Your SFPD Bernal Heights Crime Summary for April 2012

Valiant Neighbors Sarah and Edie, who cover the Bernalwood Crime Beat so assiduously for us, attended the SFPD’s Ingleside Station Chief’s Meeting last week (so you didn’t have to). Here’s Sarah’s summary of the latest Bernal Heights crime news.

Edie Williams and I attended the Ingleside Community Meeting on 4/17, as did several other Bernal neighbors.  Edie typed up great notes, which I am pasting below.

[Ingleside Community Meetings are held on 3rd Tuesday of the month from 7 to 8 pm in the Community Room of the Ingleside station, 1 Sgt. John V. Young Lane at San Jose Avenue.  All are welcome to attend and ask questions. This is a great opportunity to discuss crime and other issues affecting the district.]

Captain’s report 4. 17, 2012
by Captain Daniel J. Mahoney


Note that month = the last 28 days. YTD = 1.1.2011 – 4.17.2011 as compared to 1.1.2012 to 4.17.2012

Aggravated Assault:
19 incidents, down 39% from last month, up 24% YTD. 14 arrests made.  Primarily domestic violence, plus two shootings in the Sunnydale (more on this below).

24 incidents, up 14%, but down 33% YTD. 5 arrests made. Most robberies continue to be cell-phone-related, with an uptick in those occurring on MUNI buses. Captain has asked every officer to ride MUNI twice a day, especially the 8X, 9, and 14 buses.  MUNI has great video surveillance; many arrests stem from video captured on MUNI.

Sexual Assault:
3 incidents this month, but two occurred years ago (three years and 26 years, respectively) and were only just reported. One arrest made.

48 incidents, up 41%, up 31% YTD. 2 arrests made. Up around Randall and above, most are bike thefts from garages. Thieves are still burgling homes with Asian symbols outside. Thieves have explained they target these houses because they believe members of the Asian community don’t trust in banks and keep lots of money in their houses.

Auto theft:
56 incidents, down 32% this month, up 25% YTD. 4 arrests made.  CHP arrested a man living in Bernal, and suddenly the number of auto thefts around Precita and Cortland has decreased, but now there’s someone new in the Excelsior region. Bernal area went from highest to lowest.  Excelsior area around “European” streets (Vienna, Naples, Madrid, etc) is now highest area.  Tomorrow chief will start targeting parolees that are in the area but haven’t checked in with their parole officer to see if they’re committing either auto theft or burglaries.  Most stolen car is still Honda – 90% are Hondas from late 1990s.

Auto burglaries:
Pretty stagnant number, so when it goes down, it usually means people just aren’t reporting the crimes.

Quintuple homicide in Ingleside at 16 Howth St.
Perp was in custody within 36 hours. Police believe he targeted that home – not a random crime. Captain set up a town hall meeting at CCSF; no new information was reported, but meeting served to allay concerns and get information directly from the police in charge. Five days afterwards there was a  homicide in the Taraval, a few blocks away from this one.  The victim there was also targeted, police believe.


Burglary on 200 block of Delta, an Asian house. Perps were two men from Bayview who broke a metal gate but didn’t make it inside. An alert neighbor was watching and immediately called it in. Police caught one on the stairs, the other around the corner. Police got their tools and an admission of guilt.

Just afterwards, chief and a plainclothes officer were walking down the street, and two officers were chasing a man with a gun towards them. Perp tossed a 9mm gun onto a roof and they caught him. This activity was because the head Towerside gang member was killed, body found on the street under the Bay Bridge approach.  In response, the Sunnydale gang taunted Towerside at a vigil and began carrying more guns. Sunnydale and Towerside gangs fought – they don’t like each other anyway. At the funeral, Towerside wanted to parade the casket through their area, so they rented a motorcycle with a glass carriage trailing it, and they paraded it all around the area. They wanted to go into Sunnyside, but police wouldn’t let them.  The police met with community liaisons to convey their disgust with the theatrical display glorifying this gang member.


Bike registration campaign:
Bike thefts are serious, but many, many owners don’t even know their serial number to report the theft and reclaim their bike, even for a $2000 bike. Police will set up an online site to register bikes, and put in owner name and serial number. Once the bike owner registers, he/she gets an Ingleside sticker. If someone notices the bike with the sticker, they can stop the rider, check their name, and check the database to confirm ownership and return the bike. Can also stick GPS on the bike to track it.

Traffic enforcement:
If there are hot spots that you think the police should pay close attention to, you can tell them directly at the Ingleside Police Station website / Contact Us.

Pedestrian v. vehicle:
Big operation in the Sunnydale tomorrow – checking licensing and vehicular safety.

Ops are two parts: 1) pedestrian safety (incidents result in many pedestrians being hurt). 2) look for pedestrians coming out into the middle of the street without looking.  The captain wants to improve safety by looking for all violators – not just one type.

Bike v. vehicle:
Will also do an operation to stop drivers in bike lanes, etc. Then will do the same to stop cyclists from running red lights and stop signs. Bicyclists running stop lights or signs are subject to same tickets that autos get for doing that.

Mission and Russia:
Traffic problem, people cross to the Burger King there, which is legal, even in this case where there’s no marked crosswalk. At 5pm teens gather at bus stop and get into fights, and the Captain has put more officers on it.

Safe Haven:
A program where merchants put up a sign in their window. If a person walking down the street and feels intimidated, they can go into a business with a sign and ask for help.


