Bernal Heights Crime Report for December 2012: Robberies Down, Car Thefts Up, and Why You Should Think Like a Burglar

Uniform

Just before the holidays, the wonderful Neighbor Sarah attended the SFPD’s Ingleside Station Chief’s Meeting, and she shared these invaluable summary notes about the latest Bernal Heights crime trends. Neighbor Sarah’s reports are always insightful, and in this issue she brings some extra bonus tips on how to avoid becoming a crime victim. Ye Citizens of Bernalwood are strongly advised to read the whole thing:

Ingleside Community Meeting, 12/18/12
Captain Falvey presided <timothy.falvey@sfgov.org>

INTRODUCTION
Captain Falvey brought up the recent series of armed robberies on Athens Street in the Excelsior, one of which also included a carjacking. He said that carjackings are relatively rare in San Francisco. In 2009, there were 11 in the Ingleside District, five of which occurred in the Sunnydale. In 2010, there were nine (mostly Sunnydale). In 2011, six. In 2012, four YTD. They made an arrest at Excelsior and Mission recently – the person/people had robbed three people in the area (but not the same as the Athens suspects). The captain has been using the CompStat maps to direct resources to areas where there’s lots of activity, which is how the arrests were made at Excelsior and Mission.

An aside: one way to find out where your stolen car is parked is to call DPT and find out if any tickets have been issued.

Balboa Park BART remains an area of concern for robberies – DO NOT STARE DOWN AT YOUR PHONE. Keep it in your pocket.

CRIME STATS
Robberies are down 10% YTD. Violent crime is up 1% (driven by domestic violence). Aggravated assaults (which include domestic violence) are up 12% YTD.

Huge increase in car thefts in 2012, mostly 1990-98 Acuras and Hondas. Before Thanksgiving, Ingleside did a large joint operation with the Mission Station, the Sheriff, Parole, Probation, and Juvenile Detention to visit people on parole or probation who had had auto thefts or burglaries in their past records. One was found with three shaved keys and was arrested. This seems to have resulted in a huge dropoff in car thefts. They were at 109 in the mid-Sept to mid-Oct period; 108 in mid-Oct to mid-Nov; and then all the way down to 40 in mid-Nov to mid-Dec.

Personal thefts are down 12% YTD. The captain has run some robbery abatement operations, where a plainclothes officer walks with an iPhone, distracted, but no one has attempted to rob her yet.

They also served a bunch of search warrants lately. If you see a block buzzing with cops and/or SWAT teams, it’s probably because a search warrant is being served.

I asked about the incident raised this week where a Bernal neighbor witnessed what appeared to be a domestic-violence situation and called the police, then suffered apparent retaliation for this. The captain said his advice is always to call the police if you’re ever unsure of a situation (for example, if something seems weird but you’re not sure the person actually needs help) and let them figure it out – and don’t put yourself in danger. He also reminds us regularly that people themselves are not inherently suspicious, but their behavior can be, so call if you are unsure.

A community member asked about the rate of crime per resident in the Ingleside. The captain said it’s 5.94 violent crimes per 1000 people and 25.25 property crimes per 1000 people, which is usually the second- or third-lowest in SF. Taraval is huge but also very sleepy and usually has the lowest rate of crime. The Ingleside District has well over 100,000 residents and is larger than any city in San Mateo County.

GUEST SPEAKER: FURLISHOUS WYATT, JR. FROM SFSAFE

850 Bryant St., Room 135, SF, CA 94103
415-553-1984, sfsafe.org

Furlishous Wyatt was asked to speak on residential security. Of interest to the Bernal community – he mentioned the blue tape incidents. It is thought that one reason potential burglars use the blue tape is that it is visible from a much greater distance than regular tape. The captain said the incidents have dropped off, but they did send several batches of tape to CSI, but no fingerprints have been recovered yet.

I am going to include everything Mr. Wyatt went over here – it was very helpful, if a bit unsettling. SFSAFE will do free home-safety assessments of your house and give you suggestions on improving the security. More info here.

GENERAL TIPS

Your ADDRESS NUMBERS should be illuminated and/or in a high-contrast color (vs the base paint of your house), and they should be visible from BOTH directions. This is for emergency responders.

Walk around your house and think like a burglar.

Security is always a mixture of things – no one thing will make your house safe.

You should have locks or screens on all doors, vents, and crawl spaces.

You should treat every door and window as if it is on the first floor. People often don’t secure their upper-floor openings as well, and burglars know this. Burglars sometimes do things like bring painting equipment and ladders and get into the second floor of a house that way.

Anything that is 96″ square or shoebox-sized is big enough for a small person or teen to get into – your head is the only thing that does not bend.

