Are security alarms recommended?

There are several types of alarm systems. The reasons for having one are numerous based on your home, lifestyle, feelings about security, and your personal budget. Have at least three reliable companies come out to do a free estimate. Do your research! Know how a system works: is it an audible alarm? Does it go to a central monitoring station? When are police contacted?

Can I call the property and evidence room to get my bicycle back?

No, please call the front desk of the Police Department at 650-329-2406.

Do you fingerprint children?

Not at the police station. We do have fingerprint kits available for parents to take home and print their own child. You keep the records in a safe place. The police department does not store these records. Children should have prints taken each year, as their prints become more defined as they reach early adulthood.

Does Palo Alto have a Neighborhood Watch program?

Yes. It is an active program of citizens working in partnership with the police and the city. The program is partnered with neighborhood associations throughout the city. Meetings are coordinated with the association's general meetings. Neighborhoods without it's own association can unite and form one. We can assist your neighborhood in organizing one. The Office of Emergency Services (OES)" incorporates neighborhood watch as part of the Block Preparedness Coordinator (BPC) program. More details on our Emergency Volunteers page.

Does the police department hold auctions for recovered unclaimed property?

No, the city contracts with Cambridge Auction House in Mountain View. They hold regular auctions with our unclaimed property including bicycles.

How can a complaint be made against Palo Alto Police Personnel?

In order to maintain public trust and confidence it is absolutely necessary that our conduct meet the highest ethical standards of the law enforcement profession. It shall therefore be the policy of the Palo Alto Police Department to openly encourage any person with a complaint regarding service levels or the actions of our employees to bring that complaint to the attention of the Department. It shall further be the policy of the Department that such complaints shall be received in a courteous and professional manner, appropriately documented and promptly investigated. No member of the Department will discourage any person from expressing a complaint against the Department or its personnel, nor will any member of the Department commit any act of retribution against a person for bringing forth a complaint.


1. Personnel Complaint: Any complaint that alleges inadequate service, misconduct or criminal actions by a Police Department employee.

2. Policy & Procedure Complaint: Any complaint which pertains to an established policy and procedure, properly employed by a Police Department employee, which the complainant believes is inappropriate or not valid, shall be considered a policy and procedure complaint. A complaint in this category shall be considered to be a complaint against the Police Department and not the employees involved.

3. Informal Inquiry: Contact with a member of the public regarding an issue of concern of a minor nature that was resolved after initial review. Final authority to determine whether an issue is classified as an Informal Inquiry or a complaint shall rest with the Chief of Police.

A complaint can be made by telephone, mail, email, in person or by using the Complaint Form on this website. If you prefer, your complaint may be made anonymously.

If you choose to submit your complaint via mail, you should send it to the following address:

Chief of Police
Palo Alto Police Department
275 Forest Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301

A complaint may be made 24 hours a day. To make a complaint in person or by telephone, you should call the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413 and ask to speak with the on-duty Watch Commander.

All complaints are investigated and documented based on the nature and severity of the allegation.

If you have any further questions or require any assistance, please contact the Personnel and Training Unit at 650-329-2103.


How can I contact the Independent Police Auditors?

The Independent Police Auditors, Mike Gennaco and Steve Connolly, can be contacted either by telephone or e-mail. Their telephone number is 323-890-5425. Mr. Gennaco can be reached via e-mail at, and Mr. Connolly can be reached at

How can I find out about becoming a Palo Alto Public Safety Dispatcher?

You can check out the Police Department's Recruiting Page or you can contact the City of Palo Alto Human Resources Department at; Human Resources, 1st Floor
250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: 650-329-2376
Fax: 650-329-2696

How can I get a radar trailer in my neighborhood?

Call Police Dispatch 650-329-2413 to schedule.

How can I request a traffic sign or traffic calming measures in my neighborhood?

Call Transportation 650-329-2520.

How can I secure my home?

We have a detailed check list for residents to follow. The checklist includes hardware for doors and windows, lighting, and shrubbery. It also includes getting involved with Neighborhood Watch. We can mail the check list and other informative brochures to you. Call the crime prevention office (650-329-2632).

How can I submit a commendation for Palo Alto Police Department personnel?

Everyone enjoys receiving recognition for their efforts and there is no question that most of the officers and non-sworn personnel are doing an outstanding job for our city. We therefore realize that many people would like to know how to commend our employees for a job well done. Commendations, either verbal or written are one of the best ways to let someone know that you appreciate their good work. A commendation for an employee of the Palo Alto Police Department is most often sent to the Chief of Police . You may also advise the employee’s supervisor or Watch Commander. Your comments can be made in person, by phone, through an informal note, letter, or email.