Police department will lose around 400 officers by 2014 through retirement. Without budget increase, there will be no new Police Academy classes to train new officers. This means that police will be taken off all the proactive programs that prevent crime before it happens, such as beat patrols, in order to react to the crime that takes place. Oakland, Vallejo, and Sacramento have all had to gut their police forces and now lack key departments like narcotics and gang task forces.  Basically, all they can do is respond the most urgent emergency calls.

We don’t want that. Support Chief staffing plan for 5 classes next year by calling or sending an email to Supervisor Campos:(415) 554-5144,

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

A Stoneman Connection Links Bernal Heights to Levon Helm

The death of Levon Helm, the former lead singer for The Band, late last week prompted a lot of media remembrances, yet the most interesting one I read was an oral history of the The Band’s signature song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Levon Helm sang the lead vocals in the song, of course, but here’s a version of it from “The Last Waltz” in case you need a refresher:

Anyhow, back to that excellent oral history of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” This passage jumped out at me:

[“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”] was the track that came to be seen as most typical of The Band album. Levon sings the song in the persona of Virgil Caine, a Confederate ex-soldier who served on the Danville supply train until General Stoneman’s Union cavalry troops tore up the tracks. The Richmond and Danville Rail Road was the main supply route into Petersburg where Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia were holding their defensive line to protect Richmond.

Stoneman was a pretty obscure character. You have to get into detailed histories of the Civil War to find him mentioned.

David Powell

General George Stoneman, c. 1860

In the closing days of the war, Major General George Stoneman, as the commander of the East Tennessee district, oversaw a raid by a division of Union troops across the rugged Blue Ridge Mountians into northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia. Their orders were not to fight battles but to punish and demoralize the Southern civilians. Stoneman, having previously served under General Sherman in the Georgia campaign, had learned Sherman’s methods of “total war”– the concept of targeting civilian as well as military objectives in order to destroy the enemy’s will to resist. Stoneman’s cavalry troops were still exacting revenge on the Southern civilians at the time that General Robert E. Lee was surrendering at Appomattox. Stoneman’s forces plundered & destroyed tons of supplies, including foodstocks & grain, along with miles of railroad supply tracks. Even after the shooting war ended, they assisted in chasing down and capturing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. After the war, Stoneman remained in the regular army until he retired in 1871 at the rank of Colonel. He moved to California and lived on a large estate called “Los Robles” near Los Angeles. As a Democrat, he held several public offices and was Governor of the state from 1883 to 1887. Stoneman died on September 5, 1894 in Buffalo, New York. Even though Stoneman, on the surface, may appear to be just a footnote in the history of the Civil War, in that part of the U.S. where the borders of Tennessee, North Carolina & Virginia meet, his name lives in infamy. The exploits of his plundering cavalry troops in the last days of a defeated Confederacy are still a part of local legend. In this respect, I feel that Robbie Robertson succeeded in capturing this sentiment accurately in the song. 

I hadn’t realized that part of the song referred to an actual historical figure, and I immediately wondered if there was any connection between the Stoneman that Levon Helm sang about and the street by the same name in Bernal Heights.

Thanks to our excellent friends at the Bernal History Project (and their webpage devoted to the history of Bernal Heights street names), the answer soon became clear. Bernal’s Stoneman Street is indeed named after the same person:

Stoneman Street
A West Pointer who came to San Francisco in 1846 as a lieutenant in the Mormon Battalion, George Stoneman (1822-1894) was a career military commander with an uneven record in numerous Civil War campaigns. A major general, he freed the prisoners at Andersonville and led cavalry raids into the Confederacy. After leaving the Army, he settled in the San Gabriel Valley and was elected California governor, 1883-87. Camp Stoneman, a 2,500-acre Army base opened in 1942 near Pittsburg in Contra Costa County, was the jumping off place for more than a million troops headed for the Pacific Theater in World War II. It was later the separation center for soldiers returning from the Korean Conflict. The base was shut down in 1954. The cavalryman’s name was remembered in a different context when The Band, in a 1970 song by Robbie Robertson, included this couplet: Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train/Till Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.

In addition, let us not forget that Gen. Stoneman also leant his name to the chairlift that carries skiers and snowboarders up Bernal Hill’s steep north face. There’s no evidence in the historical record that Stoneman himself ever actually skied here, but even if he did, I very much doubt that The Band would have written a song about it.

PHOTOS: Top, mr.nunez.sfo, via Flickr. Gen. George Stoneman, via Wikipedia

Chaos on Precita as Speeding Car Flips Over on Saturday

Some of you may have noticed all the commotion in North Bernal late Saturday afternoon. There were a lot of sirens, and the thump-thump-thump of the Bernalwood ShadowTraffic helicopter hovering overhead. Most unhappy of all were those motorists who tried to drive along Precita from Shotwell toward Mission street… and ended up getting stuck in a full-stop traffic jam.

The cause of the chaos was a vehicle that somehow managed to flip over near the intersection of Precita and Coso. Neighbor Christel was live on the scene, and she filed this report:

Accident on Precita. Road blocked. Cops everywhere. Look at that car!

Cop told me car was speeding and hit one of those trucks that collect junk, then rolled over. No one was hurt.

After the beflipped vehicle was finally berighted, here’s how it looked. Ouch!

PHOTOS: Top, Neighbor Christel. Below, Telstar Logistics