A burglar’s worst enemies are TIME, LIGHT, and NOISE, which can help guide you in setting up your home’s security. Burglars will aim for the path of least resistance.

TAKE VIDEO of each room in your house. Describe the contents of each room. This will be a huge help for insurance in the event that your house ever does get robbed, and it’s easier than making a list. Do each quarter of a room separately.

PERSONAL SAFETY

There is NO SAFE WAY to walk alone at night. White earbuds make you a target for thieves. So does looking at your phone.

Attitude and posture are key. Be aware of your surroundings. Have your valuables concealed (also smart to separate your valuables into different pockets). Walk with purpose and be ready for fight or flight. Flight is better – “run fool” vs “kung fu.”

Yell “FIRE” if you need other people to help you – most effective at getting people’s attention.

GARAGE TIPS

If you have a mail slot in your door or garage door, it should have a HOOD on it so that no one can peer in.

Doors in the interior of the garage to the interior of your house should be treated like any exterior door – solid-core and deadbolt.

LANDSCAPING

Raise crowns on street trees to 7′ to have a good view down the block.

Rule of 3′/7′ – no shrubs should be higher than 3′, and tree crowns should be taller than 7′.

Trees – eliminate limbs that would allow access to roof or upper stories.

No shrubs or trees in front of doors or windows.

FENCING

Privacy fences (solid wood) also shield burglars. Better to have wrought-iron/see-through.

LIGHTING

Usually at eaves/corners of house. In back yard, better to have perimeter lights facing in. When you have floodlights facing out, they blind your neighbors to anyone who might be in the yard.

ALARM SYSTEMS

Not a be-all/end-all. If you do have an alarm system, make sure it’s connected to a central service. Neighbors will not call in burglar alarms. Like car alarms, they have become a nuisance because of false positives.

DOORS & LOCKS

Get rid of pet doors! People can and do get in through these.

Exterior doors and interior doors leading in from garage should be solid core (vs the hollow core that many interior home doors are). You can bolster glass doors with polycarbonate or acrylic sheeting/panels.

The safest type of exterior door lock (taking into account both fire safety and safety from intruders) is a SINGLE CYLINDER DEADBOLT, where you put the key into the outside but can unlatch it from the inside. Double-cylinders (where a key is required for both sides) present too much danger in case you need to exit fast from a fire. Surface-mounted locks are less aesthetically appealing but also work well. Key-in-knob deadlatches are useless – they only thing they do is keep the wind from blowing the door open.

The key to a deadbolt’s success is the strike plate, which needs to be reinforced by 3″ SCREWS that will make it through the doorframe and into the 2×4 stud that is next to the doorframe. If you just have 1″ screws, the door and frame can be kicked in relatively easily.

Do NOT buy the $9 deadbolt. You want one in the $38-50 range. You do not need to get the $140 one.

If you have double doors or sliding doors, they typically contain one active leaf and one inactive leaf. You want to reinforce the inactive leaf and make it as strong as the wall. You can do this by bolting it into the jamb. He mentioned cane bolts and Mortise bolts.

Sliding glass doors can be strengthened by a dowel in the track of the inactive leaf and screws inserted in the top track.

If you have a PEEPHOLE, make sure it’s CONVEX/wide angle, which lets you see 180 degrees.

GATES

If you have the kind where you can buzz people in, make sure the metal covers the opening entirely. Sometimes people have the front of their stoop blocked, but the iron gate/fence don’t go all the way to the top of the porch. Burglars will climb over it.

WINDOWS

Double-hung windows are easiest to secure. You can put pins in at a slight downward angle where the panes meet.

If you have window bars in your house, you MUST have an interior emergency release on at least one in every room where people sleep or might sleep – this is in case of a fire.

Louvered windows are not secure – change them.

Casement windows – two cane bolts or flush bolts on top or bottom will help secure them.

Transom windows – if opening outward, add two bolts per opening.

Skylights can be somewhat secured with mesh, polycarbonate.

SAFE ROOMS

He suggested creating a reinforced room (not the full panic room you might be thinking of) that you could get to and use a phone in during a hot prowl or home invasion.

Master bedroom is one choice – change out hollow-core door for a solid-core door with a deadbolt. The room should have a landline phone, too. Cell phones run out of batteries or have poor reception.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

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16 Responses to Bernal Heights Crime Report for December 2012: Robberies Down, Car Thefts Up, and Why You Should Think Like a Burglar

  1. SCOTTinSF says:

    Interesting that there’s no mention of something I’ve always heard is very effective, and is quite popular in Bernal: get a dog.

    • JayJay says:

      What about a really mean pussy cat ?

      • friscolex says:

        Great tips!
        Although our pup is very alert during the day or when nobody’s home, he slept right through somebody crashing open our tradesmen’s door and stealing a very nice bike, just like we did.
        Stay safe, guys!

