UPDATED: Bernal Residents Underwhelmed by Last Night’s Community Safety Meeting

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NotImpressed

All the celebrities showed up at last night’s much-anticipated Community Safety Meeting: an SFPD captain, three Supervisors, and an angry, overflow crowd of Bernal Heights residents who want to know what the City will do to help make our streets secure again.

Interest ran very high. The Bernal Heights Neighborhood center estimates that 200 Bernal neighbors jammed inside the building, with another 100 turned away outside. That was important unto itself, because the high attendance sent a powerful signal to City officials that our community is watching closely, very energized, and deeply engaged. Major kudos to BHNC, for making it happen.

Yet by the standard of “what the City will do to help make our streets secure again,” many Bernalese left feeling disappointed by what they heard. A neighbor provided this summary:

Here is my summary of the meeting:

  1. In my 20+ years in Bernal that is the largest turnout I have ever seen. I am sure there were 100s of folks there, and a bad mike/sound system
  2. The structure of the meeting was Supervisors and the Captain. No Sergeants were present; there were a few officers and a detective (plainclothed).
  3. Lots of supervisor rhetoric. Necessary political concerns expressed, but not much problem-solving
  4. Captain Falvey was in the hot seat, and he did remarkably well. He answered questions, but it was limited because the police are still filling out reports, etc.
  5. Then came questions from the public. Not much time was left for this, and the questions were written down. The questions were condensed because they were a lot of repeat questions. They was a lot of talk of not displaying victim behavior etc etc, Call when you see suspicious behavior etc.

Very lackluster.

That’s consistent with what we heard from other Bernal Heights civilians. Neighbor R writes:

Loads of people.  Standing room only and then some.

IMO, maybe 5 minutes of the hour plus meeting was about the recent muggings.  Lots of talk about not showing anyone you have a phone, lots of supervisors talking about educational initiatives and Newtown and federal gun control.

No talk about preventing future muggings, equipping police with technology to track phones, stopping the very active and open fence market on Market (where they found the guys last night).

Count me very disappointed.

Neighbor Laura adds a second:

I agree with R’s overall sentiments about the meeting. I left not feeling any safer and was very disappointed that we didn’t actually focus on the issues at hand. I was hoping for more of an open forum where we could all ask our questions and have them answered, not the sorting and selection process of the questions that happened.

You get the idea…  the reviews of last night’s meeting have been consistent.

Bernalwood is told that planning for additional meetings with the SFPD is underway, with the goal of using future sessions to focus more concretely on question-and-answers, updates, and crime-prevention strategies. That’s great.

Today, however, Bernalwood offers this visual summary of current neighborhood sentiment:

Bernalwood.notimpressed2-1

UPDATE: 1/31 2:30 pm Neighbor Edie, who regularly writes those invaluable notes from the SFPD Ingleside monthly meeting, comes through with detailed notes on last night’s meeting:

Bernal Heights Community Safety Forum

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center

Speakers: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center Executive Director Rachel Eboria and Director of Community Engagement Ailed Paningbatan

San Francisco Police Department Captain Timothy Falvey, Ingleside District
Supervisors David Campos-District 9, John Avalos-District 11, and Scott Wiener-District 8
San Francisco SAFE Program Director Irina Chatsova.
Sister Eve Volution and Sister Pat N Leather, The sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Attendees: Over 250 crowded into the BHNC main meeting room, the balcony, and stairs. More went home, unable to fit in through the doors.

SFPD Ingleside Captain Timothy Falvey: In Bernal Heights recently there has been an increase in robberies involving firearms. The latest was Tuesday night in the 200 block of Bocana. Three neighbors chatting in front of a house were approached by three men with a gun, who stole an iPhone with “Find My iPhone” GPS tracking app on it. A quick- thinking Bayview officer tracked the phone on his iPad, and radioed in that it (and the thieves) were in the Tenderloin, where electronics are commonly fenced. Tenderloin police spotted the car, but the suspects took off onto 101 south. After a chase, police apprehended the suspects. Now that they are in jail, police will ask the victims and witnesses of other crimes if they can identify them. They think there may be seven robberies in Ingleside connected to this group, and possibly more from other neighborhoods since these guys moved around (two robberies in Portola/Bayview area before they got to Bocana/Cortland).

