Potrero Hill residents who believe they’ve detected an increase in crime in the neighborhood appear to be right. According to information provided by the San Francisco Police Department’s Bayview District, which includes the Hill, vehicle theft jumped from 6,126 offenses in 2014 to 6,915 in 2015. There were 19,827 cases of objects getting stolen from a vehicle in the area in 2014, compared with 25,899 instances in 2015. SFPD was unable to provide data for 2016.
Hill resident and software engineer Peter Flynn was on Rhode Island and 18th streets in late February when three men ran up to him, pointed a gun at his head, and demanded his bag, which contained two laptops. “I’ve lived in my same place in Potrero for about ten years, uneventfully almost the whole time, and in the last couple of years, I’ve experienced a big uptake of crime,” Flynn said.
In addition to the robbery, Flynn’s car was stolen from in front of his 18th Street apartment “a couple of years ago,” and the vehicle was broken into last fall. “I don’t want to over-generalize from anecdotes, but for me at least, the experiences really changed in the past couple of years,” Flynn stated.
A Hill resident who wished to be identified as “Max,” who has lived in the neighborhood since 2015, woke up one morning last summer to see his car, which was parked outside his Rhode Island Street house, near Whole Foods, with all the doors open, though nothing had been taken but a few receipts. According to Max, there are “weekly car break-ins,” but he hadn’t heard of many armed muggings. “The general expectation now is that you’re going to get your car broken into,” Max said. “It’s going to happen like once or twice a week.”
Pedro Ceja, an electrician, who has lived on the Hill for seven years, said that he’d been the victim of several car robberies over the past couple of years. Ceja said he caught someone trying to break into his car last month; one of his vehicles was stolen from in front of his Hill home on 18th and San Bruno streets last year. He was able to recover it, but several days later someone attempted to steal it again from the same spot. Tools and a laptop were taken from his vehicle twice over the past 18 months.
In February, Ceja’s girlfriend, Monica Kicklighter, who has lived with Ceja on the Hill for almost three years, was awakened at 2 a.m. by the sound of someone breaking into her car. She said Ceja and her father were able to detain the criminal until the police came. “Potrero is still one of the safest neighborhoods in the City, I think, so even though this is scary, and I got unlucky, most people aren’t going to have to experience this,” Flynn said. “People (should) be a little more aware. Taking those extra precautions really can make a difference.”
According to Officer Patrick McNichol, who was recently assigned “beat cop” duties on the Hill, SFPD is fielding more plainclothes constables in an effort to stop car break-ins. More than 70 vehicles are subject to theft in San Francisco a day.
Flynn urged people to watch out for their safety and their belongings. Although it “sucks to lose that stuff,” he said, “it’s just stuff.”