City Sues to Shutter Bernal Heights Gambling Parlor

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The problem with illegal gambling parlors isn’t just the gambling; it’s the general nuisance and unpleasantness they create. Neighbors in the SFPD’s Ingleside Precinct have been grumbling for many months about a string of illegal gambling parlors along Mission Street. Yesterday, the City moved to shut down one of them, right in the heart of La Lengua, at 3437 Mission, at the corner of Kingston.

The Chronicle has the story:

The Kingston Shack, between Kingston Street and Cortland Avenue, “is an old-school operation, with real slot machines,” said Jennifer Choi, the deputy city attorney handling the case. With no signs outside, “It was like the old speakeasies, where people would knock on the door, someone would look out through a peephole and let you in if they knew you.”

According to the suit, the gambling operation began in 2010. It was busted in 2011, 2013 and again last December, when police confiscated 11 slot machines, Choi said. But since the operators only faced misdemeanor charges and fines for possession of the illegal slot machines, they were soon open for action once again, she said.

“It’s a very lucrative business,” Choi said. “They’re not going to stop.”

It’s also a very dangerous business, both for the patrons and the surrounding neighborhood. Choi said police have documented at least one stabbing inside Kingston Shack, a carjacking outside that led to a high-speed chase through the city, and stolen cars parked outside while the thieves gambled.

The suit names Marlene Cruz, Norma Estrada and John Gregory Ibarra as owners or operators and Lien Sheng Ho and Jian Rong Ma as trustees of the trust that owns the property. If successful, the city’s suit under the state’s Red Light Abatement Act could shutter the property for a year and hit each of the defendants with $25,000 fines and additional civil penalties.

Do You Recognize This Woman Who May Have Burglarized Bernal Homes?

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Neighbor Lizzie shares this sad crime story, which involves a string of home burglaries in Bernal Heights, stolen credit cards, downtown surveillance camera footage of a suspected perpetrator, and frustration with the SFPD. Neighbor Lizzie writes:

Robbery on Winfield on Feb 10, 2015… Here are the details. It is like my own personal version of Serial, the podcast, so keep up:

1. We, along with several neighbors on our block, were robbed on Tuesday last week.

2. Next door neighbors were robbed between 8 and 10am. One awoke to find his phone and wallet missing and went looking outside to see if his girlfriend had them outside. He found the woman in the video below smoking and sitting on his front doorstep. He asked her to borrow her phone and she said she didn’t have one.

3. A neighbor from across our backyard saw a man she assumed to be a contractor messing with the back door. 6+ footish and muscular build. Red to light brown short hair.

4. Many items were removed from our house indicating that they must have been in there meticulously going through everything for quite a while. They took:

– Electronics: android phone, kindle, Mac laptop, HP laptop, bluetooth speaker, etc.
– Personal paperwork: passports, expired ATM cards, wageworks cards, my purse and whatever else might have been in there, check books
– WORST: Jewelry watch for this stuff in pawn shops because I really want it back.
* Paul’s grandfather’s wedding ring. Rectangular setting with larger diamond surrounded by smaller ones.
* Jade bracelet my grandmother gave me from her time in Hong Kong as a navy nurse in WWII. Light jade with gold hinge and clasp.
* Victorian Gold pocket watch my father brought me from his travels. My mother found a long gold chain to go with it. Intricate floral design.
* Notre Dame class ring my father wore his whole life. Gold with blue stone.

5. My bank notified me in the evening that someone was trying to use my ID and cards to make purchases. They gave me locations and times of transactions.

6. Paul went to the shops and retrieved videotape of the person making transactions. As noted above, our neighbor feels she is the same person he found sitting outside his house when he was robbed. Here is the security camera video from the Westfield Mall:

7. The CSI team from the SFPD no-showed three times over 4 days after asking us to stay home from work to meet them before they finally showed up in the 15 minutes I had to go get my child from school. Very annoying and although all the police I’ve talked to are nice, I’m pretty sure they will offer no help in catching the people or finding the remaining treasures from our beloved departed. I get that I wasn’t stabbed, but we have done ALL the legwork.

Takeaways:
1. Bernal is a very hot place for thieves because people with lots of money have moved in.

2. I miss my dog.

3. The Police are nice but can’t get anything done due to internal communication issues. I’ve had great communication from the police who came out to take the report, and the inspector, but they seem to be helpless to communicate with CSI, and when you call Ingleside, they send you to dispatch who send you back to Ingleside in and endless loop.

Your Bernal Heights Crime Update for January 2015: Robberies, Burglaries, and Car Break-Ins Increase

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And now, a quick update on Ingleside Precinct crime patterns, courtesy of Neighbor Sarah, our valiant SFPD liaison:

We had our monthly Community Police Advisory Board meeting on Monday night January 13, and I thought I would pass along a short note on crime trends.

  • Over holidays, auto boosts (break-ins), burglaries, robberies all up
  • Robberies have continued into January. One crew working Baden/Circular area, 9:30pm-12am (also Day, 30th/Mission, Russia/Madrid). They are following people walking alone, off of main drags. Often target Latinos or Asians walking alone – theory is that robbers may think they are vulnerable or unlikely to report.
  • Made an arrest in burglary ring.
  • Advice: keep phones hidden on MUNI. Watch who gets off the bus with you.
  • Cesar Chavez & Harrison robbery – 3 Latino males driving an SUV. Different profile from crew mentioned above, not yet connected to other Ingleside District robberies.

