BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
Residents of the Altaire Walk housing complex in south Palo Alto, who say they’re living in fear because they have been “terrorized” by criminals, asked City Council tonight (Jan. 31) to step up law enforcement in their neighborhood.
The comments came just one week after only one of the seven council members — Greg Tanaka — responded to a petition signed by 107 residents of the housing complex off of Fabian Way.
While the thefts plaguing the Altaire Walk neighborhood have been property crimes so far, they can easily turn violent, said Sharon Lee-Nakayama, a board member of the homeowners association.
The crimes “may be life-threatening,” she said.
Mayor Pat Burt said the council couldn’t discuss the issue because it wasn’t on the meeting agenda, but City Manager Ed Shikada did respond.
Shikada said police are reviewing crime and making recommendations in the neighborhood, and if residents aren’t in touch then they should contact him.
Police Chief Robert Jonsen wasn’t at the meeting, but Shikada said if he were, he would say this is not a unique situation to Palo Alto, or Altaire Walk.
“We will bring all our existing resources to bear,” Shikada said.
Altaire Walk is a gated townhouse complex behind the Jewish Community Center. For the past two years, the neighborhood has been hit over and over by thieves at all times of the day. Packages and mail are stolen most often, but bikes and storage lockers have also been targeted.
Residents told the council that they are living in fear. They’ve had run-ins with the thieves, and they’re scared for their children to play outside.
“The greater harm isn’t the loss of bicycles or Amazon packages, it’s the loss of the psychological safety of our community,” said Chase Garber, who said his son’s bike was stolen on Friday.
Garber pointed out that on Saturday, a man who was part of a group shining lights into cars near JLS Middle School fired a handgun at a resident who was chasing him, according to police.
Paige Cook said she moved to Altaire Walk in November with her two kids, a 4th grader and a 6th grader.
On Jan. 6 at 7:40 a.m., she said she went downstairs to unlock her bike and saw two unfamiliar men take two packages from the mailroom.
Cook said she knew that the mailroom had been ransacked around Christmas, so she called out, “Hey, you’re stealing!”
They walked toward her and she became scared, and then they got in their car and drove away, she said.
Two days later, Cook said the same two men were in the upstairs residential area of the townhouse complex, seeing if any homes were unlocked.
Scott Yoo said about a month ago, his wife went to the car and saw a masked man sitting in the driver’s seat of their minivan.
“These people think they can come into our community in Palo Alto and steal what they want and never get caught,” Yoo said. “They have the confidence that they’ll never get caught because of the lack of resources.”
Residents have tried to protect themselves by changing locks, monitoring security cameras and hiding mail, but thieves have found new ways of stealing.
Police Capt. James Reifschneider acknowledged the “frustrating” situation last week and said he is optimistic that active, ongoing investigations will yield criminal charges.
The petitioners want the city to make crime prevention a priority.
Council members will set their priorities for the year ahead in a retreat on Saturday. Their priorities in 2021 were pandemic recovery, affordable housing, social justice and climate change.