SFPD Traces Violent Crime Spike in Bernal Heights to Increased Gang Activity


During Monday night’s meeting held to address a disturbing spike in violent crime in Bernal Heights, San Francisco police officers told a room of about 50 concerned Bernal neighbors that many of the recent incidents are related to increased gang activity.

Police say they believe much of this violence — including the Oct. 8 shooting at Precita Park and incidents of gunfire near the Bernal Dwellings public housing project at Folsom and 26th Street — is a ripple-effect from gang-related homicides on Shotwell near 24th Street. Police also said some of the violence is concentrated around Bernal Dwellings, where gang-members tend to have a more adversarial relationship with other Mission gangs

Captain Joseph McFadden from the SFPD’s Ingleside Station emphasized that the victims involved in most of the recent incidents were specifically targeted, and that the violence was not random. “”You probably won’t get into any trouble yourself unless you’re in a gang,” Mc Fadden said. “But that’s not to say you can’t get shot.”

However, the recent incident on Coleridge, during which a Bernal parent was beaten after asking several youths to quiet down, is not believed to have been gang-related.

Officers from the SFPD’s Gang Task Force said gang-related activity tends to have a cyclical ebb and a flow. Sometimes the root causes of violence turn out to be silly, but the  pattern has peaks and valleys, and right now we seem to be in a peak. Viewed within the context of past patterns, they said, the activity taking place right now doesn’t seem particularly unusual, although it is on the high side.

At several points during the conversation, police pointed out that SFPD staffing levels are currently quite low. Many residents were astonished to hear that the Gang Task Force has only 12 officers now, down from about 45 in the mid- to late-2000s.

Police said they are doing the best we can with the resources available. They repeatedly stressed that the only way to move forward is with community participation, which may include providing statements and testimony when crimes go to trial.

Police also emphasized that video cameras have dramatically transformed how crime is investigated and prosecuted. Sidewalk-facing cameras  on private homes are an invaluable resource, and officers encouraged residents to be proactive about reaching out to investigating officers to provide footage after incidents occur. Being proactive saves a lot of time, they said, because officers don’t have to go knocking on every door to find videos.

Several neighbors — including the wife of man beaten in the Coleridge incident — complained about having experienced a slow or indifferent response from SFPD beat officers when trying to report crimes in-progress.

Captain McFadden said that if police are slow to respond, Bernal neighbors can escalate incidents by calling Ingleside Station directly at (415) 404-4000 and asking to speak to the  PC — the Platoon Commander. There’s always one on duty, and the PC oversees all activity in the precinct during  each shift. Tell the PC how long you’ve been waiting, and be very specific about the problem.

Neighbor Sarah from BernalSAFE also attended Monday’s meeting; here are her notes, for addition detail:

Notes from SFPD Community Meeting
October 17, 2016


  • Captain McFadden – Ingleside Station
  • Lt. Caturat – Mission Station
  • Sgts. Brown and Lao – Gang Task Force

Capt. McFadden (Ingleside Station):

  • Recent incidents at Bernal Dwellings, Precita Park, and numerous locations in the Mission are believed to be gang-related (possibly MS-13) and not random. Gang Task Force is investigating each.
  • Call in suspicious CONDUCT (not appearance) when you see it; don’t just post on Nextdoor. Can call 911 (crime in progress) or non-emergency dispatch (553-0123) for suspicious activity – e.g., drugs, casing cars, etc.
  • If an event occurs, be proactive about sending in video or giving an eyewitness account – be specific. Captain McFadden will take your video personally – joseph.mcfadden@sfgov.org
  • The recent events seem to be gang activity carrying over from the Mission – retaliation, etc. Coleridge Mini-Park assault was not gang-related. Alemany homicide also not gang-related.
  • Q from audience: wife of man assaulted at Coleridge Mini-Park said many neighbors had called 911; slow response and victim/witnesses discouraged from filing report. Captain McFadden said to call Platoon Commander for slow response – 404-4000.
  • Q from audience: do we have enough cops? Currently 104 at Ingleside, down from full staffing levels.

