Sat07042015

News

Effective today, library cards free again in Los Altos

Both Los Altos libraries should see a spike in use soon. After the elimination of an $80 annual card fee that had been in place since 2011, nonresidents will receive free library cards at local libraries, effective today.

Residents of Mountain View ...

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Schools

Almond fifth-graders set sail at Shoreline

Almond fifth-graders set sail at Shoreline


Courtesy of Corinne Finegan Machatzke
Fifth- graders at Almond School launched the boats they designed and built at Shoreline Lake last month.

Almond School fifth-graders boarded their handmade boats at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View last month to...

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Community

Taking it back to 'The Streets': Local filmmaker aims to revive 1970s series 'Streets of San Francisco'

Taking it back to 'The Streets': Local filmmaker aims to revive 1970s series 'Streets of San Francisco'


Courtesy of Charles Alley
Charles Alley’s filmmaking company may be based in Mountain View, but he knows all about “The Streets of San Francisco.” He’s rebooting the 1970s TV classic.

When people look for the next hit TV show, they often assume ...

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Sports

Enjoying the moment


Courtesy of Dick D’OlivA
Former Golden State Warriors trainer Dick D’Oliva, from left, wife Vi, former Warriors assistant coach Joe Roberts and wife Celia ride on a cable car in the victory parade.

Dick D’Oliva almost couldn’...

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Comment

The death knell of suburbia: A Piece of My Mind

The orchards are gone. The single-story ranch house is seen as a waste of valuable land and air space. An eight-lane freeway thunders past the bridle paths in Los Altos Hills. But nothing has signaled the death of suburbia more strongly than the ann...

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Special Sections

While competent & safe, MKC still can't catch European competitors

While competent & safe, MKC still can't catch European competitors


courtesy of Ford
The 2015 Lincoln MKC doesn’t overwhelm as far as overall performance goes, but it does offer comfortable ride quality.

Of all the auto companies with headquarters in the United States, only Ford managed to weather the great re...

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Business

Company installs EV charging stations at LAHS

Company installs EV charging stations at LAHS


Courtesy of Green Charge
Officials from Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District celebrate the installation of electric-vehicle charging stations at Los Altos High last week.

The Mountain View Los Alto...

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Books

People

HILDA CLAIRE FENTON

Hilda Claire Fenton, beloved wife and mom to 9, grandmother to 30 and great grandmother to 22, passed away June 20 following a long illness. She was 90.

Hilda was born Sept. 28, 1924, to Lois and Gus Farley then of Logan, W. Va. While she was still ...

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Travel

Venetian spa offers ways to de-stress

Venetian spa offers ways to de-stress


Courtesy of The VEnetian
The HydroSpa in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub at The Venetian in Las Vegas offers a muscle-relaxing bath and radiant lounge chairs.

Vegas cab drivers usually ask if you won or lost as soon as you get in their vehicles. They assum...

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Stepping Out

Cast carries 'Arcadia'

Cast carries 'Arcadia'


Courtesy of Pear Avenue Theatre
“Arcadia” stars Monica Ammerman and Robert Sean Campbell.

The intimate setting of Mountain View’s Pear Avenue Theatre proves the perfect place to stage “Arcadia,” allowing audience members to feel as though they a...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Living it up Older adults aim to age in place

Living it up Older adults aim to age in place


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Local enthusiasts flock to the Los Altos Senior Center to play bocce ball. The center hosts informal games four days a week and occasional tournaments.

As baby boomers in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View nose...

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Inside Mountain View

Carrying the torch

Carrying the torch


Members of the Mountain View Police Department carry the Special Olympics torch as they run along El Camino Real between Sunnyvale and Palo Alto June 18. Members of the department participate in the relay annually to show their support for Spec...

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A salute to our protectors: Local public safety personnel keep community secure

Photo Photos By Elliott Burr/Town Crier Santa Clara County Fire Department firefighters, top, from left, Amber Peterson, Capt. Tony Balsa and Suwanna Kerdkaew work the "A" shift at Los Altos' fire station on Almond Avenue.

 

At times, many of us take police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters for granted. But those who have been helped by them – whether they’re performing CPR in a medical emergency or breaking up a potentially violent confrontation – know they can mean the difference between life and death.

