This past week, one of the coolest things in crime was Doug McCune‘s series of maps of San Francisco,
an info-graphic in which McCune uses topographic elevation to
illustrate the rates of different kinds of crimes reported in the
city.  Each map is devoted to a different type of crime, some of which
(like vehicle theft) appear to be a problem throughout the city, and
others (such as prostitution and drug activity), that are concentrated
in certain areas. 

McCune’s “criminal mountain ranges” reveal in a
striking way the degree to which certain criminal activity plagues a
given San Francisco neighborhood.  McCune notes, for example, how his
maps reveal that arrests for prostitution “are peaking on Shotwell St.
at the intersections of 19th and 17th,” while  drug activity is clearly
centered in what McCune refers to as “Mt. Loin.”

For those of us who think in pictures, McCune’s data maps provide a
visually stunning but also incredibly useful overview of the hot spots
for various crimes in the city.  In seconds you can zero in on one part
of town and get an answer to the question, “How bumpy is it near that
apartment I looked at earlier today?”  And since no area is completely
safe from crime, it’s helpful to see what crimes you could “live with”
(like auto theft) and those which you’d like to guard against, as much
as possible (like assault).  McCune has also done a similar
info-graphic with city lights, as well, and it, too, is worth a look.

A less successful approach to info-graphics (in this case, an interactive one) is the kind favored by ABC7–data that is imported from the website,
The interactive feature is a nice one; you can click on the map’s
various labels to find out the specific details of the crime that
occurred recently in that location, but such a task can be difficult
when a certain area has so many reported crimes that there are layers
of buttons indicating criminal activity, as this screen shot indicates: 

Those light blue bubbles represent multiple crimes reported at that
location. It’s overwhelming and a bit confusing, especially since, as
you move the map, the “crime bubbles” will disappear, then reappear,
then disappear again…it’s hard to get an accurate sense of criminal
activity for a given area as a whole.  But I could see how it might be
useful if you know the specific location that a crime took place; then
you could plug that in and get the specific details by clicking the

Of course, as we told you last week, you can also find out about
crime from your Station Captain’s Newsletter, and with that in mind,
it’s time once again to highlight some of the recent crimes (and, in
this case, arrests!) in the city as regaled to us by our local Station

First up: The iPad has yet to save journalism, but it is already solving crime!  Last week
I noted that iPhone theft is a problem for the neighborhoods served by
the Richmond Station, but iPods and now the iPad are also hot items. 

The Richmond Captain’s most recent newsletter reports that on June 1,
“a victim was walking on 25th Avenue from Geary and noticed
a 16 year old female suspect following him.”  The suspect asked the
victim for money, and he gave her seventy-five cents.  The victim
continued walking “west on California [when he] was again asked by the
suspect for money.  When he replied that he didn’t have any, the
suspect pulled out a knife and demanded more money.  The victim turned
over his wallet and the suspect grabbed the victim’s iPad and iPod and
ran away.” 

Those at the Park
Station turned to “analysts” who “asked the best of all sources–a
reformed burglar.

That’s quite a haul–a wallet, an iPod, an iPad, and let’s
not forget that original seventy-five cents–loose change the juvenile
suspect apparently put to immediate good use: the iPad’s GPS system
guided the police to the suspect’s location on…wait for it…the 38
Geary.  The police recovered the property (except for the seventy-five
cents, which was likely rattling in the Muni fare box…unless of
course the suspect is also a dirty, rotten fare evader in addition to
being a mean, knife-wielding thief).

Apple products continue to entice troublemakers, but some victims
are fighting back, and I have to give a shout-out to one in particular
who fought for her rights and for her stuff.  The most recent Richmond
Station Newsletter reports that on June 9 at 9:15 p.m., a woman walking
on Washington Street near Broderick passed two females.  At one point,
the victim took out her iPhone to read a text, and “One of the suspects
then grabbed the victim’s I-phone (sic) from her hand, which the victim
demanded back.” 

Most advice given to citizens is to avoid
getting in a fight with perpetrators, but this woman chose fight over
flight.  First she demands the phone back, a demand that prompted the
iPhone stealer to flee.  The victim chased after her and caught her.
Boo-yah!  The suspect, though, wasn’t going to return the iPhone just
because this victim had chased and caught her, so she “punched the
victim, and a second suspect grabbed the victim from behind and threw
her to the ground.” 

Now, that would be enough for me to admit
defeat and just hope to get home in one piece, but that’s because I’m
kind of a pansy about these things.  This victim, however, has the
proverbial nerves of steel, so when the suspects decided they wanted
the victim’s purse instead of just her iPhone, the victim (despite the
fact that she had just been punched and thrown to the ground) held on
tight to her bag, causing the perps to flee with only the phone that
started it all.  But the victim was reunited with it shortly afterward,
since the tracking technology in the iPhone led officers (once again!)
to the suspects and the stolen property.

So far we’ve learned that fighting like hell and having GPS in your
valuables can help solve many a crime against us.  But the Park Station
once again reminded us in their weekly newsletter of the long list of
ways you can protect yourself against crime.  After all, we wouldn’t
need to track our stuff to get it back if we prevented its loss in the
first place, right?

In their effort to help you be better informed about how to protect
yourself against theft, assault, and vandalism, those at the Park
Station turned to “analysts” who “asked the best of all sources–a
reformed burglar.”  But since you don’t want to get this info. from
just any random former burglar off the street, these analysts went with
one who had an incredibly extensive resume rap
sheet.  The Park Station newsletter proudly boasts that “This former
Burglar stole over $70 million worth of jewelry during his career, and
spent 11 yrs in prison for doing so.”  I’m hoping the capitalized ‘B’
in “Burglar” is just a typo, and that the Park Station does not think
of “Burglar” as a capitalization-worthy job title.  But I digress…

So you think you’re going to protect your domicile with a big
dog–maybe a German Shepherd or a Mastiff?  Well, if that’s so, Former
Burglar laughs at your fool-hardy ways.  According to him, “What you
want are ‘yappers,’ small dogs that make a lot of noise.”  Finally,
those yappy dogs most people can’t stand get some small bit of respect
from a former successful Burglar.   Small dog advocates everywhere,
this is your moment: Tell your landlord that your punter dog
is not only cute but also the best crime prevention money can buy.  I’m
not sure what Dave Crow would say about tenant’s rights here, but I as
far as I’m concerned, you have a right to your chihuahua or pomeranian,
and you should get a building manager’s discount to boot.  I mean, that
dog’s bark will echo through not only your dwelling but also those that
line your street.  Who’s to say how many untold quantities of valuables
your little dog could save with his incessant yapping that only
everyone can hear? 

If you need specific data before
approaching your landlord, you could get in touch with Doug McCune;
have him make you a map comparing chihuahua density to crime levels in
the city.  Take these maps to your landlord and take yourself to the SPCA,
’cause I think you just won your case, and they’ve got lots of little
chihuahuas just waiting to kick some would-be-burglar ass.

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