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Ok a little thread about crime in SF and why it’s so incredibly frustrating for the people who live here. (Hopefully @LondonBreed will help? I know she cares a lot about this issue, hope she reads this thread) @hknightsf might be interested too.
142 replies and sub-replies as of Feb 09 2018

Last month a lady named Linda rented a van from us for a few days. It was due back on January 31st. It didn’t come back. Instead, the next day, a guy we’ve never heard of called and asked to extend the rental... a month! This isn’t normal.
We know from experience this is very suspicious. We told them to bring the van back right away. He said they would be back the next morning. We knew that was unlikely. We were right. The next day came and went with no sign of the van.
Now at this point you have people, probably using stolen IDs, likely using the vehicle to commit more crimes, in a van that is past due. So we should call the police, right? Wrong! The police are *not allowed* to even take a report yet. We have some hoops to jump through first.
So first we have to wait for the vehicle to be five days past due. Then we have to send a certified letter to the address on the contract. Then we have to wait for the letter to either be signed, or returned as undeliverable.
Once we have the letter we can go file a claim for embezzlement. NOT stolen car, even though the vehicle has been stolen. It’s embezzlement which is far lower on police priority scale. And we can’t call the report in either. We have to go in person to the station.
We have to have all original docs including the returned certified letter., title, reg etc. No digital copies. Everything original. Then we have to fill out the paperwork at the station while they run a warrant check on our ID. Yes that’s right: we get investigated first.
Then the license plate is in the system and maybe we get lucky and a police officer notices the van and runs the plate, but we don’t get a dedicated detective or anything. It’s simply a flag in the system.
So today we got our certified letter back. Meanwhile we’ve been running a skip trace on this person and they are, as you might expect, bad news. It’s been a week, that van could be anywhere, even Mexico. It takes a while to file a police report, so we decide to go tomorrow.
This is where the story gets crazy: I’m driving back from a dental appointment just before 5pm and notice I’m right behind one of our vans. Thinking they are returning I call the office to give them a heads up and holy shit it’s the stolen van! Here’s a pic I took while following
The odds of this happening at rush hour are about 1:450,000. But it happened, so I follow the van until it parks in Portola. Sales manager @TheDavidElrod hops in a Lyft and meets me while I’m staking it out.
While we are waiting I call the police. “Hey can you send an officer to come meet us at San Bruno & Bacon, we have a stolen rental van” “Has it been reported stolen? What’s the case#” “Uh, no not yet, but it meets all the criteria, we have all the docs with us”
The dispatcher isn’t sure if they can help, but after failing to reach a sergeant on the other line she *reluctantly* agrees to send a car to come meet us. So we wait. And wait. The driver goes in to pick up some Korean food. We wait some more.
After about an hour I call the dispatch to see if there’s an ETA. Nope there isn’t even a car dispatched yet. We wait some more. Then the driver gets back in the van and we start following them from a safe distance while I call the police again.
I tell the police we’re following a stolen van. This seems to get some attention at first, but after asking more questions and learning it’s a rental they start slow walking. We have a trainee on the phone and his supervisor is right there telling him what to do.
The supervisor gets a hold of the sergeant, and I can hear her asking for permission to disconnect. They want to end the call. And then I get a call on the other line. It’s the sergeant, I think. He never introduced himself.
I answer: “Hello?” “THIS IS SFPD, WE ARE NOT GOING TO PURSUE YOUR VAN ALL OVER THE CITY” It’s in caps because he was kinda yelling. I know there’s no point in arguing about this. “OK I understand, thank you” Click. He hangs up.
OK now what do we do? Well shit we have the keys. It’s our van. Let’s follow, wait for them to leave, and we’ll just drive it away. So we follow them. First it goes down to 9th where it makes a left. We speculate it’s going to the Tenderloin.
But they drive up Hayes, and eventually turns on Fillmore and parks in front of some housing projects. We watch a guy get out and go to a dark parking lot where he meets someone else in a car. We can’t see what he’s doing. There are other people in the van still. Can’t grab it.
Then the guy comes back and stands around outside the van smoking a cigarette. At one point he’s about five feet from us and even looks at us which makes us nervous. We debate whether we could call in suspicious activity to the police, but worry we’d get in trouble somehow.
Eventually he gets back in the van. They leave. We follow them to the Mission. They go to a gas station and we discreetly watch from across the street. Then they go to the corner of 17th & Mission and park in front of a fire hydrant.
