April 25, 2016

The NYT frets about "street behavior" in San Francisco.

This is an odd report: "San Francisco Torn as Some See ‘Street Behavior’ Worsen." Much of it is told from the point of view of a woman named Judith Calson who looks out her window on Lombard Street and sees thieves smashing car windows*:
“The problem with auto break-ins is that they happen so quickly, just a few seconds,” [said Albie Esparza, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department]. “Before anyone can do anything about it, they are long gone.”...

Police are barred by city ordinance from installing surveillance cameras that are commonly found in other cities...

On Wednesday, another car was broken into below her window. A woman who was dropping off her daughter at a day care center had parked for 10 minutes and returned to find her window smashed and her purse gone.

“It’s just insane,” Ms. Calson said. “On and on and on it goes.”
I'm for surveillance cameras and criminal law enforcement and no thievery, but come on people, don't leave a purse visible in an unattended car. Maybe the police should bait some cars with purses containing a tracking device. (In Sacramento, there's a successful bait bike program.)
___________________

*   Presumably not with a baseball bat wearing a canary-yellow dress.

76 comments:

Danno said...

It sounds like they need a Mafia protection racket in SF.

boycat said...

It's a hoot watching the NYT wring their hands about San Fran street crime, as if NY has all these things under control.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Police are barred by city ordinance from installing surveillance cameras that are commonly found in other cities...

I assume private citizens, with windows overlooking said streets, are not barred.

David Begley said...

Lawless.

If you are a sanctuary city, why is this surprising to anyone?

Owen said...

Cameras on street lamps etc would probably help but I doubt the thieves would care much. Pull their hoodies over their faces, swing that rebar or bat, grab and go. It might be nearly as useful simply to post signs: "This area under surveillance." But again I doubt the thieves would care; and can't handle big words anyway.

Another possibility might be those in-car video systems used by police and available at Best Buy, that record car environment/interior. Owners could use the footage to help police identify the culprits in close-up. But I doubt the police really want that help; these are nuisance cases to them.

So maybe self-help is the solution. Leave a bait parcel or purse in plain view in the car (preferably a car you don't care much about). When the thief grabs it, it sprays him with indelible fluorescent ink, glues itself to his hand, and emits a 130-decibel alarm.

Just a thought. Come on, people: let's think creatively here!

Curious George said...

"Let's become a sanctuary city. What could go wrong?"

exhelodrvr1 said...

Just curious: which political party has been in control in San Francisco in recent years?

Brando said...

I agree that cameras will only work against the dumbest of criminals (which doesn't mean they shouldn't be used--if we take the dumb criminals off the streets that frees up more resources to catch the wily ones). Set more traps.

And citizens--don't make it so easy for these people! I know, in today's environment any such talk is "victim blaming" and encouraging "street robber culture" but just maybe if "easy" crimes are eliminated some of these lazy criminals will have to find something else to do.

The Drill SGT said...

I started to read expecting a homeless horde out of control story.

SF is just F'd overall, but it is the citizen's fault. Frontier theory and all that.

PS: It was the "City" in my youth.

sad

David Begley said...

How about arm all citizens?

That's one way to restore order in a lawless city.

Laslo Spatula said...

All downhill since Karl Malden and Michael Douglas stopped patrolling the streets.

Safe SF: A Quinn Martin Production.

I am Laslo.

CWJ said...

What do you mean "criminals"? These youths are merely engaging in "street behavior." Though granted, their behavior is getting worse.

tim maguire said...

Giuliani did just fine cleaning up New York without surveillance cameras. You don't need big brother, you need political will.

coupe said...

It's kind of a dumb story. Waste of a writers time.

I mean, it's like a story about how cold it gets in a freezer.

Duh....

Bob said...

Wouldn't you rather live somewhere where you didn't need to hide your purse or even lock your car?

San Fran is approaching Clockwork Orange levels of absurdity.

AllenS said...

You are talking about people who are out there robbing. What would be safer for a woman: having your purse on you, or leaving your purse in an unattended car?

kzahel said...

