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By Erin O'Briant
Con Artists Posing as City WorkersAccording to Mission Police Officer Lorraine Lombardo, who keeps an eye on crime in Noe Valley, thieves have found a new way to trick unsuspecting residents. One flimflam man recently stole $2,100 from a 71-year-old Castro Street resident after pretending to be an employee of the San Francisco Water Department.
Lombardo says the scammers, who are operating throughout San Francisco, find their victims by scoping them out at a local grocery store and following them home. "Then they'll go to the door and knock and say, 'Hi, I'm from the Water Department, and I got a call about a problem--I need to check a pipe,'" explains Lombardo. "[The thief] gets in and gets [the victim] involved." For example, the con artist may ask his victim to stay next to a certain pipe while he checks the water pressure. "He gets them distracted and has them in one position, so it frees him to go start stealing stuff." The thief may be so convincing that the victim doesn't notice anything missing for several days.
Lombardo advises residents to spread the word among friends and neighbors. Also, be sure to get a valid ID from anyone who wants entry to your home. "There's a lot of preying on the elderly," she notes. "Watch out for each other. If you notice somebody following you or acting suspicious, you can always call the police."
If you think you've been a victim of a con artist, please notify the police at one of the contact numbers listed below. "People need to report it so that we know and we can get them," says Lombardo.
Police Beat is a roundup of crimes and other police incidents in Noe Valley, the area bordered by Grand View, 21st, Fair Oaks, and 20th streets. The following crime summaries were culled from incident reports filed at Mission and Ingleside police stations during March 2004.
Burglary: Between 1:15 and 1:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 2; a bagel shop in the 3900 block of 24th Street
The owner of a local eatery reported that his business's alarm was activated in the early hours of March 2. Police found the back door open and the door handle damaged, but the business was not ransacked and nothing appeared to be stolen.
Battery: 8:05 a.m., Wednesday, March 3; 30th and Church streets
A woman reported to police that a man walking towards her on 30th Street reached out and hit her on the head. The woman continued walking, then looked back at the suspect, who said, "Don't make me do it again."
The suspect then sat on a nearby bench. He was still there when police arrived on the scene; the man was cited and released. The victim reported that the suspect was unknown to her.
Attempted Burglary: 10:23 p.m., Thursday, March 4; a sporting goods store in the 3800 block of 24th Street
Police responded to an alert that an alarm had gone off at a sporting goods store on 24th Street. When they arrived on the scene, police investigated the building and found that the back door and lock were damaged but the door remained secure. The owner of the business arrived and opened the door. Nothing inside was damaged or stolen.
Malicious Mischief: 2 a.m., Friday, March 5; 1500 block of Dolores Street
A man reported that his living room window was broken while he was out of town. His neighbor witnessed a person who looked like the victim's former boyfriend kicking the front gate and throwing an unknown item, but the victim had no suspect information.
Burglary: Between 10 p.m., Friday, March 5, and 9:47 a.m., Saturday, March 6; a nail salon in the 3800 block of 24th Street
The owner of a nail salon reported that an unknown suspect broke into the salon and stole approximately $100 in cash. The burglar also damaged a closet door and a window that leads to a back yard. The suspect apparently entered and exited through the damaged window.
Stripped Vehicle: Between 10 p.m., Sunday, March 7, and 8:55 a.m., Monday, March 8; corner of Noe and Day streets
An unknown suspect stripped a red 2000 Acura Integra that was parked near the intersection of Noe and Day streets. The suspect removed the car's tire rims, interior door panels, front bumper, ceiling, passenger seat, dashboard, and change drawer, and stole miscellaneous items including a sub-woofer.
Theft: Between 12:30 p.m., Sunday, March 7, and 4 a.m., Sunday, March 21; a bakery in the 4000 block of 24th Street
The owner of a bakery on 24th Street reported that an employee had stolen cash, checks, and credit cards from other employees of the business and had apparently used at least one stolen credit card at a drugstore on Castro Street.
Police retrieved the surveillance video from the drugstore and are investigating the charges.
Theft of Vehicle: 2 a.m., Monday, March 8; 1400 block of Sanchez Street
A man reported his black, four-door 1997 Toyota Camry stolen in the early hours of March 8. The car bears the California license plate 4NFJ194.
