COVID shifted San Francisco’s reputation as the car break-in capital of the U.S. to the nation’s hot-prowl burglary capital. Yet the hope is that San Francisco will eventually attract tourists to the degree of pre-COVID levels. SFPD undercover officers at Central Station, in an attempt to send the message that auto burglars are not welcome back, conducted an undercover operation in the evening of last Friday, Jan. 29.
Around 4 p.m., officers watched a Nissan double park next to a Ford Expedition on Larkin Street adjacent to Ghirardelli Square. Auto burglars like to park next to target vehicles so that they can both obscure the break-in from car traffic, while ensuring the getaway car cannot be boxed in.
Officers observed a young man peer into the Expedition, then walk to the sidewalk to break into vehicle, reach in, take a backpack, return to the Nissan getaway car, and then drive off to the next tourist area.
The Nissan next drove and circled the Lombard crooked street area making several surveillance laps, bypassing blatant vacant parking spots, before parking adjacent to a Ford F-150 on Leavenworth Street. A few of the undercover officers exited their vehicles as they prepared to make an arrest.
The young man went to the sidewalk side of the truck, broke the window and started reaching into the cab. The Ford truck’s owner, who was just taking a quick photo of our most famous street, heard his window shattering and started moving toward the young man. Simultaneously, SFPD officers moved in to make the arrest, but the young man fled to the waiting Nissan.
Martinez, driving the Nissan, sped away, driving in the wrong lane of traffic. During Martinez’ flight, he struck the undercover SFPD vehicle and two other civilian vehicles before his car became trapped and unable to move. The young man tried to run away but was caught and arrested by the undercover officers.
All of this was captured on the SFPD officers’ body-cams as well as from residents’ videos.
It turned out the Nissan had switched plates. The auto burglars had stolen a license plate and put it on the Nissan in an attempt to thwart video cameras trying to identify the embolden burglars. SFPD officers found the Nissan’s true license plates and paper plates in the trunk of the vehicle. Officers also found the backpack from the first burglary, a laptop, and a Sony-Action camera in the Nissan.
All of this happened within 24-hours of San Franciscan Jack Palladino observing suspects up to the same behavior of hunting for car targets to break into. Palladino lost his life trying to intercede against a person who had just been recently arrested for murder in the Tenderloin, but released by the District Attorney “pending further investigation.” (Though it was all captured on video.)
So what would have happened had the Ford truck owner actually caught up the juvenile breaking into his car? Well, SFPD found that Martinez (the driver) had a loaded pistol wedged between his driver’s seat and the center console.
Martinez was injured in the multiple car accidents he caused, and had to be tended to at General Hospital before he was placed under arrest.
The other man was 17-years old, and was booked at the Juvenile Justice Center.
This was a great arrest by the undercover officers of Central Station. They made our streets safer and took two dangerous individuals off the street.
The only problem, per sources, is that Boudin immediately dropped all charges against Martinez, “pending further investigation.” Charges against the juvenile are confidential.
Think about the consequences of Boudin’s no-consequence prosecution:
- It sends the message that there is no downside to committing crimes in San Francisco.
- Citizens’ frustration with rising crime rates dangerously encourages them to take action for what the media misleadingly portrays as non-violent property crimes.
- How can Boudin possibly prosecute Palladino’s killer if he doesn’t recognize that an auto burglar driving around with a loaded gun is even more dangerous than Palladino’s unarmed killer?
Several years back, Mayor Lee directed that SFPD would no longer respond to cold auto burglaries – that is burglaries where there is no suspect information or evidence. Those victims make online burglary reports. Thus, for investigation purposes, SFPD is provided as much information to investigate an auto burglary at Beach and Larkin Streets as they are for one at 4th Street and El Camino in San Mateo. Hampered with City Hall’s “this is only a property crime” attitude, SFPD overwhelmingly does not investigate cold auto burglaries. SFPD doesn’t even learn of auto burglaries until weeks after their occurrence.
Yet, this has opened the door for Boudin to blame SFPD for not investigating crimes they have been intentionally kept out of the loop on. It’s a Boudin-misdirect to deflect attention to his failure to prosecute, as in this incident.
Now that I have pre-empted Boudin’s favorite excuse, who else will he blame – or just hope city residents remain in the dark.
Lou Barberini is a CPA.