Californians thought prison overcrowding was a problem so passed Prop. 47 which makes most property crimes under $950 misdemeanors. So even if police caught somebody breaking a car window and stealing a wallet, the most they can do is issue a citation.

tim maguire said...

Bob said...
Wouldn't you rather live somewhere where you didn't need to hide your purse or even lock your car?


The moon? The reality is, unless you're living alone in the middle of nowhere, you are taking a risk by not hiding your valuables or locking your car. A little common-sense vigilance is a small price to pay for living in society.

Henry said...

This episode reminds me of Dave Berry's famous take-down of New York City after The Times concern-trolled Miami:

CAN NEW YORK SAVE ITSELF ?

Here's a teaser:

Here at The Miami Herald we ordinarily don't provide extensive coverage of New York City unless a major news development occurs up there, such as Sean Penn coming out of a restaurant. But lately we have become very concerned about the "Big Apple," because of a story about Miami that ran a few weeks ago in the Sunday magazine of The New York Times. Maybe you remember this story: The cover featured an upbeat photograph of suspected Miami drug dealers being handcuffed face-down in the barren dirt next to a garbage-strewed sidewalk outside a squalid shack that probably contains roaches the size of Volvo sedans. The headline asked: CAN MIAMI SAVE ITSELF?
For those readers too stupid to figure out the answer, there also was this helpful hint:
A City Beset by Drugs and Violence
The overall impression created by the cover was: Sure Miami can save itself! And some day trained sheep will pilot the Concorde!

Larry J said...

I'm for surveillance cameras and criminal law enforcement and no thievery, but come on people, don't leave a purse visible in an unattended car.

You're victim shaming! Women should be able to leave their purses in their cars without being robbed! In fact, they should be able to leave their cars unlocked with the keys inside without having to worry about their cars being stolen! They should be able to walk down any street day or night with jewelry and money showing without having to worry about their own safety! /sarc

Of course I agree with you that they shouldn't leave their purses in their cars, especially in plain sight. A bit of security awareness can go a long way towards reducing your chances of being a crime victim. No guarantees, of course, but you can improve your odds by being aware of your surroundings and taking appropriate actions. There are people out there who make their living by taking from others. They (and commission salespeople) are like the modern day hunter-gatherers in that they have to score regularly if they want to eat. There are worse people out there who get off on hurting others. Telling people to maintain awareness of their surroundings and take reasonable precautions isn't asking too much, nor is it blaming the victims when predators are successful.

Rae said...

If a BMW owner leaves objects of value in his car for street people to steal, can it be written off as charity?

Caroline Walker said...

I herewith invoke my dad's timeless wisdom: whatever you subsidise, you get more of.

Sebastian said...

“On and on and on it goes.” Welcome to Prog America, lady. Vote Hillary!

Brando said...

Cities are a victim of their recent successes. Crime rates are far below where they were twenty years ago, and so now city residents have had the luxury of pushing a "criminal rights" agenda while keeping private citizens from being able to defend themselves. This worked so long as crime rates were low, but if we start going back to the "Dirty Harry" and "Death Wish" days, expect more tolerance for the "head cracking" police.

And who knows? If gun-rights groups focused more on universal concealed carry and less on high capacity magazines, maybe citizens will one day be able to defend themselves in our nation's cities.

cubanbob said...

Legalize shooting car thieves while committing theft and strip the thieves and their families of the right to sue for damages and to get benefits.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

It's not crime, it's "street behavior" by people who've had "contact with the Justice system."

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Donald Trump will know what to do!

jacksonjay said...


Love the Drudge-like juxtapo! Big Bird Bey-Bey bustin windors and unemployed "youths" in San Fran bustin windors.

#OnlyBlackLivesMatter

#WhitesGotsNoWow

buwaya puti said...

The car thieves are here because here is where the money is.
And of course most of the thieves are commuters from the East Bay, like most workers here.

M Jordan said...

My wife and I visited San Francisco a month ago for the first time. We loved it ... except for the street one block over from our hotel. It was Hobo Havana. Or Homeless Haven. I've been in many big cities around the country and the world, but nothing equaled this. Block-long lines of a mix of crazy and criminal waiting for free food at soup kitchens. People sleeping on the sidewalks at mid-day while others stepped over and into them. Shoulder-to-shoulder sidewalks consisting of people you do not want to make eye contact with.