There is no parking in the Mission at night. We’re forced to drive past, but get lucky and find a spot at 17th & Valencia. We can see the van in the rear view mirror. @TheDavidElrod gets out to see what they are doing. We learn there are three people inside.
While David is scoping them out a police officer drives by. His passenger window is down. I decide to try one last time to get some assistance. I jump out of the car and walk over to him: “Excuse me officer, I might need your help, do you have a minute?”
He directs me to the police station across the street and says he’ll meet me in the lobby. I wait in the lobby for 15 minutes. He comes out and asks questions. I’m very upfront about it being a rental car. He goes back inside to ask the sergeant questions. Then he comes back out.
“We can’t help you without a stolen vehicle report” “But it qualifies as embezzled, can I file a report right now?” “Do you have all the original paperwork with you on your person?” “I have PDFs on my phone” “Sorry, come back tomorrow”
He’s nice and sympathetic. This is just the protocol he has to follow. I go back to the car and meet Dave. We’re pissed, might never see this van again. We come up with a plan. It’s risky.
We walk up to the van, smiling, looking friendly. We motion the driver to roll down the window. I’m hanging back a couple feet. Don’t want to be scary or threatening. She rolls the window down. David: “Are you Linda?” Linda: “Why are you asking?”
“Hi, I just filed a stolen vehicle report at the police station right there” (I point at the police station.) They are coming, if you are still here you’ll be arrested. If you take off in the van they’ll just arrest you down the street, but if you leave now it’ll be chill”
We are bluffing. But we caught them off guard. They discuss for a second and then say “OK”. David asks for the keys, she hands it to him. Then we watch them unpack all their stuff. Tons of luggage. They were living in the van.
I took a picture, sorry, it’s blurry.
Finally they got all their shit out and left. David got in the van, and I got in the car and drove home. SF is having an explosion of car break-ins right now. Lt. Luke Martin head of the crime task force told me they are often using rental cars as getaway vehicles.
We had over 80,000 reports of cars broken into made via the SFPD online reporting system, but only 7 arrests. I think there’s a good chance that’s what these guys were doing too. But I’m not allowed to get any help from the police at all.
But rental car companies *cant even report the vehicle stolen* until it’s been gone for a week. We are also forbidden by law from using GPS tracking. It was pure luck I ran into the vehicle.
We would love to help solve this problem. It’s sad we had to do something risky to get our vehicle back and potentially stop more crimes from occurring. It’s sad they will get away with it. But it’s mind blowing that the rules prevent the police from helping.
This, and policies like this, are why auto break-ins are spiraling out of control. Criminals KNOW when the police can’t respond *by law* to a crime that is happening in front of them. Even though we told them the cops were coming they were in no big rush.
If we want this situation to improve, some of these laws need to change. That’s it, thank you for reading. THE END
An incredible story. I hope it gets the attention it deserves. Glad you’re all safe.
Wow! What an experience it must have been for you. Thanks for sharing this information.
Why is using GPS forbidden?
California consumer protection laws. In the other states we operate in, it's not quite as restrictive. Using a GPS tracker is last thing we want to do at any time.
Honestly this is one of the reasons I decided to move away from San Francisco after living there since 1996. I got tired of the police not being able to act like police due to lack of funds, personnel and all the red tape that prevent them from arresting people.
Crime and homelessness are out of control in San Francisco right now because the city cares more about incoming techbros than the blue collar working class people who have lived there for decades. No one seems to care that San Francisco is going under.
People care. A LOT of people care. Went to a packed mayoral forum last week talking about this. There are just a shit ton of laws that were well intentioned, passed in better times, but have basically hamstrung almost every aspect of the justice system.
I had to leave San Francisco when I had to clean human feces from my driveway DAILY. I was being followed home by aggressive meth heads asking for money. I felt unsafe daily. So I moved away. That city is in dire need of real leadership.
It is frustrating. I am pro immigrant, pro sanctuary city, pro helping homeless & mentally ill. I love these people are cared about, and proud that we try to help. But I’m anti criminal, & it’s shameful how little we do to stop them. Don’t get me started on credit card fraud. 😡
Yeah sadly i think lawyers & pointless red tape have really got in the way of cops being able to do their jobs. The city needs to get serious about helping violent mentally ill citizens -- many who have turned to drugs or are homeless. The city needs to wake up.
Why are you bringing up immigrants? Where the criminals Hispanic?
Hello fellow human, I'm sorry you went through this shitty experience. Here are some thoughts this gave me: what might cause someone to need to live in a van? What might they do to try to hold on to shelter? what might the real cost be to you, presumably with car insurance? 🤔
dude, this. thread. was. crazy.