Lt. Cataract (Mission Station):

  • Incidents are related; victims were targeted.
  • Believe activity started a few months ago; investigations are active.

Gang Task Force:
Sgts. Brown and Lao focus on Mission-based gangs.

  • Nortenos and Surenos – way more Nortenos than Surenos (50-60 Nortenos for every Sureno).
  • Recent activity is Nortenos feuding with other Nortenos; MS-13 possibly involved.
    Many MS-13 jailed in mid-2000s. Activity picking up again in LA and SF.
  • GTF has 12 people total, down from peak of 45.
  • Precita Park victim had Norteno ties. When gang members are victims, they often don’t cooperate.
  • 2 recent shootings in Bernal Dwellings under investigation.
  • Gang activity tends to have peaks and valleys. Right now seeing a peak.
  • Recruiting age for gangs is middle school.
  • GTF works with federal task forces.
  • For a city of its size, SF’s gang problem is bigger than you’d expect.
  • Community involvement helps cases go all the way to prosecution (witness accounts, video). Mentioned a law that allows GTF to testify for you in preliminary hearings if you’ve given video, so you don’t have to appear until jury phase.
  • Cameras very helpful. Proactively call station if you have video – saves time in investigation.
  • Gangs less obvious these days in terms of dress/gang colors/etc. Now more concerned about being fashionable than representing their allegiances.


Q: Has there been an uptick in robberies overall?
Not relative to normal levels.

Husband of woman robbed on block with a series of similar robberies – they gave video, witness accounts, etc. & didn’t see much action from police.

Q: Do Mission & Ingleside share reports?
Yes, every morning.

Q: If you have a bad experience with an officer
Get the officer’s name and badge number and report to captain. Many of the officers on the streets now are new to the force, so they still have a lot to learn

Q: What does SFPD do when there’s gang activity?
Additional patrols, more undercover officers.

Q: How does the Gang Task Force monitor gangs?
Now involves social media (Snapchat and Instagram) in contrast to past.

Q from store owner on Mission: Is there gang graffiti to look out for?
If you see likely gang-related graffiti, take a photo and send in to 311 or martin.ferreira@sfgov.org (he’s graffiti officer). Gang graffiti typically Roman numerals or numbers, won’t be artistic. E.g., XIV, 14, 22V (I think).

Community Groups Focused on At-Risk Youth:

Finally, and poignantly, this is what Neighbor Nina said she learned from the meeting, as shared in a Bernalwood comment:

These were my takeaways:

1. The police dept, including gang task force, is sorely understaffed and the staff they do have are too green to know wtf they are doing

2. It is no longer the job of police to serve and protect. Rather, it is to capture and prosecute. If they don’t think they have enough info to prosecute, they will not take time to capture. Relates directly to understaffing and inability to be proactive, operating in only a reactive state.

3. Dispatch has to prioritize calls, they get 50 or more noise complaints a night, that is why they are sometimes slow to respond. The police prioritize gun shots, robberies, etc over noise complaints. If you think it is going to escalate to violence, ask to talk to the PC (platoon commander) to have the call prioritized. (This relates back to being understaffed)

4. The police cannot keep us safe. They recommend dodging crossfire and reassure us that we are not the targets unless we are in a gang.

5. The last 5 MINUTES of the meeting, while people were leaving, was devoted to neighborhood groups who are actually doing the work that will protect us and keep us safe. The whole hour should have been dedicated to hearing them and learning how to get involved in their groups. The COMMUNITY is the way to PREVENT the violence. The police can’t do anything. We have to.

