C.W. Nevius is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist.
It seems pretty obvious that the smash-and-grab burglaries in San Francisco aren’t going away. For example, between Dec. 24 and 30, the Central Police Station newsletter lists 33 car break-ins.
Which is why Janet Moyer and Mike Hofman have been so busy. They hike up Twin Peaks three times a week, picking up trash. What they also find are purses, backpacks and wallets — the residue of the persistent and annoying smash and grabs at the popular overlook.
Since they started their regular trips up Twin Peaks about five years ago, they’ve become experts at tracking down victims and returning passports, drivers’ licenses and belongings.
“Last weekend,” the two wrote in a Saturday e-mail, “we found three purses/wallets/backpacks at the side of the road, but did the triple play — got all of them back to their rightful owners.”
“We sent this purse to a woman in Nevada, and she called us and said they didn’t break into her car, she was robbed.” Hofman said when I called Monday, explaining that the woman was in tears. “I didn’t realize until later she’d been physically assaulted.”
That’s a troubling new development. The Park Station police report details a robbery on Dec. 28 on Twin Peaks, where the victims were assaulted.
But even break-ins are unsettling. Among the success stories for Hofman and Moyer is Tiana Vela, who stopped for 10 minutes at Twin Peaks to show the view to a visiting cousin and came back to find her car window shattered and purse and wallet stolen. A local, Vela says she was kicking herself.
“In the six years I’ve lived here I have never had a broken window because I knew this would happen,” Vela said. “I never leave my purse in the car. I just did it this one time. It was just a shock.”
Because her residence was nearby, Hofman and Moyer stopped by Vela’s residence and handed over the belongings.
“It is my favorite purse, and a wallet was given to me by one of my great friends,” she said. “I was so relieved I was crying.”
But now that she’s spent a week driving her cousin around town, she knows it’s just a part of a continuous problem.
“We’ve been going to different tourist spots,” she said. “Golden Gate Park, the Painted Ladies, Twin Peaks — wherever tourists go — there is glass all over the street.”
I don’t really understand the disconnect that makes smash-and-grab burglaries so difficult to stop. The cops insist they’re catching the suspects, and the district attorney’s office says it brings cases to the courts but that San Francisco judges see the crimes as low priority.
Meanwhile, in the first five months of 2015, SFPD statistics show smash and grabs increased 47 percent over the same period in 2014.
So apparently, we have to be content with the small victories, like returning property to rightful owners. But Moyer and Hofman aren’t immune either. Recently, their car was broken into although when they checked they couldn’t figure out what the thieves took.
“Finally a couple of days later we realized our laundry bag was missing,” Moyer said. “They got our dirty laundry.”