And then you get a ticket for using your cell phone while driving.
Not sure it's laws as much as procedure, training, culture…how do they become public servants rather than cowboys prepped to control riots
Incredible! Thanks for sharing!
Wow! This thread was riveting and enlightening. Thank you for taking the time to describe the incident and the issue.
Worst property crime in the USA, none gets prosecuted. One time two girls came in to a bar & started stealing purses/coats. Police came but ended up treating the victims like they were the bad guys and let the girls go. Law & order is job #1 of City Govt & SFPD is a total fail.
Rented vans were used in terrorist attacks the last few years in Europe. Mainly to drive into crowds or blow some stuff up. They'll get their shit together about stolen vans when that eventually happen in the US.
Jesus Christ. This is unreal. Thanks for sharing.
That is CRAZY!
My friend had a super similar thing happen - his moped was stolen, he found it parked outside a homeless shelter, DID bring a police officer. They’d filed off the VIN though so the police said 🤷‍♂️ nothing we can do. He never got it back.
Thank you for such a popcorn post! I’m sorry for the loss on your equipment even if it was for a week, and I’m sure they didn’t treat your van very well. This kind of ignore crime to have the facade of police priorities is loathsome. Also ignoring the crime helps no one!
Doesn't seem like they wanted to help, unless they can cite law precluding them accompanying you down the street.
Actually it is state law that prevents us from filing a stolen vehicle report, and city policy that prevents them from helping us reclaim our property. It’s not the cops fault. He really did want to help. But he’d get in trouble if he did.
Sigh. I can understand a gps law protecting your clients, but is there nothing in the its language to release you from the restriction once they're no longer paying for the van?
I don’t get sharing companies have GPS on their bikes. But you’re not allowed to have a GPS device on your van? Seems a bit awkward...
Hmm, not a lawyer but it seems that (1)(A)(ii) says you’re allowed to use GPS data to locate the vehicle if it has not been returned a week past due date. But yeah, not a simple nor pleasant task. :/
Yes that's correct. But this is how backward that is: if they had rented for a month, and we learned on day two that the credit card was stolen, we could not report it stolen or activate the GPS until one month and five days had gone by, and certified letter returned.
amazong thread. what’s the law preventing gps tracking?
California Civil Code 1939.23
thanks! we’re going to discuss this in class ;-)
That was definitely a risky move but I’m glad to hear it paid off and worked out in the end. What a rollercoaster of a thread this was!
Wow that is a crazy story! Glad you got your van back. Would you be up for talking next week?
Yes! Feel free to DM for contact info
You embellish this story (without evidence) painting them as potential career criminals who “could’ve” gone to Mexico when really they were just living in a van through no choice of their own because they can’t afford housing in SF? Who *wants* to steal and live in a van?
Ok wrap it up Sharky.
You should know by now I don’t tell short stories! 😂
Thanks for the story! I lived it reading this, someone gotta move to change things, The situation seems no cool!
This is why California’s laws are stupid. Never a cop around when you need one...
Type faster! I'm sitting on pins and needles wanting to know what happened!
Right out of Pulp Fiction. Glad it ended differently.
Just curious, is it possible to locate the van via gps or onstar, if it’s equipped with their service?
Ilegal in California until you've gone through all of the stolen vehicle reports. Which requiers certified letter et Al @Sharkyl mentioned.
Being it is San Fran they probably rented it out on AirBnb. :)
Wow. That’s some shit.
This entire ordeal is pretty f-ed up. Sorry you didn't get justice here.
A friend shared this thread with me tonight. I sent it immediately to our Deputy Chief. He responded within minutes- we agree this is unacceptable. How can we get in touch with you?
Former law enforcement officer here. Thank you for looking at this. It is critically important that citizen complaints be taken seriously and resolved with high judgement.
Hi Jane, great to hear from you. Enjoyed your talk at mayor forum in Noe Valley last week. My DM’s are open, or I can DM you my contact info.
When you say the people were “living in the van,” were you exaggerating? Or do you think they really were living in the vehicle?
We think they were living in the van. We don't know for sure, but they had the van for two weeks, and they had luggage and clothes they had to pack up before they could leave.
Not saying this incident isn't about crime, but there's also a reading of what happened that's about lack of affordable housing, homelessness, and the hubris of the tech class in the Bay Area.
I agree those are contributing factors to the overall problem. But in this case I'm not sure they are homeless. They had phones, credit cards, po boxes, etc. Could be a crime ring just living out of van for work reasons. Hard to say w/o an investigation & we aren't getting that.
