policeblotter_sfa.jpgSan Francisco police today released more information about thieves posing as construction workers who have stolen copper from schools and churches in the city’s Sunset District in the past week, a crime that police Chief Greg Suhr said is “an epidemic nationally.”

The thefts began on Aug. 10 and continued over the next three days at Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, a Chinese immersion public school located at 1541 12th Ave., according to police.

Theft of copper rain gutters was reported from a building on the campus of the French School at 1201 Ortega St. on Sunday evening, and thefts have also been reported at St. Brendan’s Church at 29 Rockaway Ave. and St. Emydius Catholic Church at 286 Ashton Ave., police said.

In the thefts, the suspect or suspects are posing as legitimate contractors by dressing in attire that includes reflective vests and hard hats. They appear to be working on the building, but are actually stealing the copper piping and wiring from the exterior of the buildings, according to police.

In one of the incidents, a witness spotted two suspects–a white man between 30 and 35 years old who is about 6 feet tall, 190 pounds with blonde hair and a black man who is also about 6 feet tall and 190 pounds. Both were wearing reflective vests and blue jeans.

In another theft, a witness spotted a suspect described as a white man who is in his 30s, about 6 feet tall and 200 pounds with blonde hair, and was wearing a long-sleeved plaid shirt and tan pants.

Capt. Curtis Lum from the department’s Taraval Station said Tuesday that police have put additional patrols in the area and are investigating whether they are all related.

Suhr addressed the copper thefts at today’s meeting of the department’s CompStat crime tracking program.

The chief said the thefts are not just a problem for the victims, but often for the thieves since some copper wiring is charged and can electrocute them.

Suhr said the department is assembling a task force to address the problem.

Anyone who sees people engaged in the theft of copper should call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or call 911 if the crime is in progress.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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