Your December 2011 SFPD Bernal Heights Crime Report: Crooks on Cortland, Car Thefts, and a Busted Burglar

SFPD Harley

Bernalwood’s intrepid volunteer scribe on the Police Beat, Reader Sarah, attended the SFPD’s Ingleside Station Community Meeting on Tuesday night December 20. Here’s her excellent summary of crime-related issues in and around Bernal Heights.

Notes from Ingleside Community Meeting, 12/20/11
Captain Daniel Mahoney led the meeting.

Capt. Mahoney has been conducting “Safe Shopper” programs in the district since Black Friday, and these will continue until January 2. This entails increasing visibility via foot beats, bike beats, undercover officers, motorcycle police, and sector cars on the merchant corridors, including Cortland. In addition, they send officers onto MUNI lines. There’s lots of theft from automobiles because of packages left inside.

I asked about the recent spate of thefts from merchants on Cortland. He mentioned several thefts that involved ruses – like when a couple of people come in and ask for something, and then while the person in the store is getting it, they take laptops, iPads, etc. He mentioned incidents at Rock Candy Snack Shop, Piqueo’s, and Martha Brothers. So the key message to merchants is to watch out for these ruses/diversions, and I suppose we as shoppers can also keep an eye out when we’re in stores. There were three of these kinds of incidents just last weekend.

These are from the period November 20 to December 17. % Change Month refers to the change vs. the prior four-week period.

Crime/# Incidents/% Change (month)/% Change (YTD)/# Arrests

Aggravated Assault/25/19%/-29%/16
Sexual Assault/1/0%/38%/0 (note: 11 for year vs 8 last year)
Auto Theft/49/-5%/-12%/0
Theft from Auto/46/-18%/-8%/0

Aggravated Assaults refer to shootings/stabbings and domestic violence. The majority of these incidents were domestic violence.

Robberies are down YTD for the first time this year. He has tried to be aggressive on robberies – using decoys, etc.

Lots of cars are stolen from Precita Park and Bernal more generally. They’ve found many cars in the Outer Mission. They think this is people “borrowing” the cars for a day. There has been a series of Auto Theft Task Force operations, including the IDing of several parolees in the Ingleside (who were convicted of auto theft in the past), and officers are working with parole officers to do home visits, etc. The captain started having all recovered cars dusted for prints so they can ID who has been in the cars. Thefts the past two weeks are way down for some reason.

There is a new trend in car thefts where the thief takes the registration and insurance cards, which can lead to identity theft and later burglaries (since the home address of the car owner is known).

Ingleside made one significant arrest related to burglaries. Captain Mahoney credited Officers Almaguer and Hauscarriague. They worked with investigators to ID fingerprints from a burglary. They found the guy and arrested him. He confessed, and then they searched his house, where they found lots of stolen driver’s licenses, checks, passports, etc. They ended up being able to close seven open cases.

Captain Mahoney continues to run pedestrian-safety operations. Recently, they did one at Mission and Lawrence involving five separate traffic stops. They issued 37 citations. This came about because a parent or staff member from Longfellow Elementary called and asked the station to do this since it was a danger for kids/parents going to and from school. I wanted to highlight this since some of you may have identified similar issues that could use attention.

I asked about the recent homicide on Justin Dr. He said that because it was an open investigation, he couldn’t comment, but the suspect appeared to be “mentally challenged” and is in custody. I also asked about the Mission rapist, and he reiterated the information that has been out there – attacks on solo women, two in the past two months, early morning hours.

One thing that came up in the questions from the attendees was what to do if your wallet is stolen. The captain’s opinion is that you shouldn’t cancel your credit cards for a few hours because usually the thieves will buy gas, and basically every gas station has video cameras, and this is very helpful to the police. He conceded that the credit card companies would disagree with this approach.

Someone asked about what to do if you encounter someone dumping stuff. The captain said that if you see it IN PROGRESS, call the police. If you come across dumped items after the fact, call DPW.

Ken Craig from NERT came to talk about safety and self-defense. He pointed out that he holds three grandmaster-level black belts and still tries to avoid confrontations where you NEED to defend yourself because you don’t know what your opponent is on (meaning drugs) or is carrying. He handed out safety whistles. The convention for alerting others that you need help is THREE SHARP, SHORT BLASTS. Also useful if you’re stuck in rubble after an earthquake. In that case, one whistles means YES, two whistles means NO, and three means HELP. The sound of whistles carries much farther than human voices.

He handed out a brochure on self-defense that used the acronym BEWARE.

B: BEFORE you go somewhere, think about your routing and what you might encounter.
E: EVADE – as soon as you recognize a dangerous situation developing, do anything to avoid it. Run away, change routing, etc.
W: WARN – warn your attackers that you will defend yourself. Most attackers are cowards and are looking for an easy target.
A: ATTRACT – attract attention of others around you and make them aware of your situation. Shout “fire” instead of “help” because people may be more likely to assist.
R: REACT – when all else has failed and you cannot get away or get assistance, you must react.
E: ESCAPE – your goal should be to escape from the situation as quickly as possible and immediately report it to authorities.

Ken suggested leaving yourself a voicemail or writing down details about the attacker as soon as you can get away from an incident since your memory will fade. If someone wants your property, give it to them. The case where you should NOT be compliant is if someone is trying to get you into a car or take you to a secluded area.

Community Patrol USA is holding self-defense seminars in January at the Eureka Valley Rec Center – for more info, email or call 415-967-3080.

NERT is also starting up its training sessions again in January – see for dates and locations: These are free.

Three holidays are coming up – Christmas, New Year’s, and MLK Day. Staffing can go as low as 80% of normal now, and the holidays are often a time when it does. Crime is typically lower then anyway, but he wanted us to be aware of the staffing issues SFPD is facing. They lost all eight probationary officers and got three officers back, but still a net loss. Occupy SF still requires 24-hour coverage and Ingleside sends one person every seven hours. They send two to Critical Mass next week. They send two to every 49ers game and, when requested, send officers to the hospital to monitor prisoners (the sheriff’s department no longer does this). So his point was that staffing is getting tricky with so many external demands.

Foot beats are the first thing to get cut when resources have to be diverted elsewhere. He is now having officers do split beats – e.g., Geneva/Mission corridor, then Cortland. These will continue to be a challenge. 267 officers are retiring by June ’14. They lose nine captains and 17 lieutenants in June ’12, 100+ sergeants and inspectors in June ’13, then officers. The Police Academy has a class of 50 graduating in April. The captain said that when he started 30 years ago, there used to be a class every seven weeks.

The next Ingleside meeting is January 17.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

2 thoughts on “Your December 2011 SFPD Bernal Heights Crime Report: Crooks on Cortland, Car Thefts, and a Busted Burglar

  1. Todd, I’m wondering why — on the topic of “the recent spate of thefts from merchants on Cortland” — the police don’t give us any description whatsoever on the physical characteristics of the perpetrators (so we can all help to catch the bad guys), despite the abundance of details about these crimes?

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