Police caution Richmond district residents

A woman who was burglarized last week by men posing as utility workers is the latest in a spike of similar crimes in the Richmond district, police say.

Two men knocked on the door of the elderly woman’s Fifth Avenue home at about 3 p.m. on May 2, purporting to be from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said Officer Robert Wong, who responded to the scene.

The men, who said they did not have to show identification because they were government employees, told the resident — a woman in her mid-80s — that they were investigating a leaky pipe, Wong said.

They had her tap on a pipe at one end of the house while they listened for leaks at the other end. During the 15-minute “inspection,” the thieves stole the unsuspecting woman’s jewelry, Wong said.

The incident is one of several reported in the Richmond district in the last month after a long period of inactivity, Wong said. He said there may be more than one group of suspects. In the May 2 incident, the suspects were reported as white men with light-colored hair, but in other incidents, suspects have been described as Latino men speaking Spanish.

San Francisco Public Utilities spokesman Tony Winnicker said field employees of the agency are required to carry photographic identification and to show it when asked. “In almost no case would SFPUC staff need to enter someone’s home without an appointment,” he said.

On Monday, 47-year-old Gary Johnson was sentenced in San Francisco to 50 years to life in prison after being found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment of an elder. He has also been convicted of robbery and sexual assault in Los Angeles. Johnson preyed on single, elderly women by knocking on their doors and using a ruse to enter their homes. In at least one case, he claimed he was a PG&E worker.

San Francisco police Sgt. Robert Totah, whose investigation helped lead to Johnson’s arrest, urged potential victims not to open their front doors until confirming the identity of the employee.

“A couple of times when [victims] opened the door, he just barged right into the door and grabbed them,” Totah said.

amartin@examiner.com


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