If you choose to submit your commendation via mail, you should send it to the following address:

Chief of Police
Palo Alto Police Department
275 Forest Ave.
Palo Alto, California 94301

How do I arrange to go on a Ride-Along with a Police Officer?

As applications are received, they will be processed and approved with riders scheduled in chronological order. Applicants cannot ride more than one time in a six-month period.

All minors (under 18 years) wishing to ride can do so only with the special permission of the watch commander, and they must be accompanied by a parent or with both parents’ written approval.

Observers will be allowed to ride at any time, except when otherwise indicated by the watch commander or Personnel and Training Program Assistant. The length of the tour shall not exceed four hours.

A waiver will be provided to the observer who, upon signing same, assumes the risk of injury or danger, waives, and releases claims against the officer, the department and the City of Palo Alto. It shall be the responsibility of the watch commander, prior to the observer entering the patrol unit, to determine that the waiver has been read, understood and signed.

Instructions and Rules
In addition to those rules and instructions previously mentioned herein, each rider must abide by the instructions listed below:

  1. No person shall be allowed to ride without having submitted a signed waiver form.
  2. Participants must obey the orders and instructions given by the officer/partner to whom they are assigned.
  3. Participants must not leave the immediate vicinity of the patrol vehicle unless the officer tells the rider he/she may do so.
  4. When the patrol unit is assigned to a dangerous mission, the rider will be dropped off at a safe location and he/she must remain there until his/her officer/partner or another police unit returns to pick the rider up.
  5. Rider will provide his/her own transportation to and from the police station.
  6. A criminal history/records and warrants check will be completed for each adult applicant. Persons with felony convictions, current wants or warrants and any in-process criminal actions will not be allowed to ride. The FSD captain may grant exceptions to the requirements.
  7. Either officer or rider may terminate the tour at any time.
  8. The program shall be limited to only residents from the City of Palo Alto and students in attendance at schools within the Palo Alto Unified School District. Exceptions to this rule may only be made with the permission of the watch commander or FSD secretary.
  9. The requesting participant must obtain a Request to Ride and Waiver Form from a Police Records Specialist (at the Records Desk) or you can click on the link below to open a PDF version of the application that can be filled out on line and then printed out. Refusal to complete these forms or false statements of any nature on the form will disqualify that citizen from participation in the program. The Request to Ride form must be returned to the Police Department in person at least two weeks in advance of the date of participation.
  10. Applicants are to call the police department Personnel and Training Program Assistant (329-2601) two weeks or later after returning the written application to schedule a ride.
  11. It shall be understood by the applicant that his/her participation is a privilege and not a right and that the basic premise of the Ride Along Program is to establish rapport with the police and learn about the functions of law enforcement.
  12. All persons participating must agree not to discuss names of persons involved in police cases or incidents. The observer will be considered a confidant of the police department and it is essential that all matters pertaining to evidence or statements gathered in investigations be held confidential.

The Watch Commander will advise all personnel of the fact that there will be an observer in the field and will identify the host officer.

The Officer will complete his Ride Along report and route it to the watch commander.

How do I get a copy of a police report?

You can request it by mail or come to the Palo Alto Police Department, 275 Forest Avenue, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can also download a "Request for Release of Information" form from the "General" section of the "Police Information" page of this website. The form can either be mailed or brought to the Police Department. The charge is $13 per report (regardless of the number of pages). You must be an involved party or have a written note from an involved party to receive a copy. If you are the victim of a violent crime, there is no charge for you to obtain a copy of the report for that crime.

How do I get a copy of an accident report?

You can request it by mail or come to the Palo Alto Police Department, 275 Forest Avenue, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4p.m. You can also download a "Request for Release of Information" form from the "General" section of the "Police Information" page of this website. The form can either be mailed or brought to the Police Department. The charge is $13 per report (regardless of the number of pages). You must be an involved party or have a written note from an involved party to receive a copy. If you are the VICTIM of a violent crime, there is no charge for you to obtain a copy of the report for that crime.

How do I obtain a valet parking permit?

Please complete the Valet Parking Permit Application form and return it to the Police Department.

How do I protect myself from identity theft?

Visit our Identity Theft Information page for tips on protection your self from identity theft.

How do I report oversize vehicles parked overnight in a residential area?

Communications 650-329-2413

How do the Color Zones work?

Downtown is divided into four color zones with most spaces limited to two hours, some to three hours (Civic Center Parking Garage and Cowper-Webster Parking Garage). When your time is up, you must move to a different color zone. (Detailed brochures and maps available in City Hall Lobby, 250 Hamilton Avenue, and many stores and businesses.)

How does one check for "sexual predators" in my neighborhood?