Many of the robberies have involved guns. Please continue to be aware of your surroundings and avoid having your electronics or other valuables visible.

Likewise, please remember to be an alert bystander – keep an eye out for your neighbors and others.

It also makes a big difference if we all leave our porch lights on overnight to help light up Bernal’s dark sidewalks.

PHOTO: Sara Bassett

Your Bernal Heights Crime Report for November 2014: More Car Break-Ins, More Burglaries, and a Bad-News Neighbor in Holly Court

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Neighbor Sarah, your valiant volunteer Bernal Heights crime correspondent, attended the SFPD Ingleside Community meeting this month, and she filed these summary notes on the latest Bernal Heights crime trends.

Read on, read carefully, be smart, mind your holiday parcels, and stay safe:

Before I get to the notes, a quick FYI: Capt. McFadden and other Ingleside officers will be at the December 4 Bernal Business Alliance “Holiday Stroll” on Cortland. He will likely start out at the BHNC and will then walk along Cortland between Andover and Bocana to meet merchants and residents. This is a chance for you to meet him and alert him to any concerns in an informal setting.

Now, onto the notes from the 11/18 meeting:

Capt. McFadden presided for the first half of the meeting, and Lt. Rich Struckman took over for the second half. Lt. Struckman just joined the station from Investigations. His email is richard.struckman@sfgov.org.

Police are seeing a spike in auto boostings (thefts from autos). One theory is that cell phone robberies are down 30% (because of kill switches or education/awareness), and would-be criminals have changed their focus to thefts from autos. The police also believe that the passage of Prop 47, which turns many crimes into misdemeanors and was effective upon passage, will lead criminals to focus on property crimes rather than robberies (which are felonies). Property crimes now just result in citations, with the person not being detained at all. Capt. McFadden also noted that the change from felonies to misdemeanors means that the police cannot get DNA from suspects and possibly link them to unsolved crimes. The change from Prop 47 has been immediate – Ingleside used to see 3-6 felonies per day, now half that.

They are also seeing more burglaries. These tend to hit one area, and the police devote resources to the area, which then displaces the crime to another area. Recent weeks have seen burglaries and/or auto boostings on Ney St., Miramar, Teresita, Monterey, Bella Vista, and more. “Best deterrent to crime is a nosy neighbor.”

Watch for people riding bikes at night and looking into cars! Common pattern is for someone to ride by, looking into cars. They then go around the block and return, maybe checking out houses and whether people are home, and then on the third time around, they break in to the parked cars. Call 911 if you see a break-in (auto or home) in progress; if it’s suspicious behavior, call non-emergency line at 553-0123.

The Examiner had a story on a sex offender living in the Holly Courts housing. The resident has evidently been causing problems for the other residents there. (Examiner article” Sex offender living in SF public housing dodges federal rules“). The housing authority is trying to get him out, but this means he will be placed in a residential neighborhood in other housing. The sex offender is well known to SFPD, and they have been keeping an eye on him since he has lived there.

There was a homicide in the district last weekend. A parolee was killed at the Amazon Motel on Mission/Geneva. It was not a random homicide. The victim was well known to SFPD.

There was a fight involving knives and box cutters at Crocker-Amazon Park last weekend during a soccer game. Both teams have been banned from playing there.

BE CAREFUL now that the holiday shopping season has arrived – for example, don’t go put packages in your car while you’re still shopping at the mall. People are watching the cars and parking lots. Warn visiting friends/family about this as well. SFSAFE has some good information on holiday shopping and how to keep yourself, your home, and your belongings safe.

Finally, Lt. Struckman mentioned that a district resident had recently called to report a burglary that had already happened. This is a “priority C” call since the burglar was not in the house. As a result, squad cars on the way to take the report kept getting re-routed to “A” and “B” priority calls, and it ended up taking six hours for the police to arrive and take the report. This shouldn’t happen. If you find yourself in a similar situation, call the station (404-4000) and ask for the Platoon Commander and explain the situation.

PHOTO: Sara Bassett

Video Shows Parcel Grinch Stealing Holiday Cheer in Bernal Heights

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As Neighbor Eric just learned first-hand, Grinch Season is upon us.

Grinches, in this case, are opportunistic thieves who steal parcel deliveries containing Holiday gifts.  It’s already happening this year, much as it happened last year. Neighbor Eric tells his seasonally sad tale:

I wanted to send you a clip of a package thief on the job today in our neighborhood. This video was taken from a Dropcam at our house on Prentiss Street, near Jarboe Avenue, [on Nov. 18] at 3:15 pm. A very ballsy move, as there was lots of sidewalk traffic — including people a minute or so on each side of this pilfering.

