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


Get crime and safety information about your neighborhood at the SFPD CrimeMAPS web site.

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

The Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street was one of many hotels that took in homeless people as part of The City’s shelter-in-place hotel program during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Closing hotels could disconnect hundreds from critical health care services

‘That baseline of humanity and dignity goes a long way’

Pachama, a Bay Area startup, is using technology to study forests and harness the carbon-consuming power of trees. (Courtesy Agustina Perretta/Pachama)
Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controvers during the pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said retail thefts in The City are underreported crimes. (Daniel Montes/Bay City News)
S.F. unveils initiative to tackle rise in retail thefts

Incidents are not victimless crimes, mayor says

Most Read