News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

Police Searching for Bicycle-Riding Purse Snatch Suspect
Contact : Kara Apple, Sergeant, Police Department    650-329-2413
Suspect Sketch
Palo Alto, CA -- Police are searching for a bicycle-riding purse snatcher who committed two crimes within fifteen minutes last night in and near downtown Palo Alto.  There were no injuries and the suspect remains at large.

On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, at about 6:54 p.m., our 24-hour dispatch center received a 9-1-1 call reporting that a suspect had just stolen a woman's purse in the 400 block of University Avenue.  The victim, a woman in her sixties, had been dining at an outdoor sidewalk table of a restaurant.  She had placed her purse under the table.  The suspect walked up and said, "Excuse me."  He reached down, grabbed her purse, and ran eastbound on University Avenue before getting onto a dark-colored bicycle.  The victim called out for help, and a passerby gave chase on foot.  The passerby last saw the suspect riding eastbound on Lytton Avenue from Cowper Street.  The victim was not injured.

At about 7:32 p.m., our 24-hour dispatch center received a call reporting a strong-arm robbery attempt that had occurred around 6:45 p.m. at a bus stop on Quarry Road near Palo Road.  The victim, a woman in her sixties, was standing at the bus stop when the suspect approached her on a bicycle.  He tried to take her purse off her shoulder as he rode by, but the victim held onto the purse.  They both struggled over the purse for a brief moment, but the victim was able to keep it.  The suspect rode away westbound on Quarry Road, and was last seen heading south towards Palm Drive on either Sweet Olive Way or Arboretum Road.  The victim was not injured, and returned home to call police.

Despite an extensive area search after both crimes, officers could not find the suspect.

The victims provided similar descriptions of the suspect.  They described him as a male (described as possibly white, Hispanic, or Asian) in his late teens or early twenties, between 6 feet and 6 feet 3 inches tall, with a thin build.  They said he was clean-shaven.  He was wearing a black jacket and blue jeans, and may have been wearing a white hat.  They said his bicycle was dark in color, and may have had whitewall tires.  Police released the above sketch of the suspect on Tuesday, February 4, 2014.

Detectives are actively investigating these incidents, and do not believe there is any connection to the home-invasion armed robbery that occurred near downtown on January 23.  No crimes committed by a similarly-described suspect have occurred recently in Palo Alto.  The most recent unsolved purse-snatch case occurred on the afternoon of September 28, 2013, in the 500 block of Middlefield Road.

Detectives do not know if the suspect intentionally targeted these victims due to their age, or if he targeted them due to the circumstances and opportunities unique to each case.

Police recommend that you remain aware of your surroundings at all times, and we ask that you report suspicious behavior immediately via 9-1-1.  Purses should be worn close to the body, with a firm grip kept on them, to dissuade would-be robbers.  We have an abundance of other personal safety tips available on our website at

Anyone with information about either of these crimes is asked to call our 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413.  Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.