To learn about designated registered sex offenders in Palo Alto and the rest of California, visit the new California Department of Justice web site by pointing your browser to:

As a result of a new law, this site will provide you with access to information on more than 63,000 persons required to register in California as sex offenders. Specific home addresses are displayed on more than 33,500 offenders in the California communities; as to these persons, the site displays the last registered address reported by the offender. An additional 30,500 offenders are included on the site with listing by ZIP code, city, and county. Information on approximately 22,000 other offenders is not included on this site, but is known to law enforcement personnel.

The site is searchable by name, address, city, county, ZIP code, parks, and schools. It features photographs of the offenders, a list of their offenses, and other pertinent information.

How long do my children have to be in booster seats?

Since January of 2012;  Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. Children under the age of 8 who are 4' 9" or taller may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat. Kids are in the boosters until they are 6 years old OR 60 lbs.

How long is safekeeping property held?

We are required to hold safe keeping property for 45 days.

How many officers do you have?

We are authorized for 92 sworn officers.

How many vehicles do you have?

We currently have 30 marked cars and 8 motorcycles.

I got a "Fix It" ticket and I'm not sure what I should do?

The ticket does not affect your driving record as long as you get it signed off in the required time period listed on the citation (ticket).

There is a $25.00 court cost for each correctable offense. An example of this is if you are cited for no Drivers License in possession AND a broken tail light, it will cost you $50.00.

Any police officer in the field can sign off the ticket or you can come to the Palo Alto Police Department Monday through Thursday during 8 am to 4 pm to get the ticket signed off. You can also have a police officer in any city sign off the ticket. There may or may not be a charge for this service.

When you get the citation signed off, you need to send or take it back to the court when you receive a court notice with the applicable fee. Contact the court listed on the ticket if you have questions about this or don’t receive a notice.

Palo Alto Police Department CANNOT sign off insurance tickets. Only the court can sign off insurance tickets.

I have a warrant - how can I take care of it?

You can either call 650-329-2212 or come to the police department. You will be advised of your options.

I’m the victim of identity theft – what should I do?

Visit our Identity Theft Information page for what do if you are the victim of Identity Theft.

If I find money or other valuable property, and turn it in to the police, can I later claim it if the true owner has not collected it?

Yes, it is the finder's responsibility to contact the Property and Evidence Room after 90 days if the true owner has not claimed it. Exceptions are weapons and contraband.

Is it against the law to leave my kids in the car to go into the store?

It can be...Vehicle code section 15620 states: (a) A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under EITHER of the following circumstances:
(1) Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety (ex: heat) AND/OR (2) When the vehicle's engine is running or the vehicle's keys are in the ignition, or both.

Is it illegal for my child to smoke cigarettes?

It is illegal for minors, under 18 years of age, to possess, purchase or smoke cigarettes as well as possess smoking products such as pipes, tobacco, papers, etc.

Is my child's arrest kept confidential?

Arrests of juvenile crime offenders are kept confidential from the public and media.

My car was towed - how do I get it back?

There are several circumstances for which a car is towed. You may have to pay a fee and you may not be able to get your car back for 30 days. It would be wise to call the Police Desk (650-329-2406) prior to responding to the police department to get a release on your car.

What are the hours available for an appointment for property release?

Property is released by APPOINTMENT ONLY, Monday through Friday from 0830-1600 hours.

Appointments can be made by calling 650-329-2200

What are the hours of parking enforcement?

Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

What happens when I call 9-1-1 from my cell phone?

Currently, cellular 9-1-1 calls from all wireless service providers are answered by a public safety dispatcher from the Palo Alto Police Department, unless you are on or near a freeway. Cellular 9-1-1 calls made on or near a freeway are answered by dispatchers from the California Highway Patrol.

What hours/shifts do the officers work?

Officers work four 11-hour days on a rotating basis.

What if I need to contact the Palo Alto Police or Fire Department and I either don't speak English, or I am hearing or speech impaired?

The Palo Alto Communications center is equipped with T.D.D. devices for communicating with the hearing and/or speech impaired via both 9-1-1 and the non-emergency numbers. Language translation service is also available on a limited basis. When language translation is needed Via 9-1-1, your call can be transferred directly to a translator for; Spanish, Vietnamese, or Cantonese (Chinese). The dispatcher will stay on the line and tell the translator what questions to ask, and then listen as the translator obtains the answers and relays it back to them.

Language translation for 240 different languages and dialects is available via a contract with AT&T Translation services. This service is also available for non-emergency calls, on a limited case by case basis.

What number do I call to report a non-emergency situation like a "noise complaint" or crime that did not just occur?

Most non-emergency situations should be reported by calling the Dispatch Center's Business Number (650) 329-2413. For reporting "lost property", "stolen Bicycles" (with no suspect information), inquires about a police report, or to leave a message for an officer, you should call the Police Desk at (650) 329-2406.

You should call the Utilities Line at (650)329-2579 for Utilities questions or problems or to report things like; a broken water main, a power outage, or request utility service.