      • donatello says:

        OMG…I always pissed myself with “mean pussy cat” idea…love it. And I have known a few mean pussies in my time. Could work though. Crime is on the rise everywhere. Get some light timers that go on multiple times through the night. This works great, also if you have a huge flat screen TV on at night that is visible from passing cars or pedestrians, then it’s a good idea to close yor blinds and leave your porch light on. SFPD told me burglars are canvasing our neighborhood looking specifically for expensive TV’s.

    • putana says:

      Speaking of dog’s, on Thursday I witnessed the pitbull at 305 Nevada Street try to jump the 4 foot high, chain link fence and rip the face off “Mary” (not her real name) our mail carrier here in Bernal Heights (she delivers from begining of Peralta down to Market Heights, the Jarboe corridor and surrounding streets and finishes at Richland and Mission Streets) she is so sweet. I immediately asked her if she was alright since the teeth on that monster pit came within 1/16 of an inch to actual contact. She was shaking and upset of course, as was I witnessing this BS. She went on to tell me that she replaced our old mail carrier (the nice old Asian man we had for years) becuase his knees were giving out, before she was assigned the USPS had a seasonal worker delivering the mail and he was ATTACKED by the pitbull at 324 Nevada Street 8 weeks ago…we are talking paramedics, a 911 call,blood, police, fire department the whole enchildada…I do not understand how that pitbull has not been put down. Mary said it was because th carrier was just a temp worker with no benefits and did not press charges, but still the SFPD,SFFD know about this and did not send any type of notice about this clearly vicious attack.

      • jack says:

        Requesting readers for suggesting a way to follow up on safety measures for these two locations. Anyone? Thanks.

  2. Another neighbor says:

    Interesting that he doesn’t recommend double cylinder deadbolts… Are there any alternatives for houses with glass panels in their front doors?

    • Doug Coleridge says:

      I wish I could find someone with personal experience using it, but there is a safety coating you can apply to glass that will hold it in place even if shattered, making it very difficult to penetrate. Been thinking about this stuff for my first floor windows, but have some concerns about appearance.

      • Adam says:

        We had our front windows replaced several years ago with two-pane laminated glass, which is basically a sheet of some strong plastic between two sheets of glass. You can’t tell the difference between it and just plain glass, but it is apparently strong enough to make it very hard to break (though probably not stop a bullet), according to the installers if you tried to jump through it the wooden window is more likely to break than the glass. It cost about $180/window panel.

        We actually got it for improved noise/heat insulation as it would have been prohibitively expensive to replace all the windows with true double paned ones as the city would require they be wood windows, which would have been all-custom. This option can go into your existing wooden framed windows.

    • Ben says:

      We’ve got glass panels on our front door and we had someone screw a solid piece of lexan on the inside of the door. It’s bulletproof and makes the windows look double paned. While someone could break the glass they’d have to kick the crap (very loudly) out of the lexan to break in. We got our stuff at Tapp Plastics and it came out great.

      • deb says:

        Ben do you remember who installed this for you? Looking to have something similar installed on our door- Thanks!

    • Shane O'Connor says:

      Double cylinder deadbolts do not meet building code in residences. If there is a fire or some other peril inside the building you need to be able to leave without fumbling for your keys. It’s all well and good for your sturdily locked front door to keep burglars out, but imagine your dismay if you were to lose your keys and be locked in while your house was burning down. The same goes for security gates on doors and windows: no locks keyed from the inside.

  3. EM says:

    What’s the story with the neighbor who witnessed domestic violence and suffered retaliation?

    • Todd_Lappin says:

      It was a topic on the Bernalsafe mailing list. Not too much to say about it other than that the witness subsequently suffered some car vandalism that he (she?) attributed to retaliation.

      • Hater Above Cortland says:

        Someone walked down Moultrie last week, keying all the cars on the block. They got mine and at least two others I saw. That’s not connected is it?

  4. Matt says:

    In 1995, my car was stolen from the inner sunset. I reported it stolen to the authorities. Several weeks later -amazingly- I accidentally found it myself, abandoned below Tank Hill. It had many parking tickets on its windshield totaling several hundred dollars (the year-long bureaucratic entanglement that followed is a whole nother story). Even then, in 1995, I was shocked to learn that reported stolen cars wouldn’t set off red flags of parking tickets -or that the growing pile of such tickets on the windshield wouldn’t at least allow the connecting of dots. But to learn that this chasm of communication between enforcement agencies still exists is almost unbelievable. Hello, it’s 2013! certainly reported stolen cars should show up on the devices of DPT officers as they are writing up the citations! What am I missing?

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