Ironically, as we later stood on Alcatrez and looked across the bay at the city, I felt I was in a sanctuary.

But I must also say, get away from that one area, and San Fran was great.

Brando said...

"Legalize shooting car thieves while committing theft and strip the thieves and their families of the right to sue for damages and to get benefits."

That's inhumane! Just break their hands and then make the penalty for anyone with broken hands committing any future crimes to be having one foot cut off. They get to pick the foot, because we are not animals, after all.

buwaya puti said...

One thing in all this is true - guns won't help.
These are nearly all smash-and-grabs out of cars with no victims on the spot usually, and often no bystanders.
Not that much armed robbery in the street.
I'm not sure that cameras would be all that useful, maybe for ID of getaway vehicles (normally waiting a block or half block away). But going after "commuters" vehicles may be of little use in prosecution.

buwaya puti said...

Hobo life here is not substantially different than its been for the last 25 years or so. Speaking as someone who has commuted downtown almost daily over that time. It's certainly not better.

David said...

"But I must also say, get away from that one area, and San Fran was great."

I enjoy going to SF and my daughter lives there but more than one area is a mess because of panhandling, drugs, alcohol, public defecation etc. Eventually they will completely drive out the middle class because of high costs so it will be the rich, apartment sharing young people and the hopeless cases. The three categories have overlap.

holdfast said...

Vancouver, Canada has (or at least had, when I lived there) a huge problem with this sort of crime. It was eventually determined that a relatively small number of criminals were going most of the damage - hitting dozens of care a day each to steal spare change, GPS units, sunglasses, etc. to fuel their drug habits, especially Heroin. Unfortunately, the Courts and Crown Attorneys (i.e. DAs) lacked the will to put these scumbags in jail, so they went on to commit hundreds more smash and grabs - doing hundreds of dollars damage to each car to net a few buck worth of stolen goods (at fenced prices).

Fritz said...

Why would a baseball bat wear a yellow dress?

Tommy Duncan said...

On the plus side, there is no controversy in SF over which bathroom to use. In SF they just pee wherever they happen to be at the moment. The police cruisers are the preferred defecation sites.

William said...

The Volvo owners and the thieves have formed an uneasy political alliance against the people who want to install surveillance cameras.

Chris N said...

Well, the community failed these victims of the system somewhere along the line, so they've turned to petty crime.That much is obvious (they probably weren't paid a living wage).

While I appreciate the woman taking the little ones to the Community Children Center (free? Subsidized? Totally private?), I would think some kind of centralized, totalizing surveillance system might help all The People protect themselves.

our nobobarsho said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
traditionalguy said...

A Sanctuary City works like a Zoo. The Zoo Keepers need fresh prey daily to feed their predators.

Why would the City waste any time catching Predators? They just have to release them.

Char Char Binks said...

Is "street behavior" coded language? Must be racist.

Levi Starks said...

Because justice is not swift and sure.
And really, how else they gonna get money fo they school clothes?

Owen said...

The SF car-breaking problem reminds me of life in NYC in the "Death Wish" era. There was a joke then about a guy who kept having his car broken into and the radio stolen, which cost him thousands to fix the ripped-up dash and broken windows. So finally he stopped fixing it and left the hole in the dash with a sign on the windshield saying "No Radio." He came back the next day and the windshield was broken, and a new note was on it, saying "Get One."

Susan said...

I'm in the "Comma makes the sentence correct." camp. Sorry to further dissect the frog, but I thought the humor in Groucho's elephant/pajamas joke came from it being spoken, with no way to know if a comma was there or not.

Fernandinande said...

Fritz said...
Why would a baseball bat wear a yellow dress?


Its blue dress was at the cleaners - ?

Char Char Binks said...
Is "street behavior" coded language? Must be racist.


Nope, because one of SF's "ten most wanted" is Amish: "Vitaliy Nikolayevich Spichak".

Fred Drinkwater said...

