Police Calls for Service Interactive Map

The Palo Alto Police Department is providing this new Police Calls for Service Interactive Map in an effort to provide a basic snapshot of the types of calls to which our officers have responded in the past 24 hours.  This map is in a beta, pilot status and is subject to change at any time as it is refined.

The map, developed internally by City employees in the Information Technology Department working in close partnership with employees from the Police Department, was produced in response to the City's Race and Equity community conversations and related City Council priorities.

Before you begin to explore the map, please note the following important items:

The exact geographic location of the call is not provided to ensure the confidentiality of possible crime victims.

The call for service appears on the map after the incident is "closed" (that is, once officers are no longer on scene; the vast majority of our calls are closed within one hour of receipt).  The call for service will remain visible on the map for 24 hours.

The map shows calls for service from our community, and does not show self-initiated police activity.

Please refresh the map to see updated data.

View the Calls for Service Interactive Map

What Is a Call for Service?

A call for service is generated when an officer responds to a specific location in response to some incident that may require police attention.  Most commonly, a call for service is generated when someone contacts the Police Department and requests that an officer respond to an incident.

A Public Safety Dispatcher in our 24-hour dispatch center receives the call, makes an initial determination of the "call type" based on the information provided to them by the caller, and then dispatches an officer or officers to respond.

Often, once officers arrive on scene and have a chance to investigate the incident, they find that the situation is actually a different type of incident than the one to which they were originally dispatched.  For example, if someone hears what they believe to be gunshots and calls the police, the dispatcher would likely create a "call type" of "Firearm Discharge (Heard Only)" and send officers.  Upon arrival, the officers determine that the noise came from fireworks.

In situations like this, our officers and dispatchers endeavor to modify the “call type” at the conclusion of the call; the “call type” displayed on the Calls for Service Interactive Map is whatever is in our computer at the time the incident is closed.  In the example above, the “call type” might be modified to “Disturbance – Fireworks.”  Occasionally, the displayed “call type” may not have been updated or modified.

It's also important to note that a call for service may or may not be criminal in nature, and may or may not result in a police report being written about what happened.  An arrest or detention may or may not be made.  The vast majority of calls for service to which our officers respond do not result in a police report being written, because no crime actually occurred.  Similarly, the vast majority of calls for service do not result in an arrest being made.  The Police Department is happy to respond to any call for service to investigate suspicious activity, and we actually prefer when that activity turns out to be innocent and not criminal because it means that no crime occurred.

How to Read the Calls for Service Interactive Map

Please remember that this map is in a beta, pilot status and is subject to change.

Each circle on the map denotes a single call for service.  If you click on the circle, a pop-up window will display the following five pieces of information on the call:

  • Call Time: the date and time the call was received by the Police Department

  • Call Type: abbreviated police code for the type of call for service
  • Call Type Description: a text description of the type of call for service
  • Call Subtype: a sub-classification that provides more insight and/or context to the call type

  • Call Subtype Description: a text description of the call subtype that provides more insight and/or context to the call type

We invite you to explore the various menus along the header of the map, which will allow you to query the map for specific call types and the age of the call, and to filter what is displayed on the map according to your preferences.  There is also a menu that lists all of the various call types and subtypes that you may see.  For more information on crime statistics, visit our Crime Statistics page.

For More Information...

Please remember that this map is in a beta, pilot status and is subject to change.

The Palo Alto Police Department provides a wealth of information to the community so that our residents and visitors alike can have accurate, timely information on crime that is occurring in town.

The Calls for Service Interactive Map on this page is just a brief snapshot of the calls to which our officers have responded over the past 24 hours; much more detailed information on actual crime (e.g., not simply a call for service) is contained elsewhere on our website.  Links to all of that detailed information can be found on our Public Information Portal.  Specifically, we encourage you to explore the following three sections of our Public Information Portal to learn about actual crimes that have occurred:

  • To view our news releases, which highlight significant crimes, crime trends, upcoming events, and programs sponsored by the Police Department, visit our News Releases page.  These news releases are simultaneously sent via e-mail to our media partners, posted to this web page, and distributed to our followers via Twitter, Nextdoor, and Nixle.

Our 24-hour dispatch center does not release information on calls for service that you may see on the map.  If an ongoing threat to public safety exists, the Police Department has several means of providing relevant and timely notifications to impacted members of the community.  Please do not tie up phone lines by calling our 24-hour dispatch center or 9-1-1 to seek additional information from what appears on the map.

The Calls for Service Interactive Map is another way that we are accountable to our community.  For more information on how our personnel are held accountable to our community, visit the Accountability page of our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please remember that this map is in a beta, pilot status and is subject to change.

Here are some frequently asked questions about our Calls for Service Interactive Map.

Why aren't the specific locations and street addresses shown on the map?