They also are about to make an arrest in another robbery where the victim had a chance encounter a few days later with the person who mugged her and was able to identify him to the police.

Often an increase in similar crimes is caused by a small number of perpetrators. Once a few are arrested, the volume of crime decreases. Let’s hope that happens soon.

Falvey uses the “three E” approach to reduce and prevent crime, a focus on education, enforcement, and environment.

Education: Such as warning signs posted around the neighborhood, helps neighbors be aware of what’s going on and how not to be a target. For example, there have been at least 6 incidents at Balboa BART where thieves target i-phone users: drivers ask to borrow someone’s phone and then speed away onto 280 with it. Criminals have also been asking time or for directions to see if someone has a phone. Telling people makes them more aware and less likely to become another victim. Tips can be found in the Ingleside station newsletter.

Increase in recent trend of robberies and thefts in and around the Balboa BART Station and City College area. Be vigilant of suspicious vehicles pulling up and its occupants asking for directions and/or to use your phone and then fleeing the scene with your property.

Environment: Residents must be proactive and aware of their surroundings. In general, the neighborhood should notice street lights that are out and trim trees blocking street lights, clean up Residents should get motion sensors or leave their porch lights on, prune shrubbery, and notice who and what is around them.

Enforcement: Police patrols and undercover officers work with Violence Reduction Team (a plainclothes unit deployed to neighborhoods that are experiencing spikes in crime) to cover specific areas. Last night, from the time the call came in to the time the officer met with the victims was one minute 5 seconds because plainclothes officers were already nearby.

Supervisor David Campos: The City Supervisors are committed to providing all of the resources needed by community and police to make neighborhoods safer, and community policing involves police and citizens in enforcement and prevention. What can we do as individuals? Campos was a victim of a mugging five years ago; he made it easier for the criminal because he (Campos) was talking on his phone. Don’t get caught up in your phone and ignore the people or situations around you.

Supervisor John Avalos: Excelsior, OMI, Crocker-Amazon, and neighborhoods south of here have also suffered an uptick of violent crime – break-ins, robberies, and a murder, and Avalos shares concerns and strategies with Campos. This includes, first, providing adequate police resources, and there will be 3 police academy classes this year, and 8 new officers started this Saturday at Ingleside. Second, working within the community to increase communications among neighbors and with the police and develop neighborhood watch groups. Third, providing resources for people seeking alternatives to street life, such as youth development programs, high school alternatives, and workforce programs. Again – this uptick in crime is caused a small number of individuals. When we catch them all, the crime should go down.

Supervisor Scott Wiener represents many neighborhoods, and Glen Park and the Bernal Cut are at the southern end of his district. There has always been a problem of robberies in GP due to the placement of BART and easy access to the freeway. Thieves also travel easily between Glen Park and Bernal. Weiner hopes to continue the combined neighborhood and police focus on awareness and control.

Sister Eve Volution and Sister Pat N Leather: The sisters of Perpetual Indulgence focus on community service and have been spreading general street safety information for many years, initially in response to homophobic acts. They suggest you get a whistle, wear it on a chain, and blow it if you are concerned or attacked. Wearing the whistle increases safety awareness; blowing it when attacked may give you a brief moment to get away, scare away the criminals, and bring out the neighbors to help you. The Sisters will be on the corner of Cortland and Andover on Sunday Feb 3rd to hand out safety tip sheets and whistles. Facebook: Stop the Violence, web site: the sisters.org

Community Q&A (30 min):
1. What to do about lack of lighting on Richland? First, contact 311. 311 is a one-stop-shop city service for neighborhood concerns. They will either send requests to the appropriate city agency, or redirect the caller. ALWAYS get a tracking number to follow the response. The 311 calls advise the supervisors and therefore can affect the budget. Second, tell Ailed Panangbatan, BHNC, who is organizing a safety walk to review the areas that are dark, covered with graffiti, and where criminals gather.

