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Taking justice in their own hands

Original post made by Bill D'Agostino, Palo Alto Weekly reporter, on Jun 13, 2006

Concerned about a rise in home and auto burglaries, residents in Palo Alto are beginning to patrol their streets at night, hoping to spot criminals in the act. Last night, at the City Council meeting, Mayor Judy Kleinberg called that “a recipe for disaster,” and argued the city should increase the Police Department budget and hire more officers. (She did not make a motion to that effect, though, and the council passed the city’s budget unanimously without adding funds for police.)

I’m curious what readers think: Should residents be patrolling the streets themselves? Should the city be putting more officers on the street?

(For background, see Web Link)

Comments (3)

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 14, 2006 at 3:27 pm

I'm all in favor of it, as long as its done wisely and responsibly. Here are my reasons:

People patrolling their own neighborhoods spend the most amount of time there, so they may be better able to spot people and cars that are out of place.

People who live in particular neighborhoods have a highly vested interest in keeping them safe and crime free, so they will likely demonstrate a high level of comittment and organization. They are not constrained by issues like overtime and record keeping.

Finally, there's a perception out there that police officers are actually Jedi knights. They are brave women and men who do a tough job and 99.9% of the time, do it well. Frankly, cruising around looking for out of place people and cars isn't rocket science. Why not free up police resources for more serious threats? From what I've read, the city isn't exactly spilling over excess money.

I do think there should be some limits. The activities of the neighborhood patrols should of course never involve any direct contact with suspicious persons. They should simply take notes and/or phone it into the police.

Having only recently moved here, its my newcomer's perspective that PA is easy pickings for a lot of burglers. Most people have 1 story homes, built on a slab just a few inches off the ground, and I'm sure many of those people leave their windows open for air. Additionally, many of the Eichler and Eichler-style homes have high fences which provides a tranquil private backyard, but also makes it easy for a thief to work on doors and windows without being seen.

Its unfortunate that some people haven't internalized that whole "stealing is wrong" thing, but what can you do? Hopefully some increased citizen awareness will reduce the attractiveness. We could also think about a PR campaign called "Rob Mountain View" which would encourage thieves to leave us alone, but prey on our neighbor city instead. Or, we could just stick with citizen patrols.

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Posted by Donan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 15, 2006 at 12:02 am

A neighborhood watch program is common sense. To keep an eye out for suspicious parked cars and people lurking about is being a good neighbor and citizen of the community. However, I have to agree with Phil to take notes and call the authorities, if needed, and not to make contact with the person(s)in question.

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Posted by Joyce Fortson
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 23, 2006 at 10:03 am

I am not sure what to think. All I know is that my home was burglarized in the day time. They crawled through the doggie door. We are a corner house. You would think someone would have noticed something. A neighbor down the street had the same issue about a month prior.

On the other hand, in finding out that Palo Alto is rated as the highest city with home burglaries and auto breakins, I have determined that the information about the breakins does not get out to the neighborhood. I posted pamplets all over ours and received phone calls from people that lived right down the street that didn't have a clue about any of the burglaries. I think the more we make everyone aware, the more people will pay attention to there surroundings and things out of place.

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