Burglary: Between 10:30 p.m., Monday, March 8, and 2:29 a.m., Tuesday, March 9; bookstore in the 3800 block of 24th Street
An unknown person broke into a 24th Street bookstore, stealing hundreds of dollars from the change and deposit boxes. The burglar apparently gained entry by breaking a window near the front door and unlocking the door.
Burglary: Between 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 10, and 8 a.m., Thursday, March 12; 1500 block of Dolores Street
A man told police he believes his ex-boyfriend entered his residence the afternoon of Wednesday, March 10, stealing keys and jewelry and tampering with the telephone line. A neighbor reported that he saw the ex-boyfriend in the victim's garage that afternoon. The victim believes his computer is being monitored and someone in a white van parked outside his home is conducting surveillance on his residence. There were no signs of forced entry to the residence.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 11 p.m., Thursday, March 11, and 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 12; 3900 block of 26th Street
A 26th Street resident reported her dark blue 1994 Saturn SL2 stolen. The car bears the California license plate 4FQX962.
Theft of Vehicle: Between midnight and 9:30 a.m., Sunday, March 14; 800 block of Elizabeth
A resident of Elizabeth Street reported a black, two-door 2002 Honda Civic SI stolen. The car bears the California license plate 4ZAG762.
Burglary: Between 9 p.m., Tuesday, March 16, and 7:45 a.m., Wednesday, March 17; 100 block of Chattanooga Street
The foreman of a construction project on Chattanooga Street reported a number of items stolen the night of March 16. An unknown suspect stole tools, including saws, a nail gun, and a floor belt sander.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 17 and noon, Saturday, March 20; corner of Diamond and 23rd streets
A 23rd Street resident reported his white 1994 Saturn stolen. The vehicle has a missing right side mirror and bears the California license plate 4KJS325.
Theft: Between 4:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Thursday, March 18; a bakery in the 4000 block of 24th Street
An employee of a local bakery reported that his debit card was stolen from his locker and used unlawfully while he was working. The man did not notice his debit card missing until he got home from work. He accused a coworker of the theft.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 20, and 9 a.m., Sunday, March 21; 300 block of 27th Street
A yellow 2002 Honda two-door convertible was stolen from 27th Street. The car bears the California license plate 4WRD972.
Burglary: Between 1 p.m., Sunday, March 21, and 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 23; 1400 block of Castro Street
The owner of an apartment building on Castro Street reported that someone had broken into a storage room and stolen numerous tools. The missing items included locks, a drill, a saw, an air compressor, and a nail gun.
Attempted Theft of Vehicle: Between 3:30 and 8:30 p.m., Sunday, March 21; 600 block of 28th Street
A 28th Street resident reported that an unknown suspect attempted to steal her gray two-door 1989 Mazda 323 from the street in front of her house. The ignition was damaged, but the car was apparently in drivable condition.
Burglary: Between 11:20 a.m. and 9:15 p.m.; 300 block of Hill Street
A man reported that an unknown suspect broke into his apartment and stole his passport and PlayStation 2 equipment. His closet door was open, but nothing was missing from it, he reported. The victim's neighbor told police that a stranger had been wandering the building claiming to look for a music producer who lived there; the stranger ran away when confronted by the neighbor.
Burglary: Between 4 and 10 p.m., Sunday, March 21; 300 block of Hill Street
A resident of Hill Street reported that an unknown person had entered her apartment and stolen a messenger bag, emptying the bag's contents onto her living room floor. Nothing else was taken. Police could not determine how the suspect broke into the apartment, since there were no signs of forced entry and the door was locked at the time of the burglary.
Burglary and Unlawful Entry: 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 23; 1400 block of Castro Street
A man presenting himself as an employee of the San Francisco Water Department stole $2,100 in cash from a resident of Castro Street. According to the victim, the suspect came to his door and said he needed to check the victim's water pressure. He instructed the victim to stay in the bathroom to monitor the water pressure while the suspect ran the water in the kitchen. Upon learning later that the basement of the building had also been burglarized, the victim became suspicious and discovered his money missing.
