Palo Alto purse snatching investigated

January 14, 2009 3:51:30 PM PST
Palo Alto police today are investigating a Monday afternoon purse snatching carried out several weeks after a series of street robberies in the city subsided, police Agent Dan Ryan said.

A woman was walking home from work just after 5 p.m. in the 800 block of Waverly Street when a man ran up behind her and grabbed her purse as he ran by.

Ryan said a teenage girl, "a local high school athlete, I think," chased the man and witnessed him entering into a silver sedan with several people inside.

The suspect is described as a heavyset, 18-year-old Hispanic man who stands about 6 feet 2 inches tall with a long, black ponytail. The man was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans, Ruan said.

"We are actively looking for this one," Ryan said.

The purse snatching is one of only four or five street robberies carried out since several suspects were arrested in connection with the 18 street robberies carried out in Palo Alto between mid-June and mid-December, Ryan said.

About half of those crimes were reported near the California Avenue Caltrain Station and the Palo Alto station on University Avenue. The others were spread throughout the city.

Police in November arrested Palo Alto resident Jeffrey Owen Smith, 38, following a robbery in Menlo Park and connected him to at least 10 street robberies carried out in Palo Alto, Ryan said.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office has not yet filed charges against Smith for the Palo Alto attempted robbery, but Smith has pleaded guilty to felony robbery, felony possession of stolen property and misdemeanor drug possession in San Mateo County Superior Court for the Menlo Park incident.

Ryan said police have arrested three or four suspects investigators believe are responsible for the 18 robberies, while three or four suspects remain at large. Investigators believe several different groups committed the robberies.

Since making several arrests, Ryan said the robberies have died down, calling Monday's robbery "a new one unrelated to the old series."

"The trend that we had around the train stations certainly tapered off," he said.

Anyone with information about the robberies is asked to contact police at (650) 329-2190.