A pickpocketing ring that targeted Muni bus passengers was thwarted after the arrest of a man suspected in nearly a dozen incidents, according to police.
Eduardo Cuidad, 30, of San Francisco was arrested Tuesday, and police are investigating whether he worked with at least one other person to board crowded Muni buses and steal items such as credit and gift cards.
“How apropos,” Richmond Police Station Lt. Mark Mahoney said of the stolen gift cards. “With the season, it corroborates with packed Muni lines and shopping.”
Mahoney said police are looking at a handful of other suspects who could be connected to the Muni pickpocketing ring.
Cuidad is suspected of targeting riders on the 38-Geary line, according to Mahoney. Cuidad was arrested at his home in San Francisco and is being held on charges of grand theft from a person and possession of stolen property.
The Muni thefts being investigated include five reports of pickpocketing in the Richmond district, another five in the Park Police Station district and two more in the Northern Police Station’s jurisdiction.
A combination of Muni surveillance cameras, plainclothes officers and investigators was used to nab Cuidad, according to police.
Mahoney said that with the information obtained after arresting and questioning Cuidad, police are casting a net citywide because the ring could be more widespread.
“Suspects don’t stay in the Richmond,” Mahoney said. “They go wherever the line takes them.”
According to November police statistics, four incidents of pickpocketing were reported on the Geary line, which runs from the Transbay Transit Terminal downtown to 48th Avenue. Two incidents were reported in the first seven days of December. A total of 22 thefts were reported in 2010 on the 38-Geary.
An estimated 30,000 people travel on the bus route daily, according to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose, making it the second-busiest bus line in The City. The most common pickpocketing reports come from lines that run through downtown, Rose said, and the underground light rail.
Police and Muni officials are warning riders to be aware of their surroundings when riding public transportation, but especially during the holidays when extra cash and gifts are being carried in tight, packed spaces.
“Obviously with the holiday rush the buses and stores are supercongested,” Mahoney said. “People are packed like sardines; you don’t know what’s going on.”
A suspect is in custody on allegations of stealing from Muni riders. Others in a possible theft ring are being investigated.
Sources: Police Department, SFMTA