2. The Ingleside newsletter: How often sent out and updated? Police try to do it daily, but the person who started it is retiring and someone new will replace him. Newsletter not only has crimes committed, but comments on crime trends, and safety tips to counteract crimes. The crime reports, safety tips, safety forms and information sheets can be found and downloaded from http://www.inglesidepolicestation.com/

3. The discussion about gun violence is in the foreground now. Can we track this and use it to control gun activity? Campos: Guns are a priority for all the Supervisors. Campos’ office is using their portion of the supervisors’ discretionary budget for a gun buyback program. Avalos: As a city we must prioritize jail time for criminals who use a gun. We must also focus on the national level: Plan for the city to divest any funds invested with companies what manufacture guns. Falvey: in Ingleside has made 10 gun arrests in the past month. If someone has a gun in their house, they can call the police to pick it up, but if a burglar enters and steals it, it will then be on the street and could be used to commit crimes.

4. Drug sales in the neighborhood: What can we do about street-level drug sales? Police have undercover officers on the streets, so call the police. They will get drug dealers off the street to stop drug sales and thereby prevent greater violence.

5. How to better spread the word about happenings in the neighborhood? What do block captains do? Chatsova: Neighborhood Watch block captains have lists of contact information for all their neighbors and learn to use phone trees in emergencies to help solve problems. They also have quarterly meetings for ongoing training and discussions.

6. What do you do if someone pulls a gun on you to get the best outcome? If someone pulls a gun, you must evaluate the situation and make an immediate decision about your long-term safety. Remember, your stuff can be replaced, but your life cannot. Look for ways to escape, and people around to help you. Know you can get through this, so try to make yourself a good witness. Notice height, weight, facial characteristics, and license plates. Remember, criminals often wear layers of clothing so they can strip one layer off and change their appearance, even as they run away. However, they won’t change haircuts, glasses, or shoes.

7. Holly Courts is losing their director, and the tenants need a Director who is more tenant minded; the tenants ask to be part of the process in selecting that new Director. Campos: violence and public safety are connected, so if the Holly Courts tenants are affected, so is the rest of the neighborhood. Campos has asked for an audit of the housing authority to determine why residents still don’t have key cards after several years.

Irina Chatsova, Director of SFSAFE: SF SAFE can help individuals and groups start a neighborhood watch group, perform residential or business security assessments, and conduct classes in home and personal safety (including basic self-defense) for your neighborhood or community group. Most of this is completely free. 415-673-SAFE or http://www.sfssafe.org

Ailed Paningbatan, BHNC:
Hot Spot Walk: Upcoming – date to be announced. The BHNC is organizing another Hot Spot Walk for city officials and community representatives. The Hot Spot form follows on the next page of these notes. Use it to indicate areas of concern due to overgrown vegetation, poor lighting, garbage dumping, graffiti, drug dealing, etc.

Safety Walks: Neighbors, BHNC staff and members, and police conduct occasional Safety walks in the neighborhood and pass out flyers with tips on subjects such as auto break-ins and personal safety. For more information, to participate, or to suggest an area that could use a safety walk, contact Ailed Paningbatan-Swan at (415)206.2140 x 130 apaningbatan@bhnc.org

PHOTOS: Above, Top and bottom, Mark Johann. Center, Sam Burbank

Meet the Gentleman Who Allegedly Mugged Your Neighbors

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This is Thomas Sagaiga. He is 18, and from South San Francisco. Along with two accomplices — Jeremiah Ieremia, 22, of South San Francisco, and a 16 year-old from San Francisco whose name has not been released because he is a minor — Mr. Sagaiga was arrested on Tuesday night after a crime spree during which he allegedly mugged three victims on Bocana near Cortland in Bernal Heights.

According to the Bayview Station crime blotter, here’s how Mr. Sagaiga and his associates spent their evening:

Armed Robbery Arrest:
On January 29th at 7:30 pm, a 37 year old victim was robbed at Bacon and Girard. The victim told the responding officers that he was approached by three suspects as he walked home. One of the suspects pointed a gun at him as the other two stripped him of his coat and removed his wallet and smart phone from his pockets. The suspects then fled on foot. The officers searched the area but were unable to locate the suspects that evening.