With its lack of high-profile crimes, Los Altos often offers residents a false sense of security. But the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001 – the nine-year anniversary upon us Saturday – taught us to take nothing for granted. 9/11 remains a reminder of how vital our protectors, and the services they provide, truly are.

The Town Crier recently interviewed deputies, firefighters and police officers to better understand the jobs they perform and how they serve us. We value their insights and offer their reflections on one of the most infamous days in American history.

 

 

Los Altos’ Santa Clara County Fire Department firefighters

Amber Peterson and Suwanna Kerdkaew were about to become firefighters just before two airplanes hit the World Trade Center in Manhattan nine years ago. Both had yet to respond to a call at that point, much less enter a burning building.

Rather than let the intimidating news drive them from a career that would involve certain danger, both jumped in headfirst.

“I was in the process (of taking written exams to qualify for becoming a firefighter), and they asked us in class, ‘Would you still go into a building if you knew it was going to come down?’” Peterson recalled. “It made us think, but I would absolutely want to.”

Kerdkaew, a former Genentech employee, said her desire to become a firefighter was reinforced after she noticed a flight attendant in uniform on BART a few days after Sept. 11.

“Everything I saw around me – the flight attendant, the outpouring of support – solidified my resolve to become a firefighter,” she said.

Both firefighters now work at the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s Los Altos station on Almond Avenue.

 

A variety of protections

There aren’t any buildings in Los Altos that, if targeted by terrorists, would have the same impact as two 100-plus-story skyscrapers crumbling. But it doesn’t take that kind of catastrophe to pinpoint a firefighter’s worth, according to Kerdkaew.

“It could be a one-story, two-bedroom home,” she said. “In that moment, we’re trained to do what we’re supposed to do.”

A majority of calls the Los Altos Almond station receives are medical, so it’s no wonder that American Medical Response teammates James Sauter and Samantha Tennison – based in Los Altos and also serving other Santa Clara County cities – constantly have their hands full. After two years and seven years on the job, respectively, they said it’s the difference-making incidents that motivate them amid loads of stress.

“They can be rare,” Sauter said. “When you do get it … and you know you’ve helped, it’s a great feeling.”

 

Remembering 9/11

Peterson said she was driving to the gym the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I kept hearing talking on the radio, so I kept changing it,” she said. “When I got to the gym, there was no one on a single piece of equipment. They were all dead-quiet, looking at the TV.”

Capt. Tony Balsa of the Los Altos station was working as a paramedic in Campbell nine years ago.

“We went to the printer (that receives departmentwide announcements), and it (read), ‘Turn on your TV.’ We all thought ‘Wow, great. We get to watch TV,’” Balsa said. “But it was just unbelievable.”

He said everyone was ordered to remain on high alert and look for anything suspicious – on a day where anything could be suspicious.

In the post-9/11 era, Balsa said firefighters are even more cautious than before in ambiguous situations and have formed new special-ops teams trained in disaster relief.

 

Risk and reward

Any firefighter or emergency medical personnel could probably write volumes on the daily risks they encounter. Tennison, the AMR employee, recalled an especially harrowing experience.

Several years ago, early in her career, she was called to work a concert at HP Pavilion in San Jose. A local gang leader had just been released from prison and was in attendance.

“There were around 20 assaults at that concert,” Tennison said. “And I ended up with that gang leader as my patient. … He had been thrown down a flight of stairs, so he had his bell rung pretty good.”

She became stuck amid the riotous throng trying to break into her ambulance.

“Sometimes people don’t want you to help who you’re trying to help,” she said.

Tennison sat with the lights off inside the ambulance with the gang leader as they awaited a police escort.

She eventually made it safely to the hospital but acknowledged the inherent danger in saving people. Luckily, she said, the near-deaths, deaths and violence she works with are balanced out.

“It’s not just lights, sirens, blood and guts,” she said. “We also get to see babies born.”

 

Lack of closure

Kerdkaew said she and her crew rarely get to learn the outcomes of patients they assist. Peterson said it can sometimes be discomforting when there’s no closure.

The two firefighters were on the scene last July when an 84-year-old Los Altos Hills resident crashed her car into the historical Shoup Building on Main Street. After rendering assistance, they were surveying the scene when a young man approached to thank them for saving his father weeks before.

“He said he recognized us from the call,” Kerdkaew said. “Sometimes you don’t think (the patient) made it, and when you find out they did – I had tears welling.”

