Potrero Hill community halts robbery rampage

Crooks can no longer get cozy in this San Francisco neighborhood.

Residents fed up with rampant burglaries in Potrero Hill teamed up with police in a crackdown that led to three recent arrests of “career criminals” and a reduction in incidents.

Starting in October, the neighborhood surrounding McKinley Square was hit with more than 20 burglaries in less than six weeks, Bayview Police Station Capt. Paul Chignell said.

In at least half those incidents, the brazen burglars broke into homes while the residents were inside, Chignell said.

Many of the break-ins occurred at night, while parents and children slept, resident Joyce Book said.

“Three homes were hit, one on each block, within a two-week period,” Book said.

Neighborhood residents quickly became concerned.

In November, Book, the executive director of the McKinley Square Park Foundation, organized a community crime prevention meeting with city officials, cops and about 125 area residents, Chignell said.

Chignell saturated the area with plainclothes and uniformed officers, and residents were told to lock up their homes — The City’s warm fall months create an opportunity to leave windows open, Book said.

“It’s so quiet up here … there is almost a sense of safety, but at night it can be a different world,” Book said. “We live in a big city.”

Police have been tracking the incidents and providing data to residents. Some neighbors have been using the Internet to communicate happenings.

A half-dozen residents told The San Francisco Examiner that public awareness and the extra effort from cops helped reduce burglaries and led to arrests.

Three career criminals believed to be responsible for multiple heists have been arrested recently. The most recent arrest came Tuesday, when an off-duty cop — who happens to live in the neighborhood — busted a suspect who was inside a home in the 500 block of Kansas Street, police said.

The cop watched the nervous-looking suspect peer into the windows of two homes, knock on doors, then break into one house, Sgt. Michael Andraychak said. He ransacked the home before attempting to flee with jewelry and a laptop, Andraychak said.

After a chase, Christopher Ortiz — a 33-year-old who has no local address but formerly lived in Texas and whom cops have called, along with the other two suspects, a career criminal — was arrested.

“It is wonderful to see this sort of concrete result,” neighbor Elizabeth Dunn said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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