On the same night at 7:30 pm, three 18 year old victims were robbed in the area of Silver and Girard. The victims told the officers that they had been walking in the area when three suspects approached them. One of the suspects was armed with a gun and ordered the victims against the wall. The other suspects then went through the victims’ pockets, stealing their bags, wallets, and smart phones. The suspect descriptions that the victims provided matched those of the earlier robbery on Bacon and Girard. The officers searched the area but were still unable to locate the suspects.

A short time later at 8:50 pm, several people were robbed at gunpoint in the Ingleside district in the area of Cortland and Bocana. In this robbery, three suspects were similarly described as in the two above mentioned robberies, with one brandishing a gun. The suspects stole wallets, smart phones, a laptop, and other electronics from the victims. This time, there was a suspect vehicle description provided to the officers. One of the officers was able to track one of the stolen smart phones via GPS to the area of 7th and Market, a location where stolen property is frequently hawked. This information was broadcast to Southern District and Tenderloin District officers.

Several minutes later, the suspect vehicle was spotted at 7th and Harrison by a Tenderloin unit. An attempt to stop the car resulted in a pursuit. The vehicle fled through the streets and onto the freeway, where the chase finally came to an end when the suspect vehicle became involved in a collision on southbound Highway 101 at the South San Francisco exit. All three passengers were positively identified and placed under arrest. Stolen items from all three above mentioned robberies were located inside their car. The two adult suspects were booked on multiple counts of robbery, conspiracy, aggravated assault, possession of stolen property as well as other charges at County Jail. The 16 year old juvenile suspect was booked on similar charges at the Juvenile Justice Center. (SFPD Case No. 130083162, 130083015, 130083300)

Okay, so it’s not the most cinematic description, but it definitely tells the tale.

One fabulous detail that goes unmentioned, for example, is how exactly the stolen iPhone was tracked by the SFPD . One of Tuesday night’s mugging victims tells Bernalwood what transpired:

We got lucky and had a Bayview cop who happened to be down at Alemany who responded in a few minutes. [SFPD Officer Guzman from the Bayshore Station] got on his iPad and started tracking my iPhone. The got a hit on it and located the car. [...] Officer Guzman used his personal iPad that he bought with his own money (no budget to distribute these) to track down the suspects.

Woa. The officer caught the criminals by making timely use of his personal iPad. Absolutely brilliant.

A suggestion: Let’s begin a collection to buy Officer Guzman a brand-new iPad Mini, compliments of the Citizens of Bernalwood. Dude totally earned it.

HAT TIP: Michael Aldax from the SF Examiner; PHOTO: Thomas Sagaiga, via Facebook. 

UPDATED: Suspects in Custody After Brazen Gunpoint Robbery on Bocana and High-Speed Chase on 101

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It happened again last night on Bocana at Cortland, just up the street from Chuck’s corner store. Another brazen robbery at gunpoint. This time, Neighbor Jean’s husband –  the same Neighbor Jean who typed up the notes from last Saturday’s ad hoc safety meeting! — was one of the victims:

9pm just 30 mins ago, my husband, and two neighbors were robbed by 2 of them at gunpoint at Chuck’s on the corner of Cortland and Bocana. One neighbor resisted and was pistol whipped, he is ok.. police came almost imediately, they must have robbed another as they took off and now all 3 are going down to the station to ID the A**holes. MAYBE they have all been caught now and this nightmare is over, I just cannot believe my husband was the latest. I hope this is good news..willl post later when I hear what happened at the station. They were 2 black youths, wearing a black hoody and a grey hoody.

Bernalwood has learned that three suspects were arrested in connection with the robbery, and they are being held for identification.

For further information on tonight’s incident, the arrests, and the prognosis for the recent rash of muggings, we will likely have to wait for additional updates from SFPD Captain Falvey at tonight’s 6 pm community safety meeting at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. Attendance, indignation, and probing questions are strongly encouraged.

UPDATE: 1/30/13, 7 am: More details emerging from our neighbor-reporters on how events transpired last night.