 

Los Altos Police Detective Sgt. Scott McCrossin

The unknown has been a close companion to Los Altos Police Detective Sgt. Scott McCrossin throughout his career.

While on patrol, routine traffic stops can morph into felony drug arrests. An alleged newspaper deliveryman driving around at 2 a.m. could turn out to be a burglar preparing to ransack a home.

Such capriciousness could drive anyone nuts.

But there’s at least one constant in McCrossin’s 13-year career with the force that motivates him to stick it out for the long haul – helping people.

“That’s a common denominator when I talk with my peers and others in law enforcement,” McCrossin said. “Helping people definitely stands out … and the memories I have of people I’ve helped.”

McCrossin, formerly a Costco manager, recalled a night he was patrolling in the wee hours in Los Altos and noticed headlights.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100 it’s going to be a paperboy or something, but I went and checked it out,” he said.

As it turned out, the vehicle’s occupants were burglars about to rob a nearby home with a lone woman inside.

“Who knows what could’ve happened? … We’ll never know how many crimes we prevent by just being in the area – flying the colors, so to speak,” McCrossin said.

And it’s not just victims he and the department try to help.

“I also look to help those who I put handcuffs on. … We try to see the best in a person,” he said. “Sometimes help is repeatedly putting them in jail, but when we see them turn their lives around, it really means something.”

McCrossin, 40, started as a dispatcher with the Los Altos Police Department 13 years ago, then went through a six-month training program to become an officer, spending two months on in-field training. He then made his way through the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team training, became an agent, a detective and ultimately a sergeant.

He said he’s been drawn to law enforcement since he was young, compelled by a sense of responsibility to “help those who can’t help themselves.”

“It’s almost like a warrior mentality,” he said. “A ‘save the world’ kind of thing.”

McCrossin just transferred from patrol duties to a three-year shift as detective sergeant.

 

A different kind of peril

McCrossin admits that some risks in being a Los Altos police officer don’t hold the same weight as they would in the Oakland or Los Angeles police department. But suiting up in blue for the 94022 and 94024 zip codes carries a different set of challenges.

Because an officer in Los Altos can work an entire 12-hour shift and respond to only two calls requesting assistance with a barking dog, idle time is a danger.

“I’ve had shifts where I’ve had nothing going on, then suddenly I have a car stop and I’m pulling a gun out from under the car’s front seat. That gun could have been pulled out and pointed at me,” McCrossin said. “It’s a challenge to be on high alert at all times. … You gotta be ready for it.”

He said another risk, with which nearly all police officers cope, is the off-kilter sleep schedule. Some officers assigned to the night shift work a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. schedule.

“It’s just part of the job,” he said.

 

Reflections on Sept. 11

McCrossin said if a suspect or resident becomes upset with him in Los Altos, he doesn’t let it get under his skin, but when the two airplanes struck the Twin Towers in Manhattan nine years ago, he experienced a “flood of emotion.”

“When someone attacks my country, I take that personally,” he said.

He said 9/11 was a strange day – the police department required all units to report to the station in the event they would be called to assist in New York. That didn’t happen, but to McCrossin, it served as a reminder to remain always on high alert.

Even some Los Altos residents, he said, reported receiving packages from New York that they weren’t expecting.

He said he clipped and saved newspaper articles to show to his children and perhaps relay accounts of the day history books cannot.

 

‘Thank you for saying

thank you’

Although being a police officer isn’t completely thankless, McCrossin said, days are few and far between when someone expresses gratitude to him for what he does.

But it does happen. And it’s part of what makes his job worthwhile.

“I was eating a bagel (downtown) and someone came up to me and says, ‘Thank you for what you do.’ It kind of caught me off-guard. I said, ‘Thank you for saying thank you.’”

Good thing he’s prepared for the unexpected.

 

Patrolling the Hills

While Los Altos Hills’ raw statistics – little more than 8,000 residents, no business districts, high median income – might suggest humdrum policing, that’s not necessarily so, according to Santa Clara County Deputy Raymond Giusti, who contracts with the town.

He said most incidents are either traffic-related or property crimes.

“I’ve become adjusted to this city. A lot of people don’t like working up here because the call volume is small,” said Giusti, the only officer patrolling the town. “But as anyone who gets passionate for a job, there’s the element that they just love to do it.”

Contact Elliott Burr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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