car_alarm.jpgThere’s a guy who parks on my street with some sort of car alarm problem. It goes off probably once an hour, maybe more, and believe me, no one’s messing with it. After the first day I called the SFPD non-emergency number and they said they’d send someone out, but I don’t think anything happened — I saw the car’s owner a few hours later, and he seemed surprised when i told him his car had been having Beepfest 2010.

That was on Saturday. The only peace I’ve had is when he takes his car elsewhere. I’m losing my mind. Is there anything legal I can can do to deal with this? EVERY HOUR.

Yet another Ask the Appeal Saga that requires a TL;DR tag: If you find yourself in a similar situation and expect results within, say, a week, you must speak directly, face to face, with a police officer. You can do this by calling the SFPD’s Non Emergency Situation Hotline (415-553-0123), or by visiting your local police station.

After my experience investigating this question, I highly recommend the latter. Make that cop look you in the eye and promise you the lambs will stop screaming – uh, I mean, that the alarm will stop going off. Or else you’ll likely go through the events I describe below:

First, I called the SFPD and recounted the problem – car alarm has been going off since Saturday, a call was made a few days ago to no avail, etc. The dispatcher I spoke with asked me for the relevant address, a description of the car, and its license number (all of which I was able to provide, thanks to a quick Gchat conversation with the questioner). “We’re sending a car out right away,” the dispatcher said in an extremely authoritative tone. I truly believed that they were!

About an hour later, I asked the questioner whether the situation had been resolved. It had not. I called the SFPD again and spoke with Debbie, Dispatcher #177, who was extremely helpful: she looked up my complaint, said she was aware that a unit was “on it” but that she was unable to give me any other information, and gave me three options, which I have provided in a Choose Your Own Adventure format:

1. Ask the SFPD to run the license plate and see if the car has been stolen. If it has, go to Option (A); If it hasn’t, go to option (B)

2. Fill out a “Citizens Complaint Form.” If you’re lazy, go to option (C); If you’re proactive, go to option (D)

3. Ask for your case’s CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) number, and go to option (E)

4. Become so frustrated with bureaucracy that you decide to take matters into your own
hands, and go to option (F)

(A)If the car is stolen, the police will finally take action and arrive at the scene. But if it’s been four days since the car alarm started going off, chances are the car is not stolen. Sorry.

(B)Call 311 and report the vehicle as “abandoned.” The police will (eventually – you might have to keep tabs on the beeping car every day, and call the SFPD back if no ticket appears) give the car a ticket, after which the owner has 72 hours to act or else his/her car will be towed.

(C) Ask the SFPD (by calling the Non Emergency Hotline listed above) to send an officer to your house. Awkward! I’m often so lazy that I order Rhea’s Deli sandwiches to my house, which is three blocks away from the aforementioned deli, so I can’t say I’m not intrigued by this option – however, the SFPD has way better things to do pay you house visits. Feel bad about yourself.

(D) Stop by your local police station and tell them what the problem is. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve picked the best answer, because this is the only way you will ever solve your problem, at least legally.

(E) Bad call. When I called the relevant station, no one seemed to know who I should speak with. Finally, I was (unknowingly, on my part) transferred to the criminal investigative unit. The officer I spoke with recommended I walk around the neighborhood and knock on people’s doors to find out whose car it was. Then he suggested calling 311. THANKS.

(F) Buy/borrow a sledgehammer, smash car window (Just kidding! I am not advocating this in any way!).

Photo: The Blackheath Bugle

Think of “Ask the Appeal” as your own personal genie: no Bay-related question is too big or too small. Whether you’re concerned with a municipal question, a consumer advocacy issue or simply with consuming alcohol, email us your questions at ask@sfappeal.com (or, find answers to past questions here). We’ll either do the dirty work and talk to the folks in charge, contact an expert in the field, or – if your question is particularly intriguing or juicy – develop it into a full-blown investigative article.

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  • Greg Dewar

    Of course, while the satisfaction of using a bat and bashing in say, all the windows would feel good for a moment, that’s a crime and crime ain’t cool.

    So many car alarms are set off by loud motorcycles, annoying kids, etc that I don’t see them being effective, especially in a place like SF where everything’s jammed together. At my old place, I remember one person had one that went off a million times. When their car finally got stolen, the cry wolf alarm had bugged us all so much, we just assumed it was another false alarm and no one even looked out the window.

  • Greg Dewar

    Of course, while the satisfaction of using a bat and bashing in say, all the windows would feel good for a moment, that’s a crime and crime ain’t cool.

    So many car alarms are set off by loud motorcycles, annoying kids, etc that I don’t see them being effective, especially in a place like SF where everything’s jammed together. At my old place, I remember one person had one that went off a million times. When their car finally got stolen, the cry wolf alarm had bugged us all so much, we just assumed it was another false alarm and no one even looked out the window.

  • Xenu

    This is easily the most useful article I’ve seen on here.

    Now you need a part 2: what to do about dogs that won’t stop barking.

  • Xenu

    This is easily the most useful article I’ve seen on here.

    Now you need a part 2: what to do about dogs that won’t stop barking.

  • Burgos

    Years ago, I was spending a few nights at a friend’s condo on Haight Street; I was mending from a motorcycle accident and I need a little TLC.
    In the middle of the night a car alarm went off and the cops didn’t show, so some irate neighbor got the message across to the car owner. They apparently melted shoe polish, smeared thick layers of it on the windshield and stuck a letter written in magic marker, asking them to deal with the problem. The problem was fixed!!

  • Burgos

    Years ago, I was spending a few nights at a friend’s condo on Haight Street; I was mending from a motorcycle accident and I need a little TLC.
    In the middle of the night a car alarm went off and the cops didn’t show, so some irate neighbor got the message across to the car owner. They apparently melted shoe polish, smeared thick layers of it on the windshield and stuck a letter written in magic marker, asking them to deal with the problem. The problem was fixed!!

  • Katie Baker

    That is option (G).
    Just kidding! Once again, I do not advocate vandalism. Especially because my Jeep has electrical issues and the alarm used to go off all of the time (of course, I got it fixed!).

  • Katie Baker

    That is option (G).
    Just kidding! Once again, I do not advocate vandalism. Especially because my Jeep has electrical issues and the alarm used to go off all of the time (of course, I got it fixed!).

  • generic

    I have absolutely vandalized a car for it’s alarm. Shamelessly. Will do again.

  • generic

    I have absolutely vandalized a car for it’s alarm. Shamelessly. Will do again.

  • Jimbo

    Maybe we should be asking a more basic question: why should cars have audible alarms if no one pays attention to them? Get a killswitch – it won’t annoy anyone but thieves.

  • Jimbo

    Maybe we should be asking a more basic question: why should cars have audible alarms if no one pays attention to them? Get a killswitch – it won’t annoy anyone but thieves.

  • Akit

    I remember several years back there’s a state or city law about car alarms. I don’t recall the exact wording, but if it went off too many times (false alarms), the owner of the vehicle gets in trouble in some form.

  • Akit

    I remember several years back there’s a state or city law about car alarms. I don’t recall the exact wording, but if it went off too many times (false alarms), the owner of the vehicle gets in trouble in some form.