2024 Election

‘Traumatized’ Residents of Wealthy San Francisco Neighborhood Resort to Using CHICKEN WIRE to Protect Their Homes Against Intruders


Citizens in a residential area of San Francisco are bolstering their homes with chicken wire in a bid to keep out intruders.

Happening in the city’s Richmond District, the safety measures come amid a recent jump in burglaries, robberies, and homicides in the affluent neighborhood.

Headline-grabbing incidents like thieves making off with a Bank of America ATM earlier this year have even longtime residents on edge – with some installing cameras and safety locks along with the unconventional farm equipment.

Several have attended community meetings and made posts on social media as the rampant crime wave persists.

In interviews with The San Francisco Chronicle, residents spoke about the current state of the neighborhood, offering insight to why these precautions are becoming commonplace.

The safety measures come amid a recent jump in burglaries, robberies, and homicides, which residents in interviews said have left them on edge

‘My wife doesn’t feel safe going out without me these days,’ said 66-year-old Sam Hom, a captain with Richmond’s neighborhood watch program who recently caught someone trying to pick the lock of his family’s home.

A few months before, a 37-year-old man was shot and killed by cops down the street, after he allegedly killed his 76-year-old mother and her dog in their home.

The neighborhood is bordered by Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach and the wooded groves of the Presidio, and is set a few miles west of the city’s long-embattled downtown

David Heller, president of a local merchants associating, added that businesses are also bearing the brunt of the spate of crime, which appears to be spilling over from the city’s long-embattled Downtown.

There, in snaps taken in the heart of the city’s famed shopping district in January, tourists are seen wander down a gutted street once bustling with businesses

He brought up how business owners are frustrated not only by the constant stream of incidents, but a lack of policing.

He went on to share how when his own business, Beauty Network salon on Geary Blvd was burglarized last year, the police response was slow enough to give the thief ample time to steal bags full of products before returning for a second run.

Instead of being graced with an array of shops, cafés, bars, and restaurants, the area is dotted with countless shuttered storefronts. Residents and business owners now say crime spilling over from these problem zones

‘Who would want to stay here under these conditions?’ Heller asked the paper, citing how several other small businesses have since closed due to similar break-ins.

The area also saw four murders in 2023, including the August slaying of 60-year-old store clerk Yohannes ‘John’ Tewolde

Richmond District police Capt. Chris Canning responded by conceding to The Chronicle that his station ‘has not been immune from the staffing crisis that has affected the SFPD and law enforcement agencies across the country’.

Briefly hospitalized, he was beaten to death by a 21-year-old man with a baseball bat after he allegedly attempted to steal two cans of beer

He claimed his department is ‘short 522 officers from our recommended staffing levels’ – something that is sure to be a talking point in the district’s upcoming supervisor race come November.

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Canning went on to add how with fewer officers than previous years, the station has used a ‘data-driven approach when deploying resources’ – an approach he said is already showing promise

The suspect, Santos De La Rosa, was arrested three months later, as citizens were left reeling by the sudden death

 

That same month, more than 200 dirt bikers swarmed the neighborhood – usually one of the city’s safest – popping wheelies and speeding down sidewalks indiscriminately

‘We will not tolerate criminals victimizing our residents, visitors, and businesses,’ Canning said, with San Francisco Police Department data supporting residents assertions.

Back in October, a convicted sex offender who camped out near a neighborhood elementary school was arrested after bombarding residents with signs advertising free fentanyl for months, before eventually leading to his arrest

The number of robberies in the district rose 52 percent last year – to 132 from 87  – the most seen in at least six years.

The area also saw four murders in 2023, including the August slaying of a 60-year-old store clerk, beaten to death by a 21-year-old man with a baseball bat after he allegedly attempted to steal two cans of beer.

Towards the end of the year, a man hallucinating on mushrooms fired gunshots at his neighbor’s home while threatening to kill his landlord – contributing to the noticeable spike in a district where that has been no more than one killing annually since 2017

The suspect, Santos De La Rosa, was arrested three months later, as citizens were left reeling by the sudden death of Yohannes ‘John’ Tewolde.

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That same month, more than 200 dirt bikers swarmed the neighborhood – usually one of the city’s safest – popping wheelies and speeding down sidewalks indiscriminately.

Richmond District police Capt. Chris Canning conceded to The Chronicle Thursday that his station ‘has not been immune from the staffing crisis that has affected the SFPD and law enforcement agencies across the country’

Two months before, police shot and killed the man down Hom’s street, as police response times continue to languish.

As crime in Richmond persists, current Supervisor Connie Chan (pictured) has faced criticism

A progressive in her first term, she has argued that Mayor London Breed’s administration is shortchanging the district in favor of the more stricken downtown areas, where the mayor is at last attempting to address open-air drug markets

Back in October, a convicted sex offender who camped out near a neighborhood elementary school was arrested after bombarding residents with signs advertising free fentanyl for months, before eventually leading to his arrest.

The pervert’s sign advertised the deadly drug from his homeless encampment, which was located across the street from a Catholic grade school.

Towards the end of the year, a man hallucinating on mushrooms fired gunshots at his neighbor’s home while threatening to kill his landlord – contributing to the noticeable spike in a district where that has been no more than one killing annually since 2017.

That said, the neighborhood remains one of the city’s safest – though that may be generous given the state of the rest of the Democratic stronghold.

Resident Irene Hirota told The Chronicle how she was jarred by a break-in though her home’s garage on 36th Avenue, but still considers herself lucky.

Others, she added, had been much more ‘traumatized’ by the burglaries, with many growing fed-up.

‘It’s disheartening because I feel it was a safer place,’ Hirota told the paper as she picked up her 11-year-old daughter from school.

Hom, meanwhile, touted himself as a ‘hard-core native’, but said the recent violence and thievery has made him rethink the benefits of living in the Richmond.

‘It makes me wonder – at what point do you move out of the city?’ he asked.

As crime in Richmond persists, current Supervisor Connie Chan has faced criticism.

A progressive in her first term, she has argued that Mayor London Breed’s administration is shortchanging the district in favor of the more stricken downtown areas, where the mayor is at last attempting to address open-air drug markets.

Last month the supervisor wrote a public letter to Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott asking for additional staff and resources, stating that they were “desperately needed” given the Richmond Police Department’s current state.

Meanwhile, Breed’s old advisor, moderate Marjan Philhour, is seeking  to unseat Chan in the looming race later this year.

Following the shopkeeper’s beating, Chan confirmed Richmond cops had “finally” gotten two additional retired officers to join its patrol of commercial corridors, but added that the neighborhood ‘deserves more.”

She claimed at the time: ‘I have been calling on the mayor to provide Richmond with equal public safety resources, because it is not enough for our mayor to just focus on downtown.

Breed spokesperson Jeff Cretan shot back: ‘The mayor is focused on solutions, not on sending letters.’

As of writing, the two have yet to meet.

Philhour, meanwhile, has vowed to address the neighborhood’s ‘total leadership void’, as both Chan and Breed face scrutiny.

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Ella Ford is a mother of two, a Christian conservative writer with degrees in American History, Social and Behavioral Science and Liberal Studies, based in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.

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