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

CortlandCrimeAlert

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

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

  1. I’m a neighbor over here in The Portola. Your muggers have hit here as well. They seem to be staying North of Bacon on San Bruno Ave. and just off of Silver. I live on San Bruno Ave, but farther South. I’m still being watchful. I really like the way all of you are coming together to battle the problem. Below is what I do to protect myself.

    Since I walk with a cane, I don’t carry a purse. I now keep a dummy wallet and old (dead) phone with me. I keep my debit card and live phone in a less obvious place. If I get held up, they aren’t going to get anything useful. I’m also looking into an ankle wallet.

    Good luck to all of you. Going through a crime wave and/or being a victim is no fun.

    P.S. I sometimes listen to the PD radio (on line). I can tell you from listening that they REALLY want these people. For anyone interested, the link is http://scansf.com/

    • Wow Rudah-an, You just located our perps!! I hope the cops that are reading this are putting some watch on that block to try and catch these guys (hopefully just after and) with still evidence on them so they can definitely link these guys to all of these incidents. When they are caught, if they can be tied to all of these attacks accumulated they should be looking at a decent amount of time. Their crime link goes deeper than those guys though because they must have a fence really close so that they can cash in all of this stolen merchandise quickly. Hopefully they get the whole group of them! Nice job!

  2. Great updates. Anone kno whow we request more street lights? My street is very dark at night. We have maybe 2 street lamps on the whole block and of course they are the dim orangish ones. Wondering if we can upgrade to brighter lamps or add street lights?

    • I emailed Campos about improving street lighting on Crescent last summer. His office directed me to the following persons at city hall: Mohammed Nuru, Head of the Department of Public Works, (Mohammed.Nuru@sfdpw.org and Sheila.Chung.Hagen@sfgov.org). Emailed them in August and never heard back…totally agree that much of Bernal is underlit at night.

    • I was parking my roommates car last night and noticed that one house on the block had an motion detected floodlight that really lit up the area well. Probably better than any streetlight I’ve seen.

      I wonder if we could somehow start some sort of a local fund for lighting since getting the city bureaucracy to move its wheels on stuff like this can be slow and impossible at times. Basically my idea would be this:

      – Start a community fund for flood lights/general safety related goods like free whissels (maybe throw a fundraiser in the neighborhood)
      – Identify problem areas with low lighting
      – Reach out to neighbors in that area with the offer of a free flood light
      – Get a group of neighbors with electrical/contractor skills to install flood lights

      I think if we did something like this we could make a HUGE difference is some of the poorly lit areas in the neighborhood.

    • I recomend dusk-to-dawn dual brite/bright flood lights. They save on energy and light pollution while providing adequate lighting. We have it for the benefit of all us who walk around our immediate area since our street can get dark.

  3. it’s heartening to read how our community is rallying together. Thanks to the neighbors who have organized these impromptu meetings, to the SFPD who are looking out for us, and to everyone who’s pulling together to make our neighborhood safe again.

  4. We really live in a special neighborhood, keeping an eye out for one another. Unfortunately I must admit, I had several items from my vehicle stolen a few weeks ago. Often you might see my partner or myself sitting on our front ‘schtoop’ keeping an eye out on our block. Don’t be afraid to say hello and we almost always leave our front porch on.

    Mike Ackerman, Bernal resident and homeowner since 1983
    100 Block of Winfield ‘tween Esmeralda and Virginia

  5. My wife and I will install a motion sensor light in our garage recess.
    Besides whistles, walking at night with a flashlight is also recommended.
    I have contacted the Guardian Angels twice, and am waiting to hear back…

    Also, this is from a recent crime watch site. It describes a gang 6-8 (white and black perps):

    I — and my neighbor who was mugged — live on Prentiss, between Tompkins & Jarboe Streets. The last line: get a look at their shoes!

    My neighbor got off the bus on Cortland to pick up something @ the JC Super on Cortland/Ellsworth. Walking home from Cortland (Cortland / Folsom / Jarboe / Prentiss) he was followed by a group of 6-8 young men between the ages of 18-23. He was unaware that they were following him until they jumped him, mid-block on Prentiss.

    Like the other poster, the group was split into twos — all walking separately, but coordinated; easy to miss if you’re not really paying attention.

    They followed him to Prentiss street, grabbed him, beat him on his body & face, and took his cell fone. His wallet, in his front pocket, was left on his body b/c when he fell to the ground, his body hid its location. Only when he bit the arm of the man who was holding him around the neck from behind, was he able to scream for help.

    His housemate heard his screams from down the street, and came running. I heard him from my bedroom, which was directly across the street, and I called 911. The group split up and ran in every direction. I stayed on the fone w/dispatch while 2 police cruisers arrived quickly. Dispatch also sent an EMT — which eventually took him to the hospital for stitches over his eye and a scan to confirm no broken facial bones.

    Oddly, he was actually mugged in front of several houses that have very bright motion-sensor lights.

    Bottom line: Be safe. Don’t walk alone if you can help it. Be aware. Do not walk while on your fone /checking email, etc.

    My neighbor does not have life-threatening injuries. He will be OK. But the trauma — facial injuries and emotional — is heartbreaking.

    The police told us (me and a few neighbors who came out) that there have been a number of these coordinated muggings lately (here in Bernal Heights, the Mission, and other neighborhoods), and that it’s really hard to catch them w/out physical identification. Many of them have a “get-away” car just a few blocks away and use their cell phones to arrange pick-up.

    Tip from the police: If you are mugged/attacked, or see something suspicious, ACT. Scream, yell, run. Get a look at their SHOES; they spend $ on their shoes and will not “drop” or leave them as they flee from a crime; they WILL drop identifiable clothing — hats, jackets/hoodies/vests — as they run.

