Noe Valley Voice July-August 1997

Police Beat: So You Wanna Be a Burglar?

By Officer Lois Perillo

During the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 6, police burglary inspectors Lewis Bronfield and John Cleary were working undercover, in an unmarked car -- probably a boxy Ford or Chrysler -- when they spotted a white Chevrolet van driving around Noe Valley. The van was slowly circling the block and passing up legal parking spots.

That alone was enough to give the officers reason to stop the car and arrest the occupants....

Sorry, just kidding. But that kind of behavior is consistent with a burglar casing an area. And it did cause the inspectors to call for backup in the form of a marked police car, which arrived on the scene to question the occupants of the Chevy.

Officer Matthew O'Leary stopped the suspicious van and found that the 23-year-old man behind the wheel was driving without a license. The driver also possessed an AMEX credit card in another person's name, which he had made no effort to return -- that's 485 of the California Penal Code. Also, the suspect had an outstanding drug warrant from Alameda County, and the van was a U-haul rental from the East Bay.

Goodbye to this unburglar and his van.

The Return and Arrest of the Termite

Despite this cheerful news, Noe Valley recorded nine burglaries during May. Three houses and two apartments were broken into, along with three garages. And a store on 24th Street was also hit.

The only burglary that resulted in an arrest was the one at the store, which occurred sometime during the night of May 18 in the 3900 block of 24th Street. The burglar got into the shop through a back door, then broke through an inner door and located a safe, which he pried open. He then fled with money from the safe.

The suspect was arrested a few weeks later, on June 6, after an investigation yielded physical evidence tying him to the crime. He was booked on second-degree burglary.

This back-door break-in, in the wee hours of the morning, may sound vaguely familiar. Let me take you back to December 1995, when 24th Street merchants experienced a series of burglaries.

The suspect in those cases was caught hiding inside a false ceiling at Starbucks, after he broke through another business' back door and tunneled through a wall. The 36-year-old South Van Ness Avenue resident, dubbed the Termite, was sent to state prison for the 1995 burglaries.

Upon his release, he evidently returned to Noe Valley and picked up where he'd left off. But this time, he left something behind -- a calling card of sorts -- which led police right to him. Hence the arrest on June 6.

The Termite is currently in custody, awaiting a July 23 court appearance.

Sleeping Booty

Another recent arrest may have made a small dent in the kind of crime that drives Noe Valleyans up the wall -- car break-ins.

On May 16 at about 9 a.m., Police Sergeant Tim Oberzeir responded to the 900 block of Sanchez Street. There he discovered a man who was sound asleep in the front passenger seat of an obviously tampered-with car. The vehicle's wing window had been shattered and a screwdriver was resting on the dash, directly in front of the sleeping suspect -- who got an abrupt wake-up call when he was ordered from the car and cuffed.

While probably in a somewhat woozy state, the suspect told the sergeant he was on probation for previous auto break-ins. But he insisted he'd done nothing wrong -- he was just waiting for his girlfriend.

That excuse didn't fly, and he was arrested and charged with car burglary. (Let this be a lesson to all late-night thieves: Start by downing a cup of coffee.)

When Oberzeir got back to the station, he noticed that the 33-year-old suspect had a record of numerous theft convictions dating from the '80s. There were even three "potential strike" convictions. He also was on a three-year probation for a 1996 burglary, for which he'd originally been sentenced to two years in prison. (This sentence had been suspended.)

On May 21, the District Attorney moved to dismiss the new auto burg charge and to revoke the suspect's probation, sending him to state prison for two years. That means he'll serve about one year before release.

What Happened to Three Other Guys

On June 6, a 31-year-old man who worked at the now defunct Noe's Grill at Church and 24th streets pled guilty to drug possession and was sentenced to six days in jail, three years of probation, and a fine of $1,000. He had initially been charged with a more serious felony (drug possession for sales), but took the plea bargain following a long investigation by the Narcotics Division. To his credit, the man is employed and drug-free.

A 28-year-old Daly City resident who began stalking his estranged wife within her Noe Valley work area last January -- and who repeatedly violated a judge's order to stay away from her -- pled no contest on May 29 and was sentenced to 10 days in jail and three years of probation. According to police reports, the man sometimes used cars left in his charge to be repaired, in order to tail his wife.

On May 2 in Municipal Court 17, a 46-year-old man was exonerated of charges of threats and battery brought by a roommate at their residence on the 700 block of Diamond Street.

One Disturbing Robbery

Only one robbery occurred within my Noe Valley beat in May. It was reported to me by a mother, who said her teenage son had been robbed of his money by a group of high school boys in the vicinity of Diamond and Elizabeth streets.

All crimes -- no matter how small -- are disturbing, especially when kids are involved. Let's make that robbery the last of this year's number in Noe Valley.

Be vigilant and stay safe. Have a great summer, and I'll see you on patrol.

Community Police Officer Lois Perillo, joined by partner Lorraine Lombardo, covers a beat bounded by Grand View, 21st, Valencia, and Cesar Chavez streets. To contact her about a neighborhood problem, call 558-5404. Or visit or write Mission Police Station at 630 Valencia St.