San Francisco police have a new strategy for hunting the prolific thieves who have been swiping bicycles from homes at an alarming rate in The City.
Investigators are now staking out the seedy black market at Seventh and Market streets, where crooks are not only selling stolen cellphones and laptops out in the open but also San Franciscans’ prized two-wheelers.
Park Police Station Capt. Denis O’Leary says the mid-Market Street intersection has become “a bazaar of stolen property,” and thus an ideal starting point for bike heist investigations.
Tenderloin cops have teamed with investigators from the Mission and Park stations, where bicycle burglaries have been a problem, to try to link stolen two-wheelers sold on the streets to recent heists from people’s homes, O’Leary said.
For example, investigators are comparing fingerprints of street sellers to fingerprints found at the sites of residential bike burglaries.
The stakeouts have only been happening for two weeks and the new strategy has yet to lead to an arrest in residential bike-burglary cases, O’Leary said. But the operation has led to busts in recent cases in which bikes have been stolen off the streets, he said.
The operations won’t just happen at Seventh and Market. Police are planning stakeouts at Alameda County flea markets and at the San Francisco intersection of 14th and Mission streets.
The new strategy is likely welcome news to Inner Sunset and Cole Valley residents who have endured a rash of bicycle burglaries recently.
During the first two weeks of August, there were a half-dozen bicycle thefts from residential garages in the Inner Sunset alone, police said. Several of the burglaries were attributed to just one serial thief who remains on the loose.
There has been a drop in burglaries in the Inner Sunset in the past few weeks, mostly due to an increased police presence and heightened awareness among neighbors, O’Leary said. The stakeout operation has become another tool in the overall strategy to combat the burglaries, he said.
In areas such as the Mission and Inner Sunset, bicycle thefts are high because residents have the nicest, priciest two-wheelers, according to local bike shops.
Last month, American Cyclery owner Bradley Woehl told The San Francisco Examiner that replacing stolen bikes or bike parts accounts for about 20 percent of his business.