After the mugging, the criminals sped away — badly — in their getaway car:

It looks like these goons pulled a hit and run on richland avenue after fleeing chuck’s at cortland and bocana. two parked cars were hit by an out of control speeding car going downhill at richland near murray. one car was bounced off of and the other hit severely and knocked 6 feet forward and three feet onto the sidewalk with tons of rear end damage and a badly bent wheel axle. some neighbors said it looked like a silver/grey toyota ? pulled the hit and run. the car owners want these dbag lowlife clowns brought to justice and put in prison for felony hit and run added to whatever other crimes they committed tonight.

But a high-tech theft was thwarted by high-tech cops. A victim describes how the suspects were caught:

We got lucky and had a Bayview cop who happened to be down at Alemany who responded in a few minutes. He got on his iPad and started tracking my iPhone. The got a hit on it and located the car. After a 90mph chase winding through traffic on the freeway,  the suspects got in a car wreck and were caught by the police. I consider myself very lucky not only to be unhurt,  but to get almost all my stuff back. And the streets of Bernal are a little safer in the process. Thanks to Officer Guzman of Bayview for his quick response and thinking and thanks to the officers of the Ingleside station for their thoroughness and professionalism. And to the two rookie cops that were involved,  welcome to the force!

Neighbor Jean provides some encouraging details about the identification of the perps arrested last night:

2am. just got a call. ALL items stolen from the mugging tonight were retrieved in the perps getaway car that was involved in the crash and high speed chase on 101.  Except my husband’s Italian 101 book. Trying to bring levity here…they were the ones who committed the crime at 9pm this evening.  Apparently tonight was a very busy crime night, so more answers to come tonight at the meeting, but there could be others, but these guys fit the description of the recent brazen muggings by gun point in Bernal.

UPDATE: 1/30/13 4:15 pm

Michael Aldax from the SF Examiner has been covering the Bernal muggings, and he’s working on a story. He kindly shared this information with Bernalwood about the three suspects arrested last night:

The 16-year-old is from San Francisco. Not named because he’s a juvenile.

Thomas Sagaiga, 18, of South San Francisco, (Phillip & Sala Burton High grad) and the driver Jeremiah Leremia, 22, of South San Francisco are the others.

Thank you, Michael! We will link to his story when it becomes available.

PHOTO: Chuck’s corner store at 10 pm on January 29, 2013, shortly after police left the scene. By Telstar Logistics

What Bernal Heights Looks Like from the International Space Station

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Thanks to the valiant efforts of Bernal’s own space exploration team, we know what it’s like to stand in Bernal Heights and gaze far into the heavens. But what does an astronaut see when looking at Bernal Heights from outer space?

Indeed, because of Bernalwood’s innate vanity, many locals have long assumed that when astronauts look down from their zero-gravity perch, they think: Wow!  I can even see Bernal Heights from way up here!

Sadly, we now have reason to suspect this is not true.

The evidence comes to us via the Twitter account of Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station. Astronaut Chris recently floated over Bernal Heights, but when he looked down from space, from his attention was drawn elsewhere:

Notice: No mention of Bernal Heights. Disappointing.

Apparently, we’re not the only ones who felt that way. Bernalwood happened to see that a certain other transbay crossing was not very pleased either:

PHOTO: @Cmdr_Hadfield

Wednesday: Attend the Community Safety Meeting with a SFPD Captain and Three City Supervisors

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Tomorrow night, Wednesday January 30th, at 6pm, the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center will host a Community Safety Forum to discuss the recent wave of strong-arm robberies in Bernal Heights and surrounding neighborhoods.

An all-star cast of City officials will be in attendance, including SPPD Ingleside Captain Timothy Falvey, D9 Supervisor David Campos, D11 Supervisor John Avalos, and D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. All Citizens of Bernalwood are strongly encouraged to attend.

In a letter to the public released yesterday, Captain Falvey provided a summary of the SFPD’s response to the crime wave, and an update on arrests and investigations:

I have received numerous emails from the community about this increase in robberies in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. I want to assure you that the members of the San Francisco Police Department’s number one priority is the prevention of violent crime. We do this through many avenues.

