Bernal Heights Crime Report for November 2012: Pepper Spray Robberies, Knock-Knock Burglaries, and Finding Fugitives

Police Telephone

Your very thorough and very vigilant neighbors, Sarah and Edie, attended the SFPD’s Ingleside Station Chief’s Meeting this week, and they typed up these invaluable summary notes about the latest Bernal Heights crime trends. As always, they bring useful information on how to avoid becoming a statistic, so you are strongly advised to read the whole thing:

Captain’s Report by Captain Tim Falvey

Captain Falvey began with a review of the Ingleside, the third largest police district in the city at 6.5 sq. mi. It has 123, 980 residents and its population of 19,074 per sq mi is second only to the Taraval. There are 174 residents per police officer, and the district is broken up into 6 patrol sectors, numbered 1-6. Bernal Heights is covered by the #1 car.

In San Francisco, 55% of the crime occurs in 3% of the geography. To manage daily police patrols and other activity, the station house reviews a series of specific focal points (passing calls, crime patterns, critical infrastructure/landmarks/venues) and produces a list of specifics for police officers to deal with – this is called The Ingleside Station Daily Mission. In a Passing Call, police are asked to drive by and keep an eye on known hot spots, public events, or other areas of concern.

As one part of the solution, ShotSpotter gunshot detection and location technology has been installed in high-crime areas such as the Sunnydale, and the City intends to install more overall.

The Ingleside district uses the Fugitive Recovery Enforcement Team (F.R.E.T.), to apprehend parole violators and fugitives with outstanding warrants and check that parolees are not violating their terms of release. They also work with the Violence Reduction Team (V.R.T.), a citywide SFPD team that can be deployed in any area where problems occur.

Ingleside networks with Supervisors from District 09 (David Campos), D10 (Malia Cohen), and D11 (John Avalos), as well as D7 (Sean Elsbernd) and D8 (Scott Weiner).

The SFPD Ingleside website now has a Community Events page. If you would like a flyer or information for your event posted there, please visit the website.


Homicide: 15 this year so far, up from 8 in 2012 and 9 in 2011, though there hadn’t been a homicide for 110 days until Nov 18th, when a 24-year-old from the East Bay was shot at 3:30 am Sunday morning on Mission and Silver. Also, five of the homicides occurred at once at the Howth Street murders back in March. There have been 6 homicides in the Sunnydale, all within a few blocks of each other and within a period of 2.5 months; perhaps gang-related. Interesting to note that over the last 10 years 94% of SF homicide victims, 95% of homicide suspects, and 75% of prisoners in San Quentin are high-school dropouts. Future Grads program involves Chief talking to 8th graders about this.

Gang activity: There have been several recent incidents involving gangs in the Lakeview and Sunnydale. To manage conflict, police try to present a high profile, especially in border areas between police districts and gang areas. They use single motorcycle officers, groups of motorcycles that can go off-road/ride on trails (called “the Hondas” though now actually Kawasakis), the Gang Task Force, Violence Reduction Team, regular Ingleside patrol officers, the Ingleside Housing Unit, and the Ingleside FRET Operation.

A serious beating incident at Balboa HS focused attention and police presence there (School Resource Officers). It seemed that it was instigated by teenagers who did not attend Balboa but who stopped there on their bus route to school.

Domestic Violence: General incidents and arrests have decreased, but there’s been an increase in domestic violence. DV is hard to track, since in often happens in the home and is therefore not visible. Police will try to identify and track repeat offenders.

Robberies: There’s been an increase in the use of pepper spray to commit robberies. (Pepper spray is for sale over the counter; dog and bear repellant are also used.) One perp was a 13-year-old boy. In another incident, the license plate was reported and police located the car in the Lowes parking lot. The three women in the car still had pepper spray.

Burglaries and hot prowls have increased this past year. Recently there have been several daytime burglaries. Here’s how they do it: Burglar knocks on door. If you answer, they ask for a specific person, then leave when told that person doesn’t live there. Next they go up the street and try another house. If no one answers, they go back to their car, wait and watch till they’re sure no one’s home, then return to break down the door. So if you’re home and someone knocks, you should answer, even if you don’t open the door. If you don’t respond at all, a burglar will think your house is empty and break in. If you see someone knocking on doors, call the police (553-0123) and ask them to come by and check – provide a description of the person or a car license number. If thieves are kicking the door or climbing over a fence into a back yard, call 911. The police have gotten some DNA evidence on one or more of the burglars – there have been a couple of arrests, and they also think one person knows they’re being watched. There has been a corresponding big drop in activity.

As an aside, the penalties for a hot prowl (burglary that occurs when a resident is home) are much stiffer than for a burglary where no one is home.

A series of robberies in the Glen Park commercial area have decreased. Police put out a flyer reminding neighbors that daylight savings makes evening commute darker, and have arrested a few thieves. They are mainly interested in cell phones and other electronics. To avoid getting mugged, the captain’s motto is “If you don’t need it, don’t bring it” – ie, don’t take every one of your credit cards with you if you’re just stepping out to pay cash for a latte.

The Glen Park commercial strip had also suffered some vandalism recently – no arrests, but the activity seems to have stopped for now. In other news, drunk people make terrible witnesses. Criminals know this and target drunk people leaving bars.

The Sunnydale has seen a series of burglaries involving vacant homes. The thief breaks into a vacant house and then tunnels into the adjacent, occupied house.

SFPD is now using Leads Online, an investigative database that permits shoppers to register their electronic purchases. Police can then search for stolen property sent to pawn shops or offered for sale on eBay.

You can also check Craigslist for your stolen items, then call the police if you spot them.

ALERT the Auxillary Law Enforcement Response Team: This is a newly launched volunteer police program. During an emergency or disaster, volunteers will do well-being checks, traffic patrol, work phone lines, or be dispatchers. To participate, volunteers must pass both NERT and ALERT training courses, and can serve as both a NERT and an ALERT volunteer at the same time (ie, after a disaster). Former Ingleside Captain Lazar is overseeing this initiative. For more information on the San Francisco Police Department ALERT Program, email at, or call Program Coordinator Sergeant Mark Hernandez (SFPD, Ret.), at (415) 832-8419.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

2 thoughts on “Bernal Heights Crime Report for November 2012: Pepper Spray Robberies, Knock-Knock Burglaries, and Finding Fugitives

  1. Anyone worried about break-ins should upgrade their door security. Get a commercial grade deadbolt (the Home Depot special will fail after a few hammer hits), a wrap-around plate (if you have a wood door) and a high quality strike plate, attached with 4″ screws through the door-frame to the studs (usually included with the deadbolt). If you do this, your door will repel any kick-in attempts. Total cost is about $130.

    • Good advice. We didn’t have it in the report, but the captain brought up this specific thing in an aside at one point – he said 1″ screws can be kicked in very easily, whereas 3″ and up are much trickier, and the burglar will probably move along to the next house.

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