PHOTO: Capt. McFadden at the Oct. 17, 2016 Community Meeting, by Telstar Logistics

Monday: Community Meeting with SFPD to Discuss Violent Crimes in Bernal Heights


There’s been a lot of (quite understandable) distress about the recent spate of violent crimes in Bernal Heights, including the Oct. 8 shooting in Precita Park and other rather horrific incidents like this and this.

This is not acceptable.

An emergency urgent community meeting with the San Francisco Police Department has been organized for this coming Monday night, October 17, and Neighbor Sarah has the details:

The Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and other neighbors have organized a community meeting to discuss the recent Precita Park and Bernal Dwellings shootings with SFPD.

Captain McFadden from the Ingleside Police Station and a representative from the Mission Police Station will be in attendance.

When: Monday, 10/17, 7:30-8:30pm
Where: Leonard Flynn Elementary School (on Precita Park, 3125 Cesar Chavez St, @ Harrison)

Please enter Flynn from the Harrison side of the school. The meeting will start on time and end on time.

PHOTO: Police mark bullet casings found near Precita Park on Oct. 8, by Bernalwood

Bernal Parent Beaten at Coleridge Mini-Park

A Bernal Heights parent was beaten on Wednesday night after trying to quiet a disturbance at the Coleridge Mini-Park.

A neighbor who lives near the park tells Bernalwood:

It happened Wednesday night. A couple of people (two men, one women) were hanging in the Coleridge Mini-Park. They got into a heated and loud argument between themselves. A neighbor came out and asked them to please keep it down because he was trying to put his kids to bed.

They stopped fighting with each other and started on him – screaming that this was the Mission and if he didn’t like it, he could get out, who the hell was he to tell them what to do, blah, blah, blah.

They stepped up to him and pushed him and then it went from there. Called 911 three times because it was really starting to escalate – it was three on one – they didn’t seem to be in a huge rush to get there (was told four cars were en route – only saw one initially, a second rolled up a bit later) – none had the sirens on, just the lights.

Went out to give the cops a statement as a witness and they told the neighbor that if he wanted to press charges, then the group would be involved as well (“because that’s how it works”) and he can deal with this going through the court system for the “next year or so.” They essentially discouraged them from pursuing any charges.

Honestly this was the first issue we had seen since the light had been installed. Ironically enough, we had just said to the neighbor’s wife (the one who was assaulted) that afternoon how nice it was to have the lights in the park and how much quieter it had been. I guess we jinxed it.

PHOTO: Coleridge Mini-Park, Sept. 2016

City Moves to Halt Bernal Heights Firm Accused of Defrauding Immigrants


For the last few months, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office has been pursuing an action agains Lacayo & Associates, a Bernal Heights company that provides tax and immigration consulting from it’s office at 3330 Mission Street (near Virginia), a few doors south of the Safeway.

The City accuses Lacayo & Associates of fraud, alleging that the company has misrepresented itself as a law firm.  Yesterday, the City Attorney’s Office announced it has obtained an injunction against Lacayo & Associates:

SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 11, 2016) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge this morning granted City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s motion for a preliminary injunction ordering defendants Lacayo & Associates and its principles, Leonard Lacayo and Ada Lacayo, to immediately comply with the Immigration Consultant Act and stop unlawfully providing legal services.

In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Harold Kahn found that Herrera is likely to prevail on the causes of action in his suit filed in August against the defendants for misleading clients to falsely believe Mr. Lacayo was an attorney who could provide legal services in their immigration cases.

“I am grateful that the court recognized the urgency of Lacayo & Associate’s actions and ordered an immediate halt to their fraudulent operation,” said Herrera. “They preyed on the immigrant community by charging high fees for work they could not perform, even placing some of their clients at risk of deportation. Today’s court order is an important step towards bringing the Lacayos to justice and preventing other immigrants from becoming victims of their incompetent and illegal services.”