An evergreen story in SF, though it's nice of the NYT to notice.
Some years ago, probably about 2007, I read an article on exactly this topic in the SF Chronicle newspaper. Blah, blah, blah about frequent small property thefts, car break-ins, purse-snatchings, etc.
The article centered on a repeat offender, a resident of Oakland just across the bay bridge from SF. He'd literally commute to SF to "work". He'd been caught about a dozen times in 3 years, and had done cumulatively maybe 30 days in jail.
The article closes with quotes from an SF mid-level cop, who'd been tough-talking earlier in the article. He says "We want to get a message out. We want folks to know what happens to them if they do this kid of crime in the City."
Yeah. Right. So I was left wondering if the writer had ended the article this way deliberately to make the SF cops sound like fools, or if he also believed that this style of enforcement was effective.
I sure got the Message: "Hey, crooks! Come On Down! We're Open For Business".

Yancey Ward said...

The problem is right there in the article- street crime has suddenly become street behavior. Until it is again viewed as crime, it will get worse.

Paul Mac said...

Not unrelated:

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/232270/

buwaya said...

"- street crime has suddenly become street behavior."

Its not different from 25+ years ago.

James Pawlak said...


Those thugs should be "marked for/as evidence"! I suggest pistols of .380+ caliber; For rifles .223+; And, for air-rifles the largest size of .50". Crossbow bolts are also very good and quiet.

amielalune said...

I'm with you, Ann -- I never leave my purse in the car, even in my small, relatively safe, city. Doing that in San Francisco or anywhere else is very reckless.

R. Chatt said...

The woman in the article wasn't exaggerating, I've seen "street behavior." It happened right out in broad daylight while I was standing across the street in SF. Some guy smashed a car window, then he looked up and saw me starring at him incredulous, and he ran away. I was a little spooked to say the least. This was 3 or 4 years ago.

Bay Area Guy said...

San Francisco has an interesting dynamic and several cross-currents:

1. The housing market is ridiculous. If you own a home in SF, you are likely a millionaire. If you own an old rental property, perhaps passed down by family, you are a double millionaire.

2. Rents are high too -- maybe $4,000 - $5000/month for a small apartment.

3. This crazy market has priced a lot of minorities out of the city. Blacks have been fleeing SF for years, yuppie millenials have been moving in to Hunter's Point.

4. Violent crime is way down in SF. I lived in North Beach for years, it got a little loud and rowdy on weekend nights, but I never had any problems.

5. General street ugliness is way up. It's not unusual to have a homeless dude take a dump on the street in full view. By the civic center (City Hall, court house, federal buildings), you have have hordes of homeless folks, its like Soylent Green or something.

6. SF is the least child-friendly city on the planet. The general practice is to meet the girl in SF, but when you get married, move to the suburbs to raise the kids.

7. Finally, SF is 33% Asian and 7% gay, but I think even the gays are leaving the Castro because it's getting too yupified.

madAsHell said...

The housing market is ridiculous.

Well....it's a good thing they have rent control!!
/sarc

FullMoon said...

Busted window theft is everywhere. A thief will break a %200.00 window to steal an empty box or bag, on the chance it may contain something valuable.

BTW, if a thief sees you putting your computer or purse "safely" in the trunk, he will break the window and push the remote-trunk button on your drivers door, duh!

buwaya said...

"If you own a home in SF, you are likely a millionaire. "

Yes. I'm glad we bought decades ago. We certainly couldn't afford it now, and we aren't poor.

"Blacks have been fleeing SF for years"

Yes, this is easily seen in SFUSD enrollment. Peak black % was back in the 80's.

"yuppie millenials have been moving in to Hunter's Point. "

I had occasion to go with my son south of Mission Bay a few weeks ago. It is very curious down there these days, half industrial slum, half expensive condos.

"General street ugliness is way up."

I don't know. It doesn't seem notably worse. Granted I go by what can be seen downtown.

"SF is the least child-friendly city on the planet."

Yes, its been that way for decades. We did manage to raise the kids here though. For sure you want to live in the West or to a degree the South sides. That is, if one finds a house affordable.

buwaya said...

