Club crooks target gay men in the Castro 

click to enlarge Police and merchants are asking people at bars and clubs to refuse drinks from strangers and be aware of surroundings. - GETTY IMAGES
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  • Police and merchants are asking people at bars and clubs to refuse drinks from strangers and be aware of surroundings.

Middle-aged gay men in the Castro are being drugged at bars, dragged to their homes and robbed by crooks posing as potential lovers.

Sgt. Chuck Limbert, the LGBT liaison to the Mission Police Station, which patrols the Castro, said the crooks apparently flirted with their victims and slyly slipped drugs into their drinks. When the victims became woozy, the robbers walked them home and pillaged their belongings, he said.

Limbert said he recently heard of three incidents in a single weekend.

“I am hearing many, many more reports of this,” he said.

In one case, a man awoke in a dreamlike state in his home and watched as the crook went through his stuff.

“He couldn’t do anything about it,” Limbert said.

In a separate incident, a man was being robbed as he was vomiting in his bathroom. When he finally came out to confront the crook, he was assaulted. The robber demanded the passwords for his computer and financial accounts, but the victim was able to flee and seek help from a neighbor, Limbert said.

The men targeted were vulnerable because they were seeking companionship and ended up trusting the convincing crooks, Limbert said.

Police said they believe embarrassment has kept many more victims from reporting such robberies.

“It isn’t just middle-aged guys; I’ve heard it happening to younger guys,” said Steve Adams, president of The Merchants of Upper Market and Castro.

Adams credits Limbert for trying to tackle a crime that “people don’t want to talk about.”

“I’ve heard it more than once,” Adams said. “It’s alarming.”

Limbert has been working with merchants and community members to prevent nightlife crimes in the Castro, including this one. Bouncers and bar managers from various bars and clubs now communicate about suspicious people and activity via text messages. And signs at establishments advise patrons to be aware of their surroundings.

“We’ve been able to share information to prevent the problem from spreading,” said Tim Eicher, who co-owns Midnight Sun, QBar and The Edge. He added that surveillance camera systems, which some of his bars already have, are effective in deterring and solving crimes.

Victims also are encouraged to take steps to prevent robberies, including never leaving their drinks unattended or accepting them from strangers, Limbert said. Upon meeting someone, it’s even recommended to ask for an ID, he added.

“Everyone has to look out for each other,” Limbert said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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