blanks, 23, of San Jose; and Cameron Alonzo Moody, 27, of East Palo Alto have been arrested and charged in connection with the crimes.

More than 40 purse snatchings and robberies were recorded in the spree, which covered the cities of Campbell, Dublin, East Palo Alto, Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Newark, San Jose, San Leandro and San Pablo, according to the District Attorney's Office, which has charged the men for the thefts and hate crime enhancements.

The spree started in late 2020, and in some cases, the defendants allegedly referred to the victims with ethnic slurs, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. They allegedly followed the women as they walked in parking lots to their vehicles, waited until the victims were in their car and either smashed a window or opened a door to take a purse from the passenger seat.

— Bay City News Service

City eyes utility tax hike

After facing a costly court defeat over its historic practice of transferring money from its gas operation to pay for basic city services, Palo Alto is preparing to ask utility customers for help in filling the financial gap.

The City Council is currently exploring an increase in the city's utility users tax, which is included on utility bills and which currently stands at 5% of electric, gas and water use. If the proposal advances, it would likely be on the November 2022 ballot, along with a business tax.

The intent of the utility tax increase is twofold. One purpose is to fill the hole in the general fund that was left behind when the Santa Clara County Superior Court upheld resident Miriam Green's challenge of what city officials refer to as the "general fund equity transfer" — the city's practice of transferring funds from municipal utilities to pay for basic city services such as police, fire, community services and libraries. Another objective is to help Palo Alto pay for new utility programs that would help the city meet its ambitious goal of slashing carbon emissions by 80% by 2030.

In the coming months, the city plans to conduct polls and further revise the tax proposal, which members of the council's Finance Committee tentatively supported on Tuesday night. As part of its discussion, the committee directed city staff to create models of a gas tax rate that would fill the hole left behind by Green's litigation, which led to a court order requiring the city to issue $12 million in refunds to gas customers.

The city is challenging the court ruling, with the council voting in a closed session on Monday to file an appeal. At the same time, members are looking ahead at new ways to both charge utility customers and assist them with adopting programs that promote sustainability.

— Gennady Sheyner

Ambulance insurance program set to launch

The Palo Alto Fire Department's new insurance program, which allows residents and businesses to pay a monthly fee for ambulance transfers, is nearly ready to debut after getting unanimous support from the City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The program has two major goals: help the department obtain a new revenue source during a period of budget cuts and provide peace of mind to customers seeking some assurance that they would not face steep bills if they suffer a medical emergency and need to be taken to a hospital.

Under the terms that the Finance Committee approved on Tuesday, residents would have the option to pay an $8 fee per month to participate in the program. For businesses, the rate would depend by the number of employees, with fees ranging from $20 for companies with a head count between one and 10 employees and $1,000 for those between 251 and 1,000 employees.

The Fire Department estimates that if about 25% of local residents and businesses enroll in the program — a rate that would be comparable to ambulance-insurance programs elsewhere in the state — the city would receive about $1.2 million in annual revenues. The city plans to start marketing the program in the coming months, according to a report from the Fire Department. Those who choose to participate would see the charge show up on their monthly utility bills.

The city expects most of the participants to be residents and employees who are not covered by Medicare and who, as such, are billed hundreds of dollars for a transport fee.

— Gennady Sheyner


Posted by John
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 22, 2021 at 7:09 am

John is a registered user.

The hate crime enhancement is probably not going to stick. They targeted women because they are easier to brutalize and asians because of the predisposition for cash. There’s no indications of racism, just predators hunting prey.

Posted by Jim Petrie
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2021 at 9:16 am

Jim Petrie is a registered user.

Concurring with John/a resident of Adobe Meadow.

Vulnerability to street crime is not necessarily hate-related but one based on perceived opportunities and accessibilities.

And while racial profiling remains a controversial methodology, some individuals are more prone to committing these types of crimes than others.

Posted by Adrian Prosky
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2021 at 10:01 am

Adrian Prosky is a registered user.

Preying on the weak and elder-aged is wrong regardless of their ethnicity.

Are these indescretions attributable to a poor upbringing, an ongoing sense of hopelessness, or outside sociopathic peer pressures?

Perhaps various elders will need a shopping chaperone or volunteer bodyguards to prevent such crimes from further occuring or escalating.

Posted by Phoebe Winters
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2021 at 11:46 am

Phoebe Winters is a registered user.

I am not Asian but am always cautious when shopping alone or in parking garages where these types of individuals tend to congregate.

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