(decades of terrible housing policy)
THIS. Cc @JaneKim, who I believe has housing on her platform. Supervisor Kim, I hope *you* saw this story as more about poverty and lack of housing than what your initial response seemed to indicate.
So u kinda support their line of *work* until ur/friends stuff ends up in *their* van.
My comment was in response to the blame placed on tech for housing problems that are caused by decades of terrible housing policy - those policies are also one of many underlying causes of homelessness.
What I support are approaches to running a city that acknowledge that decreasing crime involves more than policing. I was mugged and had my phone stolen. What I was certain of in that situation was that simply having more police was not the solution.
The tech class didn't create Prop 13.
dang this is some pretty good public service. 2 hour response time!
I’ve given up on police here. Was in hit-and-run. Police: “No we will not come help. Come to the station.” Car break in. Police: “Lady this happens 1000 times/day. We wont investigate.” Car runs down my pedestrian bf. Police 1st response: “There’s no chance we will catch him.”
It’s pathetic.
Ugh! I know this feeling SOOOOOO well. I've had countless experiences like this. This time we had them in our sights, and I thought maybe they'll help because we got them right here, don't even want them to arrest anyone, just stand there and look scary pls. Nope.
There’s just such a weird, antagonistic vibe so often. Like you said you wanted to call but worried you might get in trouble — how weird is that to be afraid to call the police about a crime in progress? So frustrating.
Then SF becomes a free for all for criminals. Why even have police?
Your constituents (myself included) want to hear concrete steps. Not empty platitudes.
“Unacceptable” is a fairly lacking word for this situation. A little toooooooo PC. The Byzantine empire up there needs to end. What, exactly, is/are these “laws” or, more than likely “regulations” making police into mall cops? And also the incredibly unfriendly biz “laws” too.
Right right, I'm from the government and we're here to help. Haha sounds like an epidemic already, sorry but you've been asleep at the wheel as usual.
In a city dominated by ride sharing giants and self driving experiments, this is a nightmare and an absolute failure of the police force.
Unreal. Only in SF
Kim @AaronPeskin @hkarnilowicz the laws aren’t protecting businesses & victims in SF. We need IMMEDIATE changes! This city now epicenter for crimes- out of control. @dennisherrera @GeorgeGascon
Maybe you need a 3 mill @Airbus H125 copter like @LAPDHQ @MayorOfLA bought for Los Angeles to solve the ever increasing street crime.
I would be satisfied with just a police officer meeting us at the van. Don't need guns or arrests. Just a cop having our back would be cool.
"I even asked the officer if he would walk just half a block with me and just stand there while we asked them to leave. No dice." At that point they're not even being cops. What if you said to the police "we are armed and we are going to go take our property back by force"?
Pretty common protocol for drug addicts here in Texas, and the cops want you to understand fully that they’re risking their lives to get your car back, so they make you sign something saying you acknowledge they may shoot and kill the occupants.
You’re literally asked to sign someone’s death warrant in exchange for police assistance. I cannot sign that; I’d rather let it go as stolen and let insurance replace it. Police brutality is real here and I want no part of it.
Sounds like a homelessness problem @Jason. Need to solve the problem, not the symptom
He addressed this in another reply. He believes they had resources and it wasn’t just about housing. Besides, no matter why someone stole the van, it should be easier to get police help to get it back - or just to file a report.
I stayed in the Tenderloin area 2 years ago for the Microsoft Build conference. I walked around a lot just exploring. 0-50 homeless per block would be my guess. I have never seen anything like it.
If a homeless person commits grand theft larcany is it not a crime? We should totally do something about homelessness, but we can't just let people take what they want with no consequences.
Wowwowwow. Unbelievable story @Sharkyl.
It should show up as a thread.
I wish it did. I use @tweetbot. Any way I can see it?
The whole thread should show up as replies to this tweet:
Ok a little thread about crime in SF and why it’s so incredibly frustrating for the people who live here. (Hopefully @LondonBreed will help? I know she cares a lot about this issue, hope she reads this thread) @hknightsf might be interested too.
Many lives ago I worked at an Enterprise and became skilled at going into high poverty areas and 'stealing' our cars back. So many stories. It scares me to this day. 😐
The craziest part of this thread is all of the "progressives" blaming the cities "housing" strategy for your ordeal. These people`s (the progressives) poor logic is a cancer in our society.
are the least effective, and third most corrupt police force after @BaltimorePolice and Chicago. I'm surprised they did so much as pick up the phone when you called.
You know what would have fixed all this?...a gun.