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Opinion

Chestnut and Divisadero: Shots fired “on campus”

Petty thieves are more violent than advertised.

The city is not as you remember it. 

The era where common sense prevailed has passed. A time when we weren’t embarrassed by a viral video of a thief bicycling out of a San Francisco Walgreens store with a plastic garbage bag stuffed with stolen items. YouTube houses dozens of videos focusing on mass thieving from Walgreens — videos almost exclusively of San Francisco thefts — all poking fun at S.F.’s progressive groupthink. (Just Google “YouTube Walgreens thefts.”)

During the pandemic, coincidently with many retail stores closed, progressives used the base (year) effect to mislead the public about reduced nonviolent property crimes. Yet, over the 3-month period ending June 15, while San Francisco was still in shutdown mode, property crimes have climbed 38 percent over last year.

If you need more evidence, 17 Walgreens have recently closed their doors to San Francisco customers because of the rampant stealing that does not even make it into SFPD’s property crime stats. These closures amplify the hurdles San Francisco seniors and people of color in impoverished neighborhoods must now overcome to obtain their medications. 

If you remember that time before ranked-choice voting, you too are probably frustrated, embarrassed, and wondering why so few crimes are reported in the two local newspapers. 

TONY TAILS A THIEF

On the evening after Memorial Day, the weather had cooled from the 70s into the 50s. Tony (not his real name) was with his mom in the city. Around 9 p.m., he drove to the Walgreens at Divisadero on Lombard Street. You know, the last Walgreens before tourists head over the bridge, a five-minute walk to the Palace of Fine Arts and posing wedding parties. Referred to pejoratively as “the campus” because of the abundance of parents who have trusted their college grad’s safety to this neighborhood of coffeeshops, bars, and restaurants. 

Tony was incensed to see a ponytailed man breeze through the checkout line with a basket, described as the equivalent of two full Safeway shopping bags full of items that he was stealing. To Tony, it was not only disrespectful to the two diminutive female checkers, but evidence of a city that has become lawless and is in a spiraling decline. 

Tony felt compelled to act. He got into his car and trailed Ponytail north on Divisadero to Chestnut Street and called 911. On Chestnut Street, just west of United Liquor and Deli, Ponytail hid on the sidewalk behind an unoccupied double-parked Honda sedan and started to transfer the stolen items into a bag. Tony parked across the street and watched. As he focused on Ponytail, Tony was oblivious to the fact that Ryan, the owner of the Honda and an apparent or possible associate of Ponytail, was out of his car and on the same side of the street as him. 

Ryan, described as a “tweaker,” ran to the passenger side of Tony’s car yelling inaudibly. Tony took it as time to get out of there. As he drove off, Ryan slammed the back of the car saying, “What are you looking at?” Tony drove west on Chestnut and hung a U-turn to return in an attempt to track Ryan’s possible relationship to Ponytail. He followed Ryan in the black Honda as he proceeded north on Divisadero Street, as Ponytail disappeared into the night. 

Half a block north of Divisadero, Tony thought he heard a firecracker. But when Ryan went left on Francisco Street and his car was perpendicular to Tony’s entire driver’s side, he leaned out of the car window and clearly fired again. Tony was not sure if it was one or two shots. Fearing that Ryan intended to kill him, Tony peeled off and drove in a direction different than Ryan’s flight. 

Seconds later, a civilian called 911, profiling a suspiciously parked Honda on Bay Street. Northern Station police officers responded quickly, found the Honda, and then around the corner captured Ryan with his Glock gun. Two spent cartridges were found on Divisadero Street. I mean, what else could Northern Station officers have done better?

Per SFPD, the shooting shook Tony up. He might not even yet know the permanent emotional scars he inherited from this incident. 

REPEAT OFFENDER

SFPD investigators have told me that they have never seen so many shootings north of California Street, and yet how many times have we heard the defundersclaim petty thefts and car burglars are nonviolent crimes — tell that to Tony. 

Progressives will call this article “fearmongering,” but my point is to warn San Franciscans that petty thieves (especially car boosters) can be potentially violent. Per SFPD News Release 21-110, Northern SFPD arrested Ryan for 13 felonies, with the most prominent felony being attempted murder. (The district attorney’s office has yet to inform Tony what charges they are pursuing against Ryan.) Yet I could find no mention of this incident in either of San Francisco’s daily newspapers’ print or online editions. 

The result of skewed reporting and the filtering of stories keeps our residents in the dark about increasing crime and thus perpetuates more violent crime victims, because residents are less guarded about their surroundings. 

Per SFPD’s Dashboard, over the past 3 months, the following crimes are up: Robberies +10 percent, rapes + 6 percent, assaults + 21 percent, larcenies (petty thefts) up a whopping 39 percent, and total crime +16 percent.

The city is not as we remember it. 

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