As part of the preliminary injunction, Lacayo & Associates must remove from their advertising any misleading statements about the “legal services” they provide, and give written notice to clients who received immigration related services within the past four years of the clients’ rights under California law and the fact that Leonard Lacayo is not a licensed attorney. Mr. Lacayo is also prohibited from providing any immigration-related services unless he registers with the CA secretary of state as an immigration consultant, passes a criminal background check, files a disclosure form, and posts a surety bond in the amount of $100,000.

Lacayo & Associates has been operating in San Francisco since 1986. Mr. Lacayo is a notary public but is not licensed to practice law nor registered with the state as an immigration consultant. Yet, he routinely defrauds clients by falsely representing himself as a lawyer and shoddily performing immigration-related services. Victims report that after charging thousands of dollars in fees, Mr. Lacayo would fail to ever submit their applications, or would submit applications that were denied due to inadequate preparation. In many cases it was only when clients sought assistance elsewhere that they realized that Mr. Lacayo was not an attorney and learned the true status of their cases.

If successful, the case could result in civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation and recover funds for consumers who were victimized by Lacayo & Associates’ unlawful, fraudulent, and unfair practices.

Services for victims
Victims of Lacayo & Associates who are looking for a licensed attorney to take over their case should contact the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service hotline at (415) 989-1616 and ask to speak with Antonio Hernandez.

Victims who would like to make a complaint about Leonard or Ada Lacayo or Lacayo & Associates or wish to assist the San Francisco City Attorney Office in prosecuting this legal action can contact the office’s hotline at (415) 355-3270.

The case is: People of the State of California v. Leonard Lacayo et al,San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC 15-553699, filed August 15, 2016. Complete documentation on the case is available online.

IMAGE: Lacayo Associates office at 3300 Mission Street, via Google Street View

Two Men Wounded in Precita Park Shooting Saturday Night

Markers on the street indicate where gun casings were found

Markers on the street indicate where gun casings were found

A shooting last night at the eastern end of Precita Park left two men wounded — one seriously. The shooting occurred at around 9 pm, on Alabama at Precita, directly across the street from the Precita Park Cafe.

Neighbors said they heard as many as 12 shots fired. Officers at the scene said the two wounded men exchanged gunfire with a passing car. As officers scoured the scene with flashlights, they left markers on the street to identify the locations where gun casings had been found.

One officer said said the victims were both young Latino males, and both were transported to the hospital. Another officer suggested that the shootings were probably not random, and that the victims were not providing information to the SFPD.

MissionLocal reports the victims were both in their late 20s, and that one of the men had suffered life-threatening injuries.

Bernalwood will update this story as additional information becomes available.


PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Discrepancies Appear in Photos of Hillary Ronen Campaign HQ Graffiti

The fishy tale of the hateful graffiti that appeared on the campaign headquarters of District 9 supervisor candidate Hillary Ronen just got a little more fish-smelling.

As you may have heard, during Labor Day weekend, sometime in the early hours of Monday, September 5, someone scrawled misogynistic graffiti on the doorway of D9 candidate Hillary Ronen’s headquarters at 3417 Mission Street (between Kingston and Eugenia) in Bernal Heights.  The graffiti, which appeared to support Joshua Arce, Ronen’s foremost rival in the D9 supervisor race, said: “Vote Arce Ya C***s.”

In a Facebook post shared at 6:17 pm on Monday, Sept. 5, Hilary Ronen shared a photo of her staff as they painted over the graffiti:


Meanwhile, that same day, candidate Joshua Arce condemned the graffiti, and disavowed any involvement with it:

I was saddened to learn this morning that someone had defaced my opponent’s office with offensive and misogynistic graffiti. I reached out to Hillary to see if we can help remove the graffiti because I would never condone or stand by while someone, who claims to support me, uses hateful language and defaces private property. While this race may get contentious at times, there is no excuse for the type of behavior that was shown this morning.

So, whodunnit?