Burglary: Between 11:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m., Tuesday, March 23; 4300 block of 20th Street
A man reported that a paint sprayer, which he valued at $1,000, had been stolen from his garage. No damage was done to the garage, which can only be entered by typing a code on a keypad. The victim suspects one of the contractors who had worked on his house recently.
Burglary: Between 10 p.m., Tuesday, March 23, and 6 a.m., Wednesday, March 24; 400 block of 27th Street
The owner of a house on 27th Street, who was picking up mail for his tenants while they were on vacation, reported that an unknown person attempted to gain entry into the house's garage. The glass pane to the garage was damaged, as were the door and lock. Nothing was stolen and no suspect has been found.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 10 p.m., Wednesday, March 24, and 2:30 p.m., Thursday, March 25; 3700 block of 25th Street
Someone stole a black 1993 Saturn SL2 from the 3700 block of 25th Street. The vehicle has a cracked windshield and bears the California license plate 3CKJ209.
Burglary: Between 5 p.m., Friday, March 26, and 7:30 a.m., Monday, March 29; 1500 block of Sanchez Street
The owner of a construction company that was remodeling a house on Sanchez Street reported that his table saw was missing and someone had broken into his toolbox. The man said he had locked up the job site when he left the previous Friday afternoon and had not discovered the theft until Monday morning. Police were unable to determine how the suspect entered the building.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 6 p.m., Friday, March 26, and 11 a.m., Sunday, March 28; 1200 block of Noe Street
A silver 1989 Toyota 4-Runner with a removable black top was stolen from the 1200 block of Noe Street. The vehicle bears the California license plate 2LRV826.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 10 p.m., Saturday, March 27, and 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 30; corner of Chattanooga and 21st streets
A Dolores Street resident reported that someone had stolen his brown 1982 Toyota Land Cruiser. The car has a damaged driver's-side door and bears the California license plate ST52100.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 11 p.m., Sunday, March 28, and 8:30 a.m., Monday, March 29; 1500 block of Noe Street
A black 1988 Mazda 323 GTX with rear spoilers and rear tinted windows was stolen from Noe Street. The car bears the California license plate 2MER303.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 9:30 and 11 a.m., Sunday, March 28; 3800 block of 20th Street
A silver four-door 2002 BMW 523i was stolen from 20th Street near Dolores. The car bears the California license plate 4DZZ921.
Theft of Vehicle: Between 4:30 and 11:30 p.m., Monday, March 29; 1600 block of Noe Street
A resident of Noe Street reported a gray 1990 Toyota Camry stolen on the evening of March 29. The car bears the California license plate 4WWR040.
Burglary: Between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 31; 400 block of Duncan Street
A resident of Duncan Street reported that he came home from work to find that his door had nearly been kicked open, damaging the door frame and jamb. According to the officer who responded, the lock appeared to have been forced. The victim told police he suspected his neighbor, with whom he had had an altercation that morning.
The Voice thanks Mission Police Officer Lorraine Lombardo and Ingleside Police Officer Mike Smith for providing the incident reports for this month's Police Beat. The reports were summarized by Erin O'Briant.
HOW TO CONTACT THE SFPD
Noe Valley residents and merchants are invited to attend police-community meetings held monthly in the Mission and Ingleside police districts. The next meeting at Mission Station will be Tuesday, May 25, 6 p.m., at 630 Valencia Street, near 17th. The next Ingleside meeting will be Tuesday, May 18, 7 p.m., at Ingleside Station, 1 Sgt. John Young Lane, off the 2000 block of San Jose Avenue.
Meanwhile, those who live or work north of Cesar Chavez Street may report recurring problems by phoning Mission Station at 558-5400 or e-mailing SFPDMissionStation@ci.sf.ca.us. (To report anonymously on drugs, gangs, or other crimes, call the non-traceable hotline at 558-5452.)
Residents and merchants in "outer" Noe Valley--south of Cesar Chavez--may contact Ingleside Station by calling 404-4000 or e-mailing SFPDInglesideStation@ci.sf.ca.us.
To report a crime in progress, call 911. (Cell phone users, dial 553-8090.) To talk to San Francisco police about a non-emergency situation, call 553-0123.