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