Hayes Valley retailers alarmed by increase in vandalism, robberies

Hayes Valley retailers alarmed by increase in vandalism, robberies
Smashed window at Hayes Valley's Yoga Tree. | Photo: Larry-bob Roberts via the Hayes Valley Society/Facebook
By Saul Sugarman - Published on February 27, 2020.

Last week, police successfully apprehended a suspect who allegedly broke into Hayes Valley pizzeria Doppio Zero and stole a safe containing $5,000.

The case had a happy ending, mostly: the safe was returned to Doppio Zero, but the cash was gone. The restaurant manager expressed his heartfelt thanks to the retail community and the police for their commitment to the case. 

But that hasn't quelled concerns about crime in Hayes Valley. In the wake of the arrest, several neighborhood retailers spoke to Hoodline about other recent incidents of vandalism and robbery in the neighborhood, and what they see as an inadequate police response.

In several instances, they say, thieves walked away with valuable merchandise, and remain at large. They've also been left with pricey bills for repairing vandalized windows.

Doppio Zero had a safe containing $5,000 stolen overnight. | Photo: Andrew D./Yelp  

Management at Aether Apparel (489 Hayes St.) and Aviator Nation (520 Hayes St.) both confirmed break-ins at their locations in the past three months. (A third Hayes Street business, Yoga Tree, also had its windows smashed last month, though it's unclear if anything was stolen.)

At Aviator Nation, a window was smashed about three months ago by a burglar, who then stole the company laptop, store manager Z. Judah told Hoodline by phone.

“The window was completely shattered, just a big gaping hole,” Judah said, adding that he was notified of the break-in at about 3 or 4 a.m.

No goods for sale were taken — just the laptop, Judah said. No one has been apprehended for the theft.

At Aether Apparel, three attempted break-ins have taken place in the past 60 days, said a manager who preferred to not be named.

The manager described security camera footage showing a person attempting to break in through the store window with a boulder. In another incident, the same person attempted to bend the steel frame of the door.

Replacing the windows broken in the burglary attempts ran the store between $5,000 and $8,000, the Aether manager noted.

Outside Aether Apparel. | Photo: Aether Apparel/Yelp

Both store managers said they're not satisfied with the level of police involvement in Hayes Valley.

“There is very, very little police force representation throughout the day,” Judah said. “I’ve been very surprised to not see much police force or presence, hardly any beat cops or anything like that.”

In response to the retailers' concerns, SFPD spokesperson Michael Andraychak said via email that “SFPD has been working with our law enforcement and retail partners to address retail thefts for several years now."

“We take retail theft seriously and encourage victims to file police reports," he added.

According to official data, year-over-year larceny incidents are currently up 16% in SFPD's Northern District (encompassing Hayes Valley, Western Addition, Pacific Heights and the Marina). So far this year, there have been 1,176 incidents, compared to 1,008 at the same time last year.

Larceny incidents also increased in the Northern District from 2018 to 2019. In 2019, there were 8,167 reported larcenies in the district — a 9% increase over 2018, when there were 7,496.

SFPD's definition of larceny also includes residential thefts; Andraychak said he was unable to provide figures that broke down retail vs. non-retail larceny.

Sebastian Luke, a longtime San Francisco resident who lives near Opera Plaza, said he has been working with local police and that “they do the best they can.”

“The people who live here think the police aren’t doing anything, even though the police are here every morning,” Luke said. “But there’s shoplifting going on all around. I can see their frustrations.”

St. Mary's Cathedral at 1111 Gough St. | Photo: Michael M./Yelp

St. Mary’s Cathedral, which had nine of its windows smashed a month ago, will host a community meeting about local break-ins and vandalism on Thursday, March 12 at 1 p.m. 

Derek B. Gaskin, director of safety and security for St. Mary’s, told Hoodline the meeting is meant to be “as collaborative as possible with the city.”

“Our approach is, ‘OK, we’re on your side, but you have to help us here,’” Gaskin said.

Luke has invited retailers from Hayes Valley to speak at the meeting at St. Mary’s; Kyle Smeallie, an aide to Supervisor Dean Preston, will also attend.

Preston himself will address the issue at a public safety meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 2 at the Korean American Center (745 Buchanan St.).