Fast-forward a few weeks, and KPIX reporter Joe Vasquez broke the story about security camera footage that captured the scene when the vile graffiti was scrawled on the Ronen HQ door:

The video shows that at 5:22 am on Monday, September 5, two people — a man and a woman — worked together as a team to vandalize the front door of Hillary Ronen’s campaign headquarters.

The  footage, which we later learned had originally been obtained by the Arce campaign, shows that the man and the woman started by walking north along the west side of Mission Street, past the 76 gas station on the corner of Mission and 30th Street.  The man is wearing dark pants and a jacket. The woman is wearing a hat and boots, and carrying a cup of coffee. After passing the gas station, the pair crosses over to the east side of Mission street before doubling-back to the Ronen campaign headquarters. Then, the video shows, as the woman stood watch, the man squatted to write something in the doorway of Ronen’s campaign headquarters. With new markings visible on the door, the duo then continued walking north on the east side of Mission Street.

The footage is grainy, somewhat dark, and somewhat distant. Nevertheless, political junkies, reporters, and (now) SFPD investigators all over town have been obsessively zooming and enhancing the video, in hopes of finding a way to identify the perpetrators shown in the video.

Admittedly, Bernalwood editor has dabbled in some of this obsessive zooming and enhancing as well. But recently, when we took a step back to look at some of the photos of the doorway taken before the graffiti was painted over, we noticed something… rather curious.

Here are two posed photos taken while Team Ronen was painting over the vile graffiti. The same people are present in both images, and both were taken within a few moments of one another:


Two versions of a moment:  Photo by Sana Saleem/48Hills, left, and Ronen campaign, right.

The photo on the left was taken by journalist Sana Saleem, and published on the 48Hills site on Monday, September 5. The photo on the right is the one shared by Hillary Ronen (and provided to media sites like MissionLocal).

It would appear that both photos were taken at almost the exact same time. The same people are in the photos, in the same places and the same postures. Likewise, the sun is in the exact same position, as you can see by when we zoom and enhance the shadow shown on the bucket of paint:


But when you put both photos side by side and pull back just a little bit more, the photos begin to diverge. Can you spot the difference?


Here’s a clue:


Innnnnnnnnnteresting! In the photo on the right — the one published and distributed by Hillary Ronen’s campaign — the campaign signs for Tom Temprano and Mark Sanchez have been replaced by campaign signs for Kim Alvarenga and Jane Kim.

Another photo shows how the doorway looked earlier that same day. Here’s a tweet posted at 1:15 pm by @acordova:


As we can see, the configuration of the signs in the earlier photo matches what’s shown in the 48Hills photograph from later that same day, with signs for Tom Temprano and Mark Sanchez displayed in the campaign HQ window.

When asked about the discrepancy, Hillary Ronen told Bernalwood: “I switched the position of the signs when I took my photo to show solidarity with other women candidates who have also been subject to hateful attacks during this election cycle.”

Editor Tim Redmond from 48Hills has confirmed that the 48Hills photo was taken by reporter Sana Saleem. Bernalwood also asked Sana Saleem if she saw the signs being changed. Saleem said that while she wasn’t at the site for long, she did not witness the signs being rearranged.

Finally, just to complete the very strange circle, while the photo from the early afternoon of Sept. 5 shows the Alsarenga-Kim signs positioned on the right side of the doorway, this photo taken by Bernalwood yesterday shows them now on the left:


Stroller Lady Is Actually a Bernal Heights Package Thief


A neighbor on Bennington Street captured footage of a woman using a stroller to cart off pilfered delivery packages. The neighbor writes:

Saturday morning a woman wearing a pink hat and pushing a stroller stole a package from my front door at 7:22 am. From the video cameras it appeared as though she was strolling down Bennington Street scoping out the houses to see what she could steal.

Subsequent photos show Stroller Lady exploring the front stoop:


… and grabbing the box:


Bernal neighbors should be on the lookout for Stroller Lady, and please contact SFPD Ingleside at (415) 404-4000 if you see her in action.