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Rich Nor-Cal Town With Hilarious Police Blotter Also Whimsical In Its Racial Profiling

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Atherton, California, is America'sthird most expensive zipcode, and is also semi-famous for its police blotter, which often reads like a cavalcade of first-world problems:


  • A man was reported to be sitting down and talking to himself. Police made contact and confirmed he was using a cellphone.
  • A resident worried that a noisy hawk in a tree was in distress. When authorities arrived, the hawk was quiet and enjoying dinner.
  • A person seen walking at midday for two days in a row was contacted and determined to be using lunch breaks to get some exercise.

And if those sound like the kinds of reports you might expect in a community full of well-off but very suspicious white people, just imagine what fun it is to be Driving While Brown in Atherton! Blogger Kent Brewster did a little digging in the Atherton PD's website, and put together a handy collection of all the incident reports. In among the reports of scary doorbell-ringing, Brewster found a bit of a surprise when he looked at vehicle code violations: Between February and July 2013, "175 out of the 182 drivers cited have Hispanic names."

This doesn't mean that there's any racial profiling going on, of course. Could be that Latinos in the area just converge on Atherton for the purpose of driving without a license, which is also the most common violation listed.

Some of the other interesting details:

  • "Almost nobody from Atherton ever gets a ticket." From February to July, exactly two Atherton residents got cited; most other tickets were given to residents of nearby Redwood City or East Palo Alto, where people are much more likely to drive brownly.
  • Over 100 of the citations were misdemeanor charges of driving without a valid license, rather than infractions. Brewster notes that the greater charge "means that the subject must report for booking, including mug shots and fingerprints, and will retain a misdemeanor arrest on record." We'll have to assume that Atherton cops are just really, really good at spotting the telltale signs of a driver whose license is expired. Black hair and brown eyes are among the most common.
  • Most of the citations were issued on two main roads that cross Atherton from Redwood City; of those, "56 citations were issued along less than a mile of road in under six months." Then again, the cops can't help it if large numbers of Latinos with sketchy drivers' licenses are drawn to certain spots, now can they?
  • There's no indication of why non-Hispanic drivers aren't getting tickets in Atherton. Maybe they all drive perfectly, and have their papers in order. That has to be it.

Brewster also notes that archived Atherton police blogs going back to 2010 show a similar pattern of Hispanics being cited for misdemeanor driver's license problems. It really appears to be something of an epidemic around those parts, almost as bad as elderly residents freaking out when someone rings their doorbell and goes away without saying anything, leaving behind only a UPS package.

Wonder if their neighborhood watch is armed?

[Mercury-News / Gawker / Profiling Atherton via the tipline]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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