When can I legally keep my kids at home alone?

There are no specific laws in California for "home alone" or "latchkey" kids, however, there are laws to protect the well-being of children. While the laws are there to protect children from abuse or neglect, none of the laws specifically address the subject of leaving children at home alone and age. Parents can't always be there but it is every parents/guardians responsibility to make their child safe or help their children stay safe when they are not around. Experts say that a child should be 12 to 14 years old.

When does my child have to wear a helmet?

Vehicle code section 21212 states:(a) A person under 18 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, a nonmotorized scooter, or a skateboard as a passenger, upon a street, bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public bicycle path or trail unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet.

When I call 9-1-1, what do I need to tell them?

The dispatcher will ask several questions. It is important that you listen to the dispatcher and follow their directions. STAY ON THE PHONE UNTIL THE DISPATCHER TELLS YOU IT IS OK TO HANG UP. They will need to know as much as you can tell about the following:

· What has occurred or is occurring?
· Where it occurred or is occurring?
· When did it occur or is it occurring now?
· Are there any injuries?
· Were/are there any weapons involved?
· Are there any associated vehicles? (License, Color, Make, Year, Body style, Wheel Type)
· Suspect Description? (Sex, Race, Age, Height, Weight, Hair, Eyes, Glasses, Tattoos, Marks, Scars, Complexion, Hat, Coat, Shirt, Pants, Shoes)
· If the vehicle and/or suspect has fled, the direction of travel?
· Suspect(s) name (if known)?

When should I call 9-1-1?

You should call 9-1-1 to report any incident that requires an emergency response by Police, Fire, or medical personnel. Examples would be; crimes in progress or just occurred, fires or hazardous conditions, accidents with injuries, persons who are gravely ill, passed out or have fallen and are injured.

Where can I buy a Long-Term Parking Permit for Downtown or California Avenue?

For one day or longer, go to Revenue Collections desk at City Hall Lobby, 250 Hamilton Avenue.

Where can I get Truck Route Information/Maps for Palo Alto?

Call the traffic office (650-329-2687), Monday thru Friday, excluding holidays, between the hours of 8am-5pm. A link to the Truck Route Map can also be found in the "General" section on the "Police Information" page in the Police Department section of this website.

Where can I park all day in downtown Palo Alto?

1. Private pay garage, 525 University (parking garage accessible from 400 block of Cowper). 

2. One-day permits are sold at Revenue Collections desk in City Hall lobby, 250 Hamilton Avenue. They are valid in all City Garages and surface lots, but are NOT valid on City streets.

Where can I park in downtown Palo Alto?

You may park free for two or three hours in several lots and streets. You must read signs to avoid parking in "permit only" areas. Parking Maps are available in City Hall Lobby and in many stores and businesses.

Where can I park in the California Avenue Business District?

Time-limited on-street and public parking lots. No re-parking within five hours of initial parking. For one-day or longer parking permits, go to Revenue Collections desk at City Hall Lobby, 250 Hamilton Avenue.

Where do I go to pay or to contest a parking ticket?

Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave, First floor lobby (Revenue collections), Monday thru Thursday, excluding holidays, between the hours of 8:00am-5:30pm and Friday, between the hours of 8:00am - 4:30pm. For more information or questions call: 650.329.2252

Whom do I call about barking dogs and other loud noise in my neighborhood?

Call the police dispatch business office (650-329-2413) 24 hours a day.

Whom do I call about harassing phone calls (hang-ups, profane language, etc)?

Call AT&T Customer Service at 1-800-331-500 (or 6-1-1) for information on tracing calls. There is a fee per call traced. Traps will be placed if there are at least three calls per day. A police report is required for a trap. Call 1-800-698-1223 to have a trap placed.

Whom do I call for an abandoned vehicle on the street?

Call the Abandoned Vehicle Hotline (650-329-2258) 24-hours and leave a voice mail message. Have available a description of the vehicle, location, license number and how long it has been parked. You can also report these online by filling out an Abandoned Vehicle Complaint Form.

Whom do I call if a car is blocking my driveway?

Communications 650-329-2413.

Whom do I call to report traffic violations in my neighborhood?

Call the traffic office (650-329-2388) and leave a voice mail. You can now also make these reports online. Go to the Online Police Reporting section of this web site to access the form.

Whom do I call to report traffic violations in my neighborhood?

Call the traffic office (650-329-2388) and leave a voice mail.

Will an arrest affect my child's record after the age of 18?

Juvenile records are can be sealed after the age of 17 years old except for serious felonies. A person must file a petition to the court to have their record sealed, and get it must be ordered by a Judge.

Will this arrest affect my child's driving license?

All alcohol and drug related charges will affect your child's future driving privileges.