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Police Unresponsive in Crime Wave

Original post made by Unprotected, South of Midtown, on Mar 12, 2008

I have to ask whether others are experiencing the lack of effective policing in Palo Alto. While they are very concerned with the Children's Theater and I don't know what else, the Palo Alto Police Department does not send out an officer for car break ins. They won't even take a report over the phone but only by online report which elicits no action on their part. When I've called them over this last year for various things they have been unwilling to do anything in response. On the other hand, when my identity was stolen by a San Jose woman, the San Jose police were very helpful and considerate, not to mention effective. They caught her, prosecuted her, and she's in jail. They even called to invite me to her sentencing. When my car was burglarized within in the San Mateo jurisdiction, their detectives were considerate, helpful, followed up, caught the thieves, prosecuted them, and put them in jail. Why are our Palo Alto police not able or willing to do this? I know a woman whose car was burglarized last week in front of her home and was told by the Palo Alto police that it was her fault for leaving anything of value in her car. This is just wrong. I believe we deserve better protection. Anyone else?

Comments (20)

Posted by Alyssa
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I believe what Unprotected complains about is part of a broader problem in Palo Alto. The primary duties of local government are to protect citizens from crime and to keep the infrastructure on which the city depends in good condition. All the rest - the Children's Theater, the trendy Environmentalism, the foreign policy pronouncements, bicycle tunnels, etc. etc., are frills: nice to have in some cases but not essential.

For decades we've focused on the frills, thrown money away on frivolity and expensive compensation packages for our larded workforce. You see the results in our crumbling streets and rising crime. This won't change until we get tough with our leaders and expect more from them than being the latest: "Environmental Mayor".

Posted by Bill
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Unprotected -

I agree that, manpower permitting, the police department ought to respond to vehicle burglaries. With that said, I have to disagree with you on one fine point in your posting:

While it is certainly not your friend's fault that her vehicle was broken into, we should all exercise a little common sense and not leave valuable items (purses, laptops, GPS devices, etc.) in plain view in our cars. Just like leaving one's doors or windows unlocked when not at home, it makes for an inviting target. True, it is the police department's job to prevent and investigate crime; however, since they cannot be on every street corner 24 hours per day, we all need to do the little things we can do to protect ourselves.

Let me also add that our city's police department performs any number of tasks that other departments do not. For example, I know that many other departments do not respond to car accidents unless there is an injury, or to burglar alarms at all. The Palo Alto police respond to both.

I'm not an apologist for the Palo Alto police and, in a perfect world, they should respond to every request for service. My point, however, is that there may be an element of "the grass is always greener" going on here. San Jose and San Mateo police may be better at some things, but I'm sure Palo Alto police is better at others.

Posted by litebug
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

I agree about the car burglaries. Several cars in our immediate neighborhood, including ours, were burgled one night nearly 2 years ago, and when my husband called to report it there was little interest. It was as you describe. As far as I know, the police never came to our cul-d-sac to talk to anyone or to investigate. It was our feeling that they more or less just blew it off. Too much trouble involved in collecting fingerprints or other evidence for possible use in the future, I guess. But I feel much safer knowing that investigations of any possible malfeasance with children's theatre costumes will be pursued with great vigor, because that's the kind of crime that keeps us awake at night.

Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2008 at 4:39 pm

This is a touchy subject. My attitude is to never complain to the police about anything or to anyone else at city hall for that matter. They carry the guns, they can do what they want. Be careful.

I have in the past been told that they do not regurley work in South Palo Alto. Was severly chewed out for calling for a "minor" crime and taking the officer away from Downtown area. Wouldn't even approach the person who had committed the "minor" crime. He wasn't there to see it happen.
This is just one of many incendents.
They don't live in Palo Alto and many don't really care what is happening. It is a sad situation.
I think a big majority of the police are not like this, but they are doing what they are told to do.
You should have been at the community meeting whae racial issues were brought up. What the union leader said would scare the pants off of you.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I live in South Palo Alto. A couple of years ago I had cause to call 911 for something, details irrelevant. Within a couple of minutes a squad car came to my home and was followed a few minutes later by a second.

This was a very scary situation for me and my children and both officers could not have been nicer and more helpful. They dealt with the "villian" professionally and explained everything to me and my husband very satisfactorily. I would in no way say that they didn't care about what was in reality something quite minor, even though it was scary to me.

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Wow, there are no entries on for PAPD. We better get to work!!!

Web Link


Posted by Unprotected
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Bill, that is just the problem, blaming the victim. Yes, we all must get used to bringing everything of value with us where ever we go, but this is because our police will do nothing to stop these burglars and they know it. This morning I had to carry my computer, my purse, two coffees, a newspaper, several books and a briefcase full of papers everywhere I went, just because I can't leave anything in the car. Sorry, crime should be the exception in a reasonably well patrolled town. When one is burglarized the least the police should do is be concerned and not judge the victim.

Posted by Don
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Perhaps a driver could put all valuables in the locked trunk instead of carrying them everywhere.

This town has 463 lane miles of roads (>200 miles of city roads) in Palo Alto plus 50 more overseen by the County and State (see City Auditors S E & A Report). There are approximately 10 to 15 officers on duty 24/7. They simply can't be everywhere continuously.

All residents should be aid in community policing. Everyone has a responsibility to use common sense and not enhance the thief's chances to commit a crime.