  6. Matt, what day and time was this? Also, I was the one mugged around the corner from the good life and I was in the most well lit area of the street. A well lit street won’t deter them one bit. There were also lots of people walking near me and that didn’t stop them either.

  7. Also, I just wanted to say that it feels really good to have neighbors that care. If nothing else, at least one good thing has come out of this traumatizing experience. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to any of the meetings. I was robbed 3 days before my birthday and I was so grateful to have already planned a weekend getaway so didn’t have to be in the city.

  8. All, I just received this response from Captain Falvey. He will be at the community meeting at Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center on Wednesday 1/30 6:00pm. Glad to have our SFPD on board!

    “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”

    • We received the same email, I am really impressed with both Campos and Falvey’s quick responses and action items. Wed meeting will be much needed!

  9. Lets NOT bring the Guardian Angels into our neighborhood. There is almost no faster way to ratchet up the tension in an area than to have them show up. They used to loiter on 24th street when I lived there, and you could almost see the danger levels rise when they were around.

  10. I would like to say a special thanks to Good Life Grocery for going above and beyond and taking their role in the neighborhood seriously. Tonight after doing my routine nightly shopping at GL an employee offered to walk me home one block up to my house so I didn’t have to walk alone. Frank seemed to be encouraging the support and this is just what a neighborhood grocery store should be doing. I felt so much safer knowing I didn’t have to do it by myself. Thank you Good Life! I am so glad to see all the organizing happening and wish I could have been there to support the efforts.

    How can I find out more about the group of volunteers walking people home? I come home late every night of the week and am concerned about making the walk alone.

    • I think the meeting tomorrow night will have more organization on the safety escort groups I know at our Saturday meeting, we had about 8 people who are willing to volunteer to be in these groups leaving from GOod Life. Also offered help to the single women who are hesitant to walk their dogs late at night..

  11. You know when i heard earlier and at the meeting about the whistles, my initial reaction was… Whistles!?…. I am not a raver anymore! I am a little old to be tooting whistles! Whistles are so loud and so annoying not to mention dorky!…. But i have been sitting here on the 3rd floor overlooking a dark corner on Eugenia and i really think it is a fantastic idea and this is why. The exact reason that i was apprehensive at the start was the reason it is the perfect aid. NOBODY choses to walk around blowing a whistle. You NEVER hear a whistle blow these days unless you go to a pop warner football game. They are loud and VERY distinct. I keep listening for that distinctive sound so i can jump up to action in the fly. If the whistle is the main alerting device, it would be a very real time way to actually help come to the aid of our neighbors immediately. I think i will try and find one in the next few days. If someone hears it blow on their block & it is me… HELP!! :)

  12. bluepearlgirl – i think a whistle is a great idea!! i plan on getting one too! would be great to distribute whistles to people in the neighborhood….

    • Whistles can be ordered online or purchased at places like Cliff’s Variety store!

      Please forgive me if I don’t understand an expectation of someone else forking up the money to someone who can afford a cup of coffee at a cafe’? Coffee or Safety?

      If you really want to DO something – PLEASE – buy three whistles, one for YOURSELF and two to give to your Best Friends Forever. They would appreciate a gift that MEANS YOUR REALLY CARE! Stay safe and let’s watch out for each other. :-)

  13. A few years ago during one of these crime sprees the Bernal Business Alliance distributed whistles -(small, compact and loud) for free. I will see if we can purchase a bunch quickly.
    I hope Chief Suhr comes tomorrow.

    • I walked home with my whistle in my mouth tonight in the middle of the street, was terrified. I bought my housemate a whistle, too. Got mine at Cliff’s. Distributing whistles is a good idea. I just heard there was another mugging down on Cortland and Bocana tonight and that suspects have been arrested. I’m really hoping they got them!
      See you all tomorrow night at BHNC.

  14. Pingback: Suspects in Custody After Brazen Gunpoint Robbery on Bocana | Bernalwood

  15. My husband was in that mugging, along with 2 other male neighbors, one neighbor was pistol whipped, but appears to be ok. They have suspects in custody, but not yet confirmed it was them. My husband is still at the station…let’s hope this nightmare is over. Very scary night..

    • I’m so sorry to hear of this, Jean! My heart goes out to you and your husband and neighbors. I do hope this nightmare is over soon. These men have truly terrorized our neighborhood. It’s just horrible. Take good care and I hope to hear good news soon.

  16. Thanks so much Tamara…it looks quite positive. But of course everyone should remain vigilant. Wish they could bring the losers to the meeting tomorrow and we could all pelt them with rotten eggs. Sorry, valium and red wine affecting my humor or lack there of!

  17. wow 1:10am and still no husband. He called from the Hall of Justice about 30 mins ago, can’t believe this takes so long. Hopefully justice is being served!! Love ya Bernal…

  18. Hi folks. Just a concerned person from the East Bay. I have a friend in Bernal who’s told me about the rash of muggings & robberies. Sorry to hear about your troubles. One thing that may help, especially if your cell phone or a laptop is stolen is to have Prey installed. It is a free app (which of course has a for fee Pro version) that not only locates your stolen equipment but can capture activity on it as well as lock it down.

    A friend on the east coast was able to get his equipment back plus provide the police with pictures of the thief which were used as evidence since he was using the phone to post pictures to Facebook.

    Good luck. Be safe!.

  19. Pingback: UPDATED: Suspects in Custody After Brazen Gunpoint Robbery on Bocana | Bernalwood

  20. Pingback: Bernal Heights Crime Report for February 2013: Robberies Back Down, Car Break-Ins Back Up, and Keep Your iGadgets Hidden | Bernalwood

  21. Pingback: Crime Alert: Spike in Muggings and Burglaries Prompts Personal Safety Reminder | Bernalwood

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