We have increased our enforcement efforts in the areas affected by this increase in robberies. We have done this by increased uniform patrol, plain clothes operations, and have received assistance from other units of the San Francisco Police Department. We are deploying members of our Violence Reduction Team, Muni Task Force, and increased traffic enforcement in this corridor.

We have recently made an arrest in a violent robbery. Our investigators are following up with the prior crime victims to determine if this suspect was responsible for any of the other crimes in our district.

Also in response to the this recent rise in robberies, members of Ingleside Station, and particularly the beat officers on Cortland Avenue, have been handing out crime alert notices to the public to advise them of the public safety issue and been posting notices with the merchants along that corridor. Our aim here is to alert the public and educate them on ways to avoid some of the behaviors that criminals prey upon. On our website, Inglesidepolicestation.com, we have posted several flyers with crime safety tips.

Of particular concern to us is the frequency with which we encounter persons fixated on their iPhones and other electronic devices, rather than being aware of their surroundings. Many of our suspects target these valuable items.

I will be speaking at a community meeting on Wednesday, January 30, 2013. The meeting is at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center (515 Cortland Avenue) at 6:00 PM. There, I will discuss these robberies and any other public safety concerns raised by the public.

Thank you again for your email. Please know that the men and women of Ingleside Station are committed to your safety and we continue working tirelessly to prevent violent crime in your neighborhood.

Sincerely,

Captain Timothy Falvey #1071
Ingleside Station

Wednesday. 1/30. 6 pm. At the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center on Cortland.

Be there.

Latest Updates: Neighbors, Supervisor, and SFPD Respond to Spike in Bernal Heights Street Robberies

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Many things make Bernal Heights unique, but a recent spike in muggings and street crime is not one of them. According to the SFPD, a crime wave very similar to what we have witnessed recently in Bernal Heights is also afflicting our comrades in Potrero and Glen Park. There are unconfirmed reports of additional incidents over the weekend.

What does make Bernal Heights unique is the way close-knit Bernal residents rally to protect our neighborhood. There were two ad-hoc community meetings over the weekend, along with many good ideas shared about things all of us can do to make our streets safer — and increase the likelihood that the perps will be caught. Here are the highlights…

The first meeting took place on Saturday evening, and it was focused on immediate security concerns. Neighbor Jean took notes:

Well our impromptu meeting on the freezing library steps last night lasted about an hour and we had about 10 folks show up including myself and husband Jeff.

I collected everyone’s email and phone numbers and read aloud Campos’ response to my email and during the hour or so we were there, we must have seen at least 6 police cruisers go up and down Cortland.

The items that came up were:

- Safehouses on each block (clearly each block would get involved on their own and designate..)

- During this period, encourage folks to be perhaps not so cost efficient, but leave on their front porch lights for lighting up dark streets

- Cut back shrubbery that could hide perps

- Utilize the Good Life bulletin board for updates and announcements – next meetings, safety escort groups etc.

- Encourage all businesses on Cortland to post the orange Crime alert posters from the police dept.

- Bring Ingleside officers to our next meeting

- Invite the Guardian Angels into our hood until the perps are arrested

- Pay for private security vehicle to patrol during high crime time – weeknight evenings etc.

- Have merchants sell plastic whistles, let the Bernal population know that whistles are being implemented and if you hear one, identify where the attack is happening and call the appropriate 911 number

- Lastly, start the safety escort groups immediately. We talked about groups of no less that 4 volunteers, great excuse for dog walking. You can sign up to volunteer and then we meet at Good Life and wait hopefully wait for a few folks headed in the same direction to escort home. Also for the folks, like the female victim herself, that are afraid to walk their dogs at night alone now.

We talked about having another meeting perhaps at Progressive Grounds – earlier in the day, so no one is walking home in the dark!

Another ad-hoc meeting took place on Sunday evening. This turned out to be a larger event. Neighbor Buck wrote-up the minutes:

Kudos to Frankie and Joy for calling the community safety meeting tonight at 730 pm. I counted 48 neighbors in attendance. We used the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center (BHNC) because Martha’s was closed.