To add,

San Francisco is, it seems to me, the very model of the city as a demographic sink as described by Cavalli-Sforza. Cities in a historical, demographic sense are where populations go to die out. Replacement rates historically were poor due to illness (high death rates) and infertility. As per Cavalli-Sforza this is the demographic pattern seen everywhere, based on genetic sampling. This explains, I think, such phenomena as the auto-extermination of the Roman patrician class, who were eventually largely urban.

SF doesn't have the illness, but it certainly is infertile to a truly remarkable degree, and I don't single out the gay people here, nor is it easily explained by the people who have kids and head for the suburbs. I am convinced that a huge lot of young women, especially, who would have acquired a family elsewhere come here, and just don't. SF is full, chock full, of well-off old ladies with no children, or if they have children, no grandchildren. Clans die out right and left. It seems that half the older persons one meets are the last of their line.

Something in human nature just doesn't get along with cities, and certain cities even more so. No matter how beautiful.

Bay Area Guy said...

@buwaya,

Great observations! Let me throw one thing out too, to see if you see this as well.

I've taken the subway (BART) to and from SF for nearly 25 years, so I feel I have some personal knowledge and experience on the issue:

I have never in my life seen such a high concentration of unattractive women. Not at the bars in North Beach at night, I'm talking just in the daily grind.

The guys look like hippie schlepps, too, so I'm not being sexist here.

But the women? I've never seen so many woman looking haggard, tired, worn, unappealing, as if they stopped even trying to look good to attract a mate. Overweight, poorly dressed, it's as if they've cultivated in large measure a "Sunday morning frat boy hangover" look.

Not so much in the professional world, such as business meetings or fancy restaurants, but more in the general world. Defiantly frumpy I call it. Who are you to tell me to wear make-up? That kind of thing.

Now, I've been happily married for over 20 years, so maybe my vantage point is skewed, but I'm wondering if you see the same thing.

Even in the raucous 70s the women looked good -- but not so much today.



n.n said...

They need to increase planning and redistributive change in order to maintain a green lawn and a secure environment.

n.n said...

Planning, redistributive change, and class diversity for unqualified progress.

buwaya said...

Much married like you, so I cant comment with recent experience of the local women in bars.
Its bright and sunny downtown, and the streets are full of pretty women in sundresses, as they always are in the spring.
They aren't less pretty than the sort one finds in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Oakland, Walnut Creek, and etc., that I can tell.
Whether they are residents or commuters or tourists I can't say. Your BART companions are East Bay (if you come from there), mine are from the South, and most of course aren't residents.

AJ Lynch said...

We are on our way, in some way,to Third World anarchy and lawlessness. Althouse should link to Victor Davis Hanson's piece today talking about lack of order and law enforcement in the part of California way east of San Fran.

https://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/california-21st-century-wild-west/

Michael said...

Many decades ago I worked with a group planning a hotel on a parking lot on the edge of the Tenderloin. 12 people were employed by the parking lot company. We planned to have 200+ permanent or equivalent employees in the hotel. Not to mention the construction jobs. We were thwarted at every turn by the city and various groups in the Tenderloin who attempted to coerce us into building low cost housing units at our expense in return for their pulling up the invisible toll gate. Basically they wanted us to double our costs without doubling our income. The Rev. Cecil Williams, a nice guy and a very effective leader in the Tenderloin, kept the area from being "gentrified." It remains un-gentrified.

buwaya said...

Yes, the Tenderloin remains ungentrified, the usual persons can be found slouching about the corners there, along with a shrinking area elsewhere (6th Street, etc.).
However there are plenty of condo buildings popping up South of Market and down to Mission Bay and beyond. I believe however most of these are unoccupied, the units being sold to the ubiquitous, invisible Chinese investors. Those areas certainly don't generate much street life.

Kelly Maenpaa said...

@ Bay Area Guy -

Your observations re the unattractiveness of SF residents are spot on. I moved here from Boston almost 9 years ago (and not exactly a bastion of exceptional attractiveness there) but was astonished that a goodly portion of men and women in this city are just downright unappealing. And I don't mean plain. I mean unflattering clothing choices, lack of evidence of any physical activity, disheveled. I look around at the guys and think this is an awful pool of candidates from which to choose a mate. If I were a single woman in this city I'd cry. None of them look even capable of changing a flat tire without first going to YouTube to figure it out.

