Cole Valley Fitness burglary highlights rash of neighborhood break-ins

Cole Valley Fitness burglary highlights rash of neighborhood break-insPhoto: Camden Avery/Hoodline
Camden Avery
Published on August 24, 2018

Shortly after 3 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, an unidentified burglar broke into Cole Valley Fitness, the gym that's been in business for 26 years at 957 Cole St.

Though nothing was stolen and the gym sustained minimal damage, the SFPD is still working to track down the culprit, whose crime had the hallmarks of a serial burglar.

"It's so weird," said owner Andrew Chaban. "It couldn't be a professional, because nobody breaks into gyms. We don't do a lot of cash transactions, and there's nothing there but weights."

Chaban said that in 35 years in the industry, he's never heard of anyone breaking into a gym.

The burglar, a man who was captured on security camera wearing a hat and a backpack, "got in because they broke the lockbox" on the front door that he uses for cleaners and contractors, Chaban said. They then rifled through the contents of the front desk before the alarm sounded. 

Here's security footage of the break-in: 

Video: Courtesy of Cole Valley Fitness

Chaban said that he hadn't previously heard a lot of chatter about lockbox break-ins around Cole Valley. 

"I've had [my lockbox] on there for six, seven years" without issue, he added.

But the approach to the burglary was immediately familiar to the SFPD officers he spoke to, as well as his locksmith.

"Apparently, it's an epidemic," he said. "Cole Valley didn't used to be a high-crime area," but recent break-ins are "changing the neighborhood, the dynamic of it."

Chaban cited a smash-and-grab earlier this year at Say Cheese, and a robbery at Wooden Cafe where two men left a truck parked out front during business hours, ran into the cafe, grabbed what they could, ran back out and got away, "all while people are standing there waiting for the N line."

Though he wasn't hit hard, Chaban said he wanted to encourage other local residents and businesses to reassess their lockbox security, citing a concern that whoever hit the gym was probably making the rounds in Cole Valley and accessing whatever looked promising.

If you saw something in the wee hours of Thursday morning and have information to share, or recognize the person in the security footage, please contact the SFPD at (415) 731-2865.