Police Step Up Response After Stow Lake Robberies and Break-Ins

Police are increasing their presence and surveillance around Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake after a number of high-profile robberies in the area. 

ABC News reports that two birdwatchers in the last month have been robbed of expensive photography equipment by groups of mobile teenagers. 

The most recent incident occurred on May 6th, at the blue heron observation site between Stow Lake Drive East and John F. Kennedy Drive.

Great blue heron. | Image: Foter

A volunteer for San Francisco Nature Education was adjusting a telescope camera for taking photos in an area with about twenty visitors when a teenage male pulled up in a car behind her, got out, knocked her down, and drove off with her telescope camera and tripod.

“We can’t even be out there safely,” said Nancy DeStefanis, SF Nature Education’s executive director. “This was in plain view.”

On top of that, no arrests have been made. 

The heron nests at Stow Lake. | Photo: Dan DeWitt

Though Golden Gate Park is hardly new to such activity, police are responding by directing more resources to the area. Richmond District Station Capt. Alexa O’Brien said she could not yet offer specifics, but assured us that they are working on a strategy to address both robberies and car break-ins in the park. 

“There will be more of a presence,” she said. 

According to O’Brien, the Stow Lake investigation has been transferred to the Patrol Bureau Task Force (PBTF), a plainclothes police unit that oversees auto burglaries and break-ins citywide. They too will be increasing their presence around Stow Lake, along with rangers from the Park Police, a division of San Francisco's Recreation and Park Dept.

DeStefanis, though alarmed by the boldness of recent perpetrators, has faith in this coordinated effort. "We believe we're going to have some protection out there going forward," she said.

O’Brien, who observes that park visitors often move valuables to their trunk in plain sight of burglars, has one recommendation: “Plan ahead. Put stuff in your trunk before you get to your end location.”

For more information on this case, check out this video from Hoodline content partner ABC7:

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Police step up response after stow lake robberies and break ins