Frankie ran a great meeting. Folks decided to:

1) all call and e-mail Ingleside SFPD Station Capt.Tim Falvey to express concern, and encourage an active Police response;

2) organize a larger meeting, with a) the Captain (Caroline contacting); b) Sup. David Campos (Aneal); c) Campos to get DPW rep to attend; d) Project SAFE (Leon); and e) booking the Neighborhood Center for the meeting (Buck). BHNC also working to set up a meeting with the Captain. Folks expect to:

3) plan a safety walk like others organized in the past, with DPW, the Supervisor’s Office, and the Police, to get street and stair lights fixed and installed, trees trimmed, etc.

Meanwhile, in a comment posted to Bernalwood on Saturday, D9 Supervisor David Campos weighed in with his appraisal of the situation:

I wanted to thank all the Bernal neighbors who have posted on Bernalwood and have contacted my office about the recent muggings in the neighborhood. We take what has happened very seriously and please know that we are doing everything we can to deal with recent developments. I have communicated with a number of you but wanted to share the following information with this group.

I have been in communication with Captain Falvey and have asked him and our Police Department to dedicate additional resources to the neighborhood. To that end, the Police Department has assigned additional officers to the police station, including units from the City’s Violence Reduction Team. In addition to having more uniformed officers, the Captain has increased the presence of plain clothes officers and is increasing their undercover work. They are also working on a more long-term violence prevention strategy to sustain their efforts.

The Captain informs me that, unfortunately, the increase in muggings is happening City-wide and that many involve attempts to steal iPhones and other smart phones. I encourage you all to visit the Ingleside Station’s website to get more information about recent trends, including some tips on how to increase everyone’s safety.

So our elected officials are paying attention, our police are on the case, and our neighbors are taking measures to safeguard our streets. Apart from all that, what can every Citizen of Bernalwood do to assist? Our readers have contributed some good ideas.

Look for Lurkers. Neighbor Clio writes:

From the descriptions of the attacks, the perps have “come out of nowhere” running toward their victims. My neighbor apparently saw them lurking out of sight behind a tree (he just happened to turn around) – he said it gave him the creeps, but at the time didn’t know about the muggings.

So definitely, if we spot a group of two or three young men who appear to be lurking (as one person saw near the playground just before an attack on someone else) – RAISE THE ALARM!

Spot the Getaway. Neighbor Ted is watching for potential getaway vehicles; a key component of these street crimes. He writes about the area around Crescent, but such vigilance is a good idea for all the side-streets of Bernal:

This is a request to be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles along the Crescent corridor.

Sunday at 5 pm, I was driving up Crescent and turned North on Folsom to head toward Cortland. I saw two men getting into a car on Folsom (and pointed South, toward Crescent). Out of the corner of my eye, it looked like one of them was holding something that could have been a purse. As I drove up Folsom, the car pulled out, suggesting there was a driver already in it, waiting for the men.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about it, but with all the incidents taking place over the past few weeks, I’ve been turning this event over in my mind, and imagining that I had witnessed two armed robbers jumping into a getaway car. Now, I checked the police blotter and couldn’t find any incident happening at that time, so this was probably a big nothing. Still: it occurs to me that it makes total sense for these robbers to have a getaway car waiting near Crescent to they can jump on the 280 or 101 very quickly.

If you live near Crescent, please be on the lookout for suspicious cars . . . for someone just sitting round in the driver’s seat in a car parked on a side street pointed toward Crescent. Call the police to check it out. Get the license plate number, if you can do so in a way that feels safe.

Let There Be Light. Neighbor Kelly says:

It is a small gesture, I know, but I have been leaving my porch light on until about 11pm. My street is actually pretty well light, but I just feel like shining a little more light can only be helpful. Perhaps it will light up the “coming out of nowhere” places or perhaps it will allow someone to be able to better see and identify the license plate. I know, it is small, but perhaps, if everyone in Bernal left their porch lights on in the evening until 10 or 11pm, perhaps it would help…

Bernalwood will continue to provide updates as they become available, and our comment sections are open for Bernal neighbors to exchange information. Stay safe. Work together.

PHOTO: Safety poster on Cortland Avenue, by Steve Rhodes