Noe Valley Voice March 1999

Police Beat: Guns Flashed in Four Robberies

By Officer Lois Perillo

There were four reported robberies in my part of Noe Valley in January (versus three in December), and in each case guns were involved.

The first robbery took place on Wednesday, Jan. 6, at 9:40 p.m. In this incident, three men targeted a 33-year-old man who had just locked up his corner store at 21st and Douglass streets. One suspect held a gun to the store owner's head and demanded money, while another wearing a ski mask ordered him to his knees and demanded his jacket.

The store owner complied but had the presence of mind to focus on observing his captors. When a third suspect pulled up in a light-blue, Japanese-made car, the first two joined him and made their getaway. The store owner then went to another location and called police. (He had been unable to re-enter his own store, since his keys had also been stolen.)

After that robbery, I notified other corner stores in the neighborhood. However, my actions apparently could not prevent a second commercial robbery, which occurred on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 9:30 p.m. In this case, two men, also wearing ski masks, entered a store at Castro and Alvarado streets. One suspect aimed a gun at the store owner and demanded money and his wristwatch, while the other stood lookout at the door. The first suspect also stole cigarettes and liquor before ordering the store owner to the floor and then fleeing in an unknown direction.

The next week, I ran a computer search and found five similar robberies in city files. As I gathered the reports, I learned that the SFPD's newly formed Night Enforcement Unit was already looking for these ski-masked, gun-toting robbers, who were described as 30 to 40 years old, 5-10 to 6-2, and weighing 180 to 230 pounds.

Two Scary Street Holdups

Meanwhile, two street robberies occurred in the week between the two store robberies. The robbery that took place Jan. 7, at 10:45 p.m. on Castro Street near 24th, made the front page of last month's Voice. But there doesn't appear to be a link between it and the commercial robberies. The lone, unmasked suspect, though armed, was significantly younger (17 to 20 years old) and smaller (5-6) than the men in the ski masks. He also targeted two women walking together.

In the other robbery, on Friday, Jan. 8, at around 7 p.m., a 25-year-old man walking on Chattanooga near 23rd was targeted by a man who appeared to be in his 20s. The suspect, wearing a black knit cap, walked up, pointed a gun, and said, "Give me anything you have."

The targeted man threw his wallet on the ground. Then the robber demanded his daypack. The man complied, then raised his hands. The suspect told the man to lower his hands and walk away.

The targeted man then walked home, where he received a phone call from a man on the 3900 block of 26th Street. The caller said he had found the man's number in a wallet and daypack he'd seen thrown from a dark-colored 1989­95 Japanese-made station wagon. Officers Alice DiCroce and Susan Nangle later recovered the items and interviewed the caller.

Although I know that being the target of a violent crime is a terrible experience, which carries deep emotional and sometimes physical pain, I commend those people whose stories I've told. They all kept their wits, and collected information that might lead to an arrest. They "won," because they are here to tell their stories.

Please support them in their recovery by listening and acknowledging the effects of post-trauma stress. Sleeping and eating well, skipping drugs and alcohol, and staying close to family and friends are keys to getting through any trauma. The Victim/Witness Assistance Program (553-1095) can also help.

How to Catch a Thief

Thanks to the quick reaction of witnesses, arrests were made in several cases in January.

A 37-year-old man who allegedly broke into a car on the 1200 block of Dolores around noon on Thursday, Jan. 21, was arrested after a UPS driver identified him to police. Sergeants Robert Barnes and Pablo Ossio responded to the witness's call and detained the suspect on Jersey Street, holding property from the boosted car. The suspect was on probation for a prior burglary, and remains in custody pending a court appearance.

At about 5:30 the next morning, Jan. 22, a woman heard glass breaking and looked out her window to see a man riding away on her neighbor's bicycle. She called police and provided a description, which enabled Officer Jose Lopez to detain a 35-year-old suspect at 23rd and Capp streets. The witness was then brought to the scene, where she identified both the suspect and the bicycle.

Police also found the suspect in possession of another person's property, which had been stolen from a nearby parked vehicle. In addition, the man was on probation for auto theft. He was arrested and held for four days, then released after posting bond.

On Sunday, Jan. 24, at 1:52 p.m., a 41-year-old man was arrested after he allegedly attempted to break into a garage on the 4100 block of 23rd Street. After seeing the suspect tampering with a neighbor's garage door, a witness called police with a description, using the non-emergency phone line, 553-0123.

The caller's tip enabled Officers Carol Scatena and Tim Louie to view the suspect at the door, subsequently capture him, and match the pry tool he possessed with a pry mark on the door frame. However, since the witness had not identified him or herself to police, the officers came close to releasing the burglar for lack of evidence. (Callers, please identify yourselves; witness information is critical.)

Luckily in this case, the suspect was on probation for a 1998 burglary on the 100 block of Valley Street. The DA decided to dismiss the new burglary charges and file a motion to revoke his probation.

Wanted: Two Con Men

The con man I reported on last month who solicits donations for his daughter's athletic team now has added burglary to his resumé.

"Jim," as he calls himself, approached a resident of the 300 block of Hill Street in early February and offered to install a security light for her. She declined, but he returned the next day carrying a box supposedly containing the light. The woman again told him no.

He left, but returned again on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 3 p.m. She was in a rush, readying to leave, and had set her bag near the front door. She told him to leave and closed the door, but neglected to latch it. After going to the back of the house for a moment, she returned, only to find the front door open and her bag gone. Fortunately, nothing else was disturbed or stolen.

"Jim the Burglar" is now wanted by police. He has been operating in the Mission and Ingleside districts for two years now, often targeting elderly women. He is described as a thin, nervous, fast-talking 25- to 35-year-old, possibly of Hispanic descent, 5-5 to 5-8, with brown combed-back hair and facial stubble. He is usually seen wearing a beige plaid flannel shirt.

If you see him, call the police and explain that he is a known con man and suspected burglar, then describe his looks and whereabouts. If he comes to your door and there are two or more of you at home, then con him! One of you remain at the door and tell him the other is fetching donation money. Meanwhile, the other should phone the police.

"Jim" also claims to be a neighborhood watch member (SAFE), so Inspector Mark Sullivan of Burglary and the people who run the SAFE program are crafting a media blitz of fliers and radio spots to warn people about him. Inspector Sullivan's number is 553-1351, but I also invite anyone who has had dealings with him to call me at 558-5404.

The other con man I wrote about, Tim McCaffrey (or McCaffrie), who falsely solicits donations for the U.S. Mission, was taken into custody on Jan. 31, thanks to a call from two residents of the 100 block of Chattanooga Street. McCaffrey was charged with fraudulent charity solicitation and sent to county jail, where he was cited to appear in court Feb. 2. However, when he failed to show, the judge issued a $2,500 warrant for his arrest.

So be on the lookout for him, too. Also keep an eye out for one another, and try to stay safe. I'll see you on patrol.

San Francisco Police Officer Lois Perillo covers the northern half of Noe Valley --from Valencia to Grand View and 21st to Cesar Chavez Street -- on foot and on bicycle. If you would like to discuss a problem, call her at 558-5404, the community policing line at Mission Station.