The exact geographic location of the call is not provided to ensure the confidentiality of possible crime victims.  The exact location of the call is contained within the radius of the call's circle.

If a call for service results in a police report being taken or an arrest being made, the exact geographic location will appear on our Police Report Log, which is published online every business day.  Reports of a specific type that receives confidentiality protections under state law (for example, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and so forth) will not include a specific street address. 

Why is there a delay before calls for service are displayed on the map?

The call for service appears on the map after the incident is "closed" (that is, once officers are no longer on scene).  The call for service will remain visible on the map for 24 hours. 

The purpose of the Calls for Service Interactive Map is not to provide a map of where our personnel are located in real-time; rather, the purpose is to provide a basic snapshot of the types of calls to which our officers have responded in the past 24 hours.

I see police cars at a certain location, but there is no information on the map for that location.  Why?

If you are observing police cars that have responded to a call for service, that call is a new one that has recently been received or an active one that our personnel are still investigating.  It will appear on the map after the incident is "closed" (that is, once officers are no longer on scene), and remain visible on the map for 24 hours.

If you are observing police cars that have conducted self-initiated activity (for example, a traffic enforcement stop), that activity will not appear on the map.  The map only shows calls for service from our community.

There sure are a lot of calls.  I thought Palo Alto was a safe city!

Palo Alto is a very safe city!  Remember that this map displays calls for service, not actual crimes: this is a very important distinction.  Not every call for service is a crime; in fact, the vast majority of calls for service do not even result in a police report because the incident investigated winds up not being criminal in nature.  To view our police report log, which lists all of the crime reports our officers take, see our Police Report Log page.  It is updated every business day.

I see an interesting call near my house and want more information about it.  What should I do?

The only information provided by the Calls for Service Interactive Map is the call time, the call type, the call type description, the subtype and the subtype description.  To learn about other sources of public information we readily provide online, please expand the "For More Information..." accordion above and follow the links therein.

Our 24-hour dispatch center does not release information on calls for service that you may see on the map.  If an ongoing threat to public safety exists, the Police Department has several means of providing relevant and timely notifications to impacted members of the community.  Please do not tie up phone lines by calling our 24-hour dispatch center or 9-1-1 to seek additional information from what appears on the map.

I see a call that seems like it needed a proactive public notification or alert.  Why didn’t you do one?

The Police Department has a long-standing commitment of providing alert notifications to our community when warranted.  With that said, please resist the urge to think that a particular call may merit an alert based solely on the name of the call type alone.  Please trust our personnel, and know that they have a number of alerting options to keep our community safe when necessary.  They always strive to make the right decision on how or if a public notification is warranted based on the circumstances unique to each incident.

That could mean that our officers knock on doors of neighboring homes, that our dispatchers proactively call into affected homes to notify them of something happening nearby, or that our personnel use some or all of our public alerting tools as appropriate for the situation.  Fortunately, since Palo Alto is a very safe city, real-time community-wide notifications of crimes in progress are rarely necessary to protect public safety.

What other police departments are providing a Calls for Service Interactive Map?

Very few, if any, police departments in the Bay Area provide the same amount of information on calls for service as we are providing here on the Calls for Service Interactive Map.  While many police departments provide a police report log or arrest log (which we also do, and have done for years), they stop short of providing information on as many calls for service on a rolling, 24-hour basis like we are doing.  For more information on what constitutes a call for service and how it differs from a report or an arrest, please expand the "What is a Call for Service?" accordion above.

Is there any information that is NOT displayed on the Calls for Service Interactive Map?

The map shows calls for service from our community.  There are only a small handful of our more than 450 call types and subtypes that are not displayed on the Calls for Service Interactive Map.  Those few call types that are not displayed are self-initiated police activity (vehicle stops, pedestrian stops, search warrants, stakeouts, arrest warrant service attempts, etc.), have potential for revealing a vulnerable target (patrol checks), or pertain to the safety of our officers (personnel and staffing information).

Why did you make this new online platform available?

This map was produced in response to the City's Race and Equity community conversations and related City Council priorities, and developed after the California Department of Justice provided guidance to law enforcement agencies on measures they should take to protect personal identifying information of community members.  The map also ties to the Police Department's long-standing commitments to accountability and enhancing community awareness.  For more information on how our personnel are held accountable to our community, visit the Accountability page of our website.
 

I'm a member of the media and want more information on a particular call for service.  What should I do?

As always, members of the media are welcome to complete our short online Media Inquiry Form at www.cityofpaloalto.org/PAPDmedia.  One of our patrol Watch Commanders will respond to you as their time allows.

I have suggestions about how to improve the map or the data it contains.

We welcome your feedback.  Please send us an e-mail at pd@cityofpaloalto.org.