The City of Palo Alto is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of any suspects connected to a string of 15 robberies in four months, the last of which happened Wednesday night.
City Manager James Keene announced the measure shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday, just as police Lt. Sandra Brown was speaking about the robberies with two Bay Area TV stations. Keene could not be reached for comment.
Wednesday's armed robbery came just hours after the department released robbery stats for the last six years, highlighting 2010 as a worse year than 2009, but still just third in severity since 2005. Palo Alto's hardest hit years were 2005 and 2007. Each had 47 robberies.
Last year saw 31 robberies compared to 37 this year so far, including Wednesday's crime.
At approximately 10:44 p.m., officers responded to reports that a woman had been robbed at gunpoint. Shortly before the response, the woman parked her car on the 3900 block of Nelson Drive. As she was getting out of it, a man approached her, drew a handgun and aimed it at her, according to police. He demanded her purse and she handed it over. The purse contained cash and credit cards, police said. Police did not say whether the she was injured during the crime. The victim lives outside of Palo Alto.
The suspect, described as a tall, thin, black male adult, was last seen running on Nelson Drive toward East Charleston Drive. The victim did not see the robber enter a vehicle. He was wearing a dark checkered jacket, baseball hat and dark pants.
Brown said the department is investigating the crimes and has arrested four suspects so far. The department is also beefing up patrols, she said. With the $10,000 in the open, Brown said she hopes something will break. Meanwhile, she urged the public to take extra safety measures.
"Keep your cash in your pocket, not in your purse," she said. "Take one credit card with you and try not to count all of your money in the open. Someone might be looking for a target."
The Palo Alto Police Department released the statistics Wednesday after a string of 14 robberies since Sept 20, a period that seemed to mark a larger-than-normal holiday spike. A robbery is classified as a move by someone to take property from someone else using fear or force. An armed robbery involves a weapon, while a strong-arm robbery involves physical contact by the suspect.
Anyone with additional information about this crime is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department at (650) 329-2413. People can send anonymous tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave them via voice or text at (650) 383-8984.