Knowing the trends in local crimes can help you be alert to possible problems and, one hopes, avoid becoming a victim. In addition to the modern plague of iPhone robberies, of particular note in our neighborhoods are the break-ins of cars, homes and shops.
Writing in his community newsletter in February, Northern Station Captain Greg McEachern noted a significant arrest in a problem that continues to plague the Northside. “[O]ur undercover street crimes unit became aware of car burglars working the area of Japan Town. The officers searched and located the suspects and after following the suspects for a short time they observed them break into another vehicle. The officers moved in quickly to arrest the individuals and a foot pursuit occurred. Two of the three suspects were apprehended and the third is known. While following up on the case the officers determined that the suspects were involved in no less than 13 vehicle break-ins that day; five in the Northern District, five in the Southern District, and three in the Mission District. The officers recovered numerous stolen items and were able to contact and return the items to their rightful owners. The suspects are facing prosecution and will hopefully be off our streets for a long time.”
Other crimes committed regarding other people’s cars included something plain clothes officers spotted while on patrol in early February as part of an operation targeting auto burglaries and auto theft. They observed a suspicious vehicle around Franklin and Hickory at 2:34 p.m. in the afternoon, and a computer records check revealed that the vehicle had been reported stolen. The driver immediately pulled over the car and began walking away from it, but officers quickly detained him and booked him.
On Feb. 4, again plain clothes officers — this time around Post and Octavia Streets— noticed an individual they recognized from previous incidents and arrests. He was trying to open the door of a vehicle. He seemed to notice the unmarked police car and started walking away, carrying nothing. The officers went around the block and when they passed the subject again, he was carrying a laptop computer and several chargers for electronic devices. He also had a laptop bag. Officers detained the subject, who told them, “I found it in [the] grass. People leave stuff lying around all the time.” But the officers searched the bag and found identification for the owner; when the police contacted him, he was able to identify his property and the subject was booked at the county jail.
Sometimes the criminals make it even easier to be caught. On Feb. 15 on the 1900 block of California Street, officers responded to a call to check on the well-being of a male who had apparently passed out behind the wheel of a running vehicle. They woke and safely removed him from the vehicle, which turned out to have been stolen and have had different license plates put on it. It was returned to its owner, and the subject was booked.
Homes and retail shops have been the subjects of break-ins or shoplifting thefts with stubborn frequency. For example, on Feb. 1, officers arrived to deal with a shoplifter who resisted their efforts to handcuff him. They finally managed to do it despite the subject’s attempts to keep his arms too close to his body to allow them to put on the handcuffs. According to store security staff, the subject had walked into the store, put several watches into his pockets and a large bottle of wine (the vintage was not disclosed) in his jacket and tried to exit the store without paying. Security tried to stop him, but he threw the watches away from himself and smashed the bottle of wine, as well as knocking further items off the shelves. Security was able to catch up to him as police arrived.
Several days later, officers stopped a male riding a bike without a light in the dark at 8:17 p.m. near Eddy and Larkin Streets. The subject was on probation with a search condition, and when the officers searched him they found methamphetamine in his pocket; they also found someone else’s checkbook. The meth tested positive, and the owner of the checkbook told officers it had been stolen in an auto burglary. Subject and property were all booked.
Late in the morning of Feb. 9 on the 500 block of Grove Street, another type of burglary revealed itself when officers were called to a residence by a homeowner who had spotted a subject in his garage trying to steal bicycles. When the subject fled, he boarded a bus but he was out of luck. The bus stopped and officers were able to detain the subject without further incident; he was booked.
On Feb. 15, in the early morning hours someone working in a restaurant on the 100 block of Gough Street heard cracking sounds coming from the kitchen area. When he went to investigate, he saw a subject inside who raised a crowbar above his head and tried to hit the victim with it. Luckily, the victim was able to disarm the subject and contact the police.
And, finally, the Russian Hill Neighbors association reports on a string of break-ins taking place along Hyde Street. “Thieves have busted front door locks and accessed garages. In two instances they ransacked the garage, stole items, and also obtained apartment keys. They were however unable to get access to the apartments. One neighbor was even home in the apartment at the time. One break-in was from the rooftop.” Word from the local police station is that criminals are trying to break into buildings and are taking anything that’s easy to grab: bikes, mail, UPS and FedEx packages, and similar low-hanging fruit.