Noe Valley Voice March 2003

Home Break-ins Decline in January

By Kathy Dalle-Molle

There is good news to report about the string of residential burglaries that plagued Noe Valley over the holidays (see "Rash of Home Burglaries" in February 2003 Voice).

First, the number of home burglaries declined significantly in January. Noe Valley residents reported a total of 14 break-ins during the month. That's about a third fewer burglaries than were reported in November and December (19 and 22, respectively). The January total also dropped from the same month last year: there were 18 burglaries reported in January of 2002.

Second, police have in custody a man they believe could be connected to at least some of the holiday break-ins in the neighborhood.

Armando Carlos, a 32-year-old San Francisco parolee, was arrested on Feb. 7, after a 45-minute foot and squad-car chase through the Castro, involving more than a dozen officers from Mission Station. The suspect was charged with the burglary of a flat in the 4500 block of 19th Street near Douglass. He is currently being held in jail at the Hall of Justice on Bryant Street.

Although the SFPD would not provide details about Carlos' police record, Burglary Inspector Mark Sullivan acknowledged that "we're familiar with Carlos, and he may well be connected to the recent Noe Valley burglaries.

"We're looking into it," Sullivan added. "We're backtracking and going through cases in the Upper Market area, the Castro, Noe Valley, and other nearby neighborhoods."

The Feb. 7 police chase began shortly after 1:30 p.m., after a resident of a flat on 19th Street called police, saying he had just encountered a man in his hallway who had kicked in his front door and was attempting to steal property from his home. When he yelled at the man to get out, he ran out the front door.

Police responded within minutes and spotted the suspect, later identified as Carlos, fleeing along 18th and other streets in the Castro and Upper Market areas. They chased him over fences, through bushes, and in and out of backyards and apartment lobbies, before finally apprehending him on 18th Street near Hattie. During the chase, the suspect dropped a grocery bag that contained two rings, a Compaq laptop computer, Sony CD-ROM drive, Sony Clie personal organizer, and a Westinghouse CD player.

Police later searched Carlos' pants pockets and found 15 pieces of jewelry, as well as burglary tools and a hypodermic needle. The contents of the grocery bag, along with many of the items in his pockets, were identified as belonging to residents of a home in the 3300 block of Market near Clayton, which had been burglarized that same day.

"We can't yet put Carlos at the scene of that burglary, but we're working on it," said Sullivan.

In addition, Carlos' description matched that given by an eyewitness to an earlier break-in in the Upper Market area. The description was detailed on a flyer that Upper Market merchants had posted in their store windows following several recent home burglaries, including one on Caselli Avenue at 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 28. (Carlos is 6 feet tall, 175 pounds, and known for his shaved head and scar on the back left side of his head. At the time of his arrest, he was dressed all in black, except for white tennis shoes.)

Noe Valley Beat Officer Lorraine Lombardo, who was the first to arrive at the 19th Street flat the afternoon of Feb. 7, believes Carlos also can be linked to one or more of the 41 break-ins that occurred in Noe Valley in November and December. But even if not, she's glad to see a man she describes as a "serial burglar" in custody.

"After the large number of burglaries during the holidays, I hope people will feel better knowing there's one less bad guy out on the streets," she says.

Still, Lombardo cautions residents not to be complacent.

"People need to build safety into their daily life," she says. "Just like brushing your teeth is part of your daily routine, so should remembering to lock your door and deadbolt it. Think about protecting your property and watching out for your neighbors. There might not be a burglary today or tomorrow in your neighborhood, but there will be burglaries again. You never know when they will happen and you have to be prepared."

(Note: Among the items found in Armando Carlos' possession during his arrest on Feb. 7 were a yellow metal pocketwatch with a white face and a white metal bracelet with the initials RLL. The owners have yet to be identified. If you are the owner of either item or have information relating to the burglaries in Noe Valley or other nearby neighborhoods, please contact Inspector Mark Sullivan at 415-553-1954.) h