Today’s loss was no big deal. In fact, I would pay money to be around when he opens the two packages containing various sets of cocktail napkins with anchors, poppies, and a classic Moroccan tile pattern. I’m sure the reaction was pure comedy as he discovered the fruits of his labors. Hopefully he’ll have a nice cocktail party. He’ll have to supply the spanakopita and the mini quiches, but the napkins are on me.

Anyway, as the package season ramps up it might be nice to remind all of our lovely neighbors of the baddies roaming the streets. We’ve been pushing our luck lately, and literally had thousands of dollars of packages left on our doorstep recently. I guess we got off easy with today’s reminder.

So let this be your reminder too: If possible, consider having your seasonal parcels delivered to your workplace, rather than to your home. Because this guy is out on parole:

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GRINCH IMAGE: via FreakingNews.com, with Bernal accents

Raven Theft Highlights Challenges of Being a Bernal Merchant

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Over the years, your Bernalwood editor has gradually received an eye-opening education in the challenges faced by many of our neighborhood merchants.

Never mind higher-level stuff like marketing, advertising, parking, margins, and worrying about tectonic shifts in the retail environment triggered by ecommerce and Amazon. No, the matters that impress us most are the day-to-day issues that arise from the fact that when you operate a storefront, you are quite literally opening up your front door to anyone who decides to walk through it — for better or for worse.

Neighbor Darcy Lee from Heartfelt on Cortland is normally unflappable in this regard; She is a pro, so she handles most oddball encounters with the general public in stride. But a shoplifting incident last week really got under her skin. Neighbor Darcy writes:

We have/had a beautiful raven piece that sells for $650. We have sold two over the years. They are one-of-a-kind and the artist does not always make the raven, but recently we got it in again!

And then the other day I noticed it was gone. I had just done a display with it, so I knew it had been stolen very recently. It is big (18″ long) and a focal point in the store. Then I started counting the other hand carved birds that are by the same person. We are missing 5 altogether, which adds up to $2,000 in sales.

I filed a police report.

This part of retail is pretty tough – and I have taken it hard. Part of store ownership is being in denial about theft — if not, one would be constantly worried and or paranoid. That said, one must also be prudent. I will have security cameras installed. Blchhh.

On that last note… Darcy tells Bernalwood she seeks recommendations for a good security camera installation and service provider. Not just a camera, she says; she hopes to find someone who will install and support a new security camera system. So if you have any recommendations, you know where to find her…. as always, the front door at Heartfelt is wide open during normal business hours.

Witnessess Disturbed by Beating Incident on Cortland

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There was a violent incident on Cortland Avenue at Bennington on Sunday — right in the heart of Cortlandia. Witnesses say it was an upsetting scene. Neighbor Rick filed this report:

I’m saddened to write this, but our neighborhood witnessed a beating on the corner of Cortland and Bennington Sunday evening at about 5.30 pm.

A group of 4-5 men were in a shouting match that quickly escalated into a fight, which in turn became a beating as 2 of the assailants were kicking one of their downed opponents.

We don’t know what the argument was about (we were halfway up Bennington walking down, and although we could see the action, we couldn’t hear details) but it was a crowded evening and a ton of Bernal neighbors were witness to the encounter. What we did hear was gangster-like posturing, racial slurs, and some seriously antisocial behavior.

One brave neighbor placed herself in between the attackers and the unconscious, bleeding man on the ground. My brother in-law and I honestly believe that if she hadn’t intervened, the attackers would have continued kicking this man and we fear he may have lost his life. (The woman left before the police came because she had her young daughter with her. The poor girl was sitting in front of Progressive Grounds, scared and confused. The woman gave me her details to pass on to the police so she could share her information, but she rightly wanted to get her little girl out of there.)

The attackers fled the scene and unless the woman who placed herself in harm’s way to stop the fight has more details about them, I’m not sure the police had much information to go on. (Most of us were more concerned with the injured man and getting help than with identifying the assailants). The injured man had 2 people with him who seemed to do little to help their comrade and who slinked away once the police arrived. We did ask them who the downed man was and if they knew the guys who beat him, and they said very little but ultimately “no” was the response.

I abhor this sort of base violence and I’m still pretty creeped out by the whole thing. We’ve noticed an escalation in aggressive behavior in Bernal over the past few Sundays (people being accosted by rowdy teenagers sort of thing, even my wife got yelled at by a couple girls in a passing car for not wearing enough Niners gear) but this is by far the worst I’ve witnessed. A few of our neighbors stepped up and that’s great, but this scene has shaken me.

Bernalwood also received this from a nearby merchant:

There was what seems to have been a gang fight at the corner of Bennington and Cortland [Sunday] evening. It was pretty bad and made me think (among other things) that the beat cops are missed these days.

If it was indeed a gang fight, that would mean this incident was non-random. Bernalwood has not yet received any further information from the SFPD’s Ingleside Station. Neighbor Sarah, your vigilant SFPD liaison, has been making enquiries, so we will update you here if more detail becomes available.

In the meantime, an important reminder: Statistically, yes, we are entering crime season. As Bernalwood has previously reported (almost exactly two years ago): the end of Daylight Savings Time means less evening light, which often sparks an uptick in street crime, as goons and hoodlums seek to exploit the early onset of darkness.

Stuff happens. Please be extra-alert this time of year.