sfpd_cityhall.jpgA couple of years ago, my sister-in-law asked me if I had ever accessed the Registered Sex Offender database
to find out about sex offenders living in my area.  I told her I
hadn’t, and the reason why came in the form of what she had discovered
upon using it: Registered sex offenders seemed to be everywhere–on her
street, on the roads bordering her street, in the apartments near the
store where she bought her groceries (even, perhaps, where she votes!).  I knew if I discovered the same
about my neighborhood, I would get all paranoid, despite the fact that
the phrase “Registered Sex Offender” covers a diverse group of
individuals, from convicted rapists and child molesters to the eighteen year old guy who “sexted” naked pictures of his ex-girlfriend to her friends and family.

And I’m already prone to worry as it is.  A few years ago, my wallet
was stolen from the gym I had been going to and for months afterward, I
would look at someone sweating on a treadmill or stretching on a gym
mat and wonder, “Is it you?  Are you the jerk who stole my
wallet?”  So when Eve started sending me the weekly SFPD “Captain’s
Newsletter”
for various stations throughout San Francisco, I had the
same worry: that the information these newsletters contained would make
me view every person in my neighborhood as someone to fear–a potential
threat to me and my meager–though beloved–possessions.

So far, though, the updates have fascinated me more than anything;
on the one hand, they make it clear that there is a lot more crime
happening in certain neighborhoods than the residents living there are
probably aware of.  How else could one explain the burglaries that have
occurred while residents are sleeping–burglaries in which the suspects
entered through open windows?  If people go to sleep with their windows
open, particularly if they live on the first floor or a low second
floor, I’m guessing those people are doing so because they feel
relatively safe in their neighborhood.  But the newsletters also have
some absurdity to them–a whimsy, almost–in which the crimes described
are a bit bizarre, or they are described in a bizarre way. (See, for
example, Tom Prete’s tweet last month Re: the man who called 911 to report an assault some four years after the fact.)   So in this column, in
addition to making readers aware of crime in the city, we also want to
highlight some of the gems of these newsletters, so that you, too, can
partake in their best offerings, without having to read them all
yourself.

And so, to begin…

Interestingly, for all of the information the Park Station offers about theft prevention, there is no information regarding crimes in the area.

If you live in the Richmond District, hold
onto your cell phones, people–especially if you have one of those
fancy “iPhones” everyone’s talking about these days
.  Four of the five
robberies documented in last week’s newsletter were iPhone thefts. 
(The fifth theft involved a bicycle that was–happily–later
recovered.)  And when I say “hold onto your phones,” I mean that in the
literal sense: In case after case, the phones that were taken were
laying on a cafe table right next to the victim while he or she sipped
a hot beverage or nibbled a tasty pastry.

Of course, in the big scheme of things, iPhone thefts are not
terribly scary, though they would certainly be upsetting to the
victims.  Things are a little more serious, however, in the city’s
Central jurisdiction which, according to the station’s website,
“comprises the Financial district, Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s
Wharf, and three famous hills: Telegraph, Nob and Russian.”  Last week
alone there were eight burglaries, one mugging, and one attempted
burglary.  One of the burglaries and the attempted burglary were what
are known as “hot prowls”–the suspects entered the homes of the
residents while the residents were sleeping.  In both cases, windows
had been left open, “allowing the suspects to enter without
difficulty.”  The station newsletter emphasizes the importance of
“common sense”–locking the doors of vehicles and residences and
closing windows at night or during the day when you are not home.

This week’s Park Station newsletter also emphasized these prevention tactics, and when I say emphasized, I mean emphasized
Virtually the entire newsletter is a long list of common sense ways
you, too, can prevent crime.  The Station Captain recommends that those
who live in or travel through the area (which “comprises the area
bordered by Geary Boulevard, Steiner, Market, Upper Market, 7th Avenue
and the vast east end of Golden Gate Park”) to “Lock your doors,” “Keep
it tidy” (by stowing out of sight anything you’ve left in your car),
and “Conceal all the evidence.”  This last suggestion sounded like it
was meant more for thieves than citizens, but the newsletter clarifies
that by “evidence” the captain means the electronic “accessories” such
as “power plugs, [and] telltale iPod adapters,” that are enough to
entice would-be thieves to break into your car and search around for
the devices to which these accessories belong.

Interestingly, for
all of the information the Park Station offers about theft prevention,
there is no information regarding crimes in the area.  Given the
emphasis on preventative measures (seriously–the newsletter provides
no fewer than eleven paragraphs of prevention advice which–in
addition to reminding us to stow our valuables and lock doors, also
includes suggestions about parking for greater “visibility;” using
so-called “physical” detractors like steering wheel locks; and adopting
behaviors that will ensure that your car alarm actually works when
needed), I’m going to go out on a limb and say: Car theft–a problem in
the Park jurisdiction.

In the coming weeks, we will be providing
more detailed information on crime in San Francisco–the what, the
where, the how often.  But as promised in the introduction to this
post, we will also feature some of the “gems” that pop up in the
various newsletters.  The humor in these bits may not be intentional,
but it’s there nonetheless.

The first is from last week’s Central
Station
newsletter, which provided the following information: On May
30, officers “responded to the intersection of Bay and Kearny regarding
a traffic accident.  A witness stated that one of the vehicles involved
had been swerving all over the road, hit another vehicle, and that the
driver was now passed out behind the wheel.  The driver exhibited clear
signs of intoxication and failed a field sobriety test.”  I’m guessing
those “clear signs of intoxication” were things like “swerving all over
the road,” crashing into another vehicle, and finally “pass[ing] out
behind the wheel.”  This is just a hunch, though.

Also of note is
that on May 20 in the city’s Richmond District, a 17 year old male “was
charged with possession of [a] BB gun and metal knuckles.”  Metal
knuckles?   The BB gun is one thing; it says, “I look like a gun, but
I’m not deadly, necessarily.”  But the metal knuckles are something
else altogether.  They say, “I’m here, and I plan on doing some serious
damage.”  It’s an odd combination, those two things.  The youth was
released to the custody of his father; it’s not know whether or not
these “metal knuckles” also caught him by surprise.

That’s it for now.  So stay safe out there, my friends.  Lock
your doors, close your windows, conceal the “evidence,” and maybe
invest in a pair of “metal knuckles.” 

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  • sdreader

    Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it. I’ve often been a little suspicious of the sex offender registry myself. Is a 19 year old boy who had sex with his 17 year old girlfriend a sex offender? In my opinion, no. Also, I’ve heard tell of this situation: an adult couple is having sex on the beach when a cop comes along. Instead of him telling them to “get a room,” he arrests them and for eternity they have to register as sex offenders. Not sure if this is a true case, or just an urban legend, but that is beyond wrong and gives the general public misleading information.

  • sdreader

    Interesting article. I enjoyed reading it. I’ve often been a little suspicious of the sex offender registry myself. Is a 19 year old boy who had sex with his 17 year old girlfriend a sex offender? In my opinion, no. Also, I’ve heard tell of this situation: an adult couple is having sex on the beach when a cop comes along. Instead of him telling them to “get a room,” he arrests them and for eternity they have to register as sex offenders. Not sure if this is a true case, or just an urban legend, but that is beyond wrong and gives the general public misleading information.