Posted by Unprotected
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2008 at 9:08 am

Don, It's a van with tinted windows so no locked trunk option. It has been burglarized twice, once when I left nothing of value in it and once when I did. The time I did was the only time I ever did and they took it. What I'm saying is that if the local police had a reputation for being responsive I believe this would act as a deterrent. As it is the burglars know they have free range. Since the police won't even take fingerprints, our only chance of their being caught is if another police force in the area catches them and finds something that belongs to a Palo Altan in their posession. Yes we must all do our part, but when I called the Palo Alto police to report suspicious vehicles in our neighborhood, they told me to call back if I witnessed a crime. We are on our own.

Posted by Empty Car
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 14, 2008 at 11:27 am

I leave nothing in my car but have just discovered that the entire neighborhood I live in was hit the other night - every car in the area either ransacked or broken into. This is a systematic organized effort, a group of individuals who are brought in and spread out to hit a whole neighborhood and then get picked up again. If the Palo Alto police did an effective job perhaps they could catch them. Why not?

Posted by Sticky fingers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Empty Car,
How do you know the perpetrators are "brought in"? Maybe it's your neighborhood kids. Several times when I visited a friend in your neighborhood, my car door handle got "gummed". This is really gross. A kid chews gum and sticks it under the driver's door handle, out of site. Greenmeadow is the only neighborhood (in or out of Palo Alto) that it's ever happened to me. I think it's more than coincidence. I blame it partly on how those neighborhood kids get their kicks, and partly on the designs of most homes in that neighborhood. It's hard to have a neighborhood watch when the only part of the house facing the street is a windowless garage.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 3:56 pm

I agree about the style of homes affecting crime. Are there any figures out there that can corroborate that eichler style neighborhoods are prone to more crime than others in the PA area? Give me a traditional house with windows facing the street any day.

Posted by Sticky fingers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Do you think it's that simple? Eichler or not Eichler. How about posh or not posh? A quick-getaway neighborhood or not? Workforce neighborhood or retirement homes? There must be other factors involved, some which contribute to higher crime rates more than others.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2008 at 5:21 pm


No, I am not trying to establish any type of us and them situation, but I do wonder about the style of homes (of which eichler is just one type) whereby there is no window into the street. As I walk around these neighborhoods I feel that the residents of these homes could never help me if I was in trouble, and by that I mean just tripping and falling or even perhaps have a heart attack. I know that people do not spend hours looking out the windows, but a window with a light on is a friendly reminder that there is life in the house and the fact that I feel safer if I fall is probably the same that makes a thief feel he can get away with more. When a kitchen window, a living room or bedroom look into the street, there is always the chance that someone may be watching for a loved one's return, doing dishes, or about to open or close the window or drapes, that makes the feeling of safety much more likely than a house whose occupants never have cause to glance outside at the front. And, I am talking about daylight not just in the dark.

Posted by Empty Car
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 14, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Sticky, I'm very surprised you have that attitude about kids in our neighborhood. Actually our kids tend to be wonderful and well behaved. Perhaps you have a secret non admirer. The reason I suggested people were brought in is because they covered such a huge area in one night, and because I've heard of several other areas that have been hit in the same large scale way. Perhaps the young people from your neighborhood are getting in their SUVs and doing this?

Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Reasons police won't respond:
It takes time. I'v been repeatdly told they don't have time.

If reports are made it makes the city look bad with many incendents. No reports,responses. No or less city crime.

Being directed to only certain business areas to look good to customers/business in tose areas.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Resident, I have owned Eichlers in two different cities (not PA), and the crime rate was low in both places. I have never heard your theory about windows, that is the strangest idea.

Posted by patrolling will help
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2008 at 8:04 am

I think more patrolling in marked and unmarked cars is the answer. Ask yourself this; how many times do you see a marked police car driving by your house Vs. sitting at Starbucks (any one of the many locations in town). You see them downtown on University but hardly ever patrolling our streets. Why have police hand out tickets on Alma when you can have them patrol our neighborhoods (I know, revenue!).

The amount of graffiti is increasing too and it seems like every-time they cover it up it goes back up in a few days. Couldn't an unmarked car catch these vandals by just parking near by the spots that get tagged all the time?

Posted by Third time victim
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2008 at 11:09 pm

Living in Palo Alto for less than two years, I have suffered three property crimes, two of which were vehicle related, one attempted home break in (despite being careful about security.) I have lived in other Bay Area communities for more than 10 years, some far less wealthy, and never suffered any crime before moving to Palo Alto.
The police have been nice (and in the case of the home incident, very responsive), but the crime still keeps happening. And when I read the news reports of rapes, robberies, and other far more violent incidents here in our own town, I suppose I should consider myself lucky.
I don't blame individual police officers or our police department. I do blame our city council for spending time and money on issues such as global warming and Iran when we have a serious problem with crime in this community. Other cities control crime somehow. If in fact we have an unusual situation, we need to direct unusual resources at it to deal with it. We have those resources in Palo Alto.

Posted by Don't be Naive
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2008 at 2:51 am

You can't blame the PAPD for home burglaries or auto break-ins. Even if those responsible are caught the jails are full. They spend a few hours in the County jail, get a slap on the wrist from our State court system and are let go. The worst punishment they are likely to get is Probation, so they are out on the streets again.

Now your burglar knows where and how to break-in again. They will be back, so put your valuables in a safe deposit box and change the locks on your doors.

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