Crime & Punishment: Officers snatch suspect in Muni pickpocket case

A pickpocket on a Muni bus was apprehended by police officers, thanks in large part to the dogged pursuit of the victim.

The incident occurred Sunday approximately 6 p.m. on the 28-19th Avenue Muni bus, headed toward the Sunset, when the victim felt a man reach into his jacket pocket, according to Capt. Paul Chignell of the Taraval Police Station.

After a quick search, the victim realized his wallet, which contained four $100 bills, had been stolen.

The victim, a Chinese man who spoke limited English, thought he saw who took the wallet and started screaming at the thief to give him back his money.

Wary of the commotion, the thief exited the bus at 19th Avenue and Judah Street, but the victim pursued, hoping to retrieve his stolen cash, Chignell said.

Eventually the thief disappeared into a crowd on Judah, but the victim flagged down a Cantonese-speaking police officer and gave a detailed description of the criminal.

Working with the description provided, the police were able to track down the unsuccessful thief, who quickly admitted to the crime and gave back the $400, Chignell said. Suspected traces of cocaine were also found on the thief, who was arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine and grand theft, Chignell said.

The thief, whose identity was not released, had a modest criminal record, Chignell said.

“This was a good arrest,” Chignell said. “It would not have been possible without the help of the citizen.”

Examples of thievery are not uncommon on public transportation vehicles. Throughout the last 12 months therehave been 507 cases of theft and larceny on Muni buses and trains, according to department documents.

When a theft is reported, Muni officials provide on-site surveillance tapes to help police track down criminal suspects, according to department spokesman Judson True.

The department has managed to reduce thefts in recent months. There were 104 reported instances of theft and larceny from January 2008 to March 2008, down from 148 cases from April 2007 to June 2007.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

Hundreds of reported theft and larceny incidents on Muni

700,000 estimated weekday boardings on Muni

507 theft and larceny cases on Muni vehicles reported in the previous 12 months

Source: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

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