As to your previous post on SF neighborhoods and real estate: My husband and I live in the Outer Sunset which is predominantly Asian, and isn't considered all that desirable to many for being wind blown, foggy, cold, and beach shabby. We were only one of a handful of Anglos on our block when we moved in. In the last couple of years we've seen a change as more Anglo couples have moved in, and are having kids. As to whether they'll remain once the kids reach school age is anyone's guess.

Fritz said...

Bums gotta live somewhere. San Francisco deserves 'em.

Bay Area Guy said...

@Kelly Maenpaa,

..was astonished that a goodly portion of men and women in this city are just downright unappealing. And I don't mean plain. I mean unflattering clothing choices, lack of evidence of any physical activity, disheveled.

Plain would be a step up! Many, perhaps most, of us are plain. These folks are actively trying to look crappy -- and then defiantly basking in their crappiness, daring someone to casually say, "jeez, girl, fix yourself up in public, for god's sake."

I've interviewed a lot of job applicants in my career, and, boy, the cohort of "unhireable" keeps getting larger and larger.

Maybe, that's just Bart riders, though.





aritai said...

Ok, even if there was a picture how many criminals are caught and prosecuted? Next to none. How many in Tokyo? More than 85 out of 100. Police should hand out guns when civil society is in decline, and ask for them back when civil society returns. A lot cheaper than police and a lot more effective? Time to revisit a Clint Eastwood moment. "You feeling lucky punk?" Then again, it'd be wonderful for you to give them an alternative to crime. Even a low paid job will do wonders. My grandmother tells me that the Germans after WW2 insured everyone had a job, even the terribly crippled, restroom attendant, street sweeper, care of a little peapatatch in the little space around the train tracks. Lots of work as long as you have to work to eat. So everyone did and after the U.S. got out of the way of local government and they got their own currency back, Gemany bloomed. there were lots of places much worse off then the worst in the u.s. they even had their own slave class that had to build less then those in the u.s. south. even after the murder of millions ofrhem. often in nfront of their children. Youe pTb has it right. He said in Chiraq the answer to their problems was jobs. Which he'll deliver in many ways. Trade, immigration, cutting the government burden in half, and getting the government boot of the neck of the most important worker, that worker that works for the cruelest of masters, the self-employed who are going to employ all these kids who have nothing to do but drugs, and steel from those that have. Or sit in classrooms like jails, because their parents don't own theirschools. Search the New Zaealand Miracle to see how easy this is. All it takes is the will to make the change (and a coalition government. Over to pTb.

walter said...

I bet the glass repair/replacing businesses are luvin' it.
My last visit, the worst thing was the smell of rancid urine and aggressive panhandling.
Stop handling my pan!

Michael K said...

"Legalize shooting car thieves"

Back in my engineer days, my boss had a nice Porsche when Porsches were rare (1959). He was concerned about car thieves or vandalism so he wired a 10,000 volt Ford ignition coil to the frame and had a little switch to turn it on when the car was parked. It only had 0.01 amp so it wouldn't kill anyone who touched the car but it would knock them down.

Some friends finally convinced him that he was going to get sued by someone who accidentally brushed against it.

Back when engineers were men and did not work for Google and use unisex toilets.

Michael K said...

"These folks are actively trying to look crappy "

Maybe their cargo container home doesn't have a shower.

walter said...

Back when men were kinda reckless.. He'd feel real manly if some little kid took the zap.
But hopefully he balnced things out by zapping a lot of bugs.

jr565 said...

So was beyonce in San Francisco?

jr565 said...

tim maguire wrote:
Giuliani did just fine cleaning up New York without surveillance cameras. You don't need big brother, you need political will.
And the usual crowd has been saying such policing is racist. Of course if you did have cameras up in black neighborhoods revealing black people commiting these crimes and cops then arrested those people there would be an outrcy from the same crowd over how the cameras are being used to target black people

Kirk Parker said...

If gun-rights groups focused more on universal concealed carry and less on high capacity magazines,

Fortunately, most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time.