Residents do their own crime-fighting

San Francisco resident Heather World was taking a noontime walk in Glen Park when she heard the screams. Then a man came running toward her, carrying a purse — and being chased by another woman. When World crouched to knock him over, she noticed his car, standing with the engine running and the door open. She took the keys and threw them to the woman pursuing the mugger, while World’s husband, Dan, chased and wrestled him until police came.

“It was almost like a playground fight,” World said. In one moment, she decided she could fight him. “He looked scared and kind of pudgy, and I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to let him get away with it.’”

She isn’t the only one with a fighting instinct.

Earlier this year, the victim of an attempted mugging in a parking lot on the 400 block of Hickey Boulevard in South San Francisco pretended that someone was sneaking up behind his attacker, South San Francisco police Sgt. Joni Lee said. When the would-be mugger turned to look, the victim pretended to retrieve a weapon from his car; the mugger fled.

However, such cases are rare. Though 126 people have been robbed or mugged in South City since Jan. 1, only one fought back, Lee said. In Redwood City, there hasn’t been a single incidence of a victim fighting back in three years, despite a reported 252 robberies since July 1, 2005, Redwood City police Capt. Chris Cesena said.

“It’s not very common, although it does happen,” said Sgt. John Loftus, who works robbery detail for the San Francisco Police Department. In fact, police discourage victims from defending themselves in a mugging.

“We had two men shot in recent robbery attempts, and they were shot because they fought back,” Loftus said. “We strongly urge people to surrender their wallets and cell phones. You get another one — it’s not worth it.”

For those worried about being mugged, Impact Bay Area offers self-defense classes for women, in which they learn how to function in an attack — even when they are too scared to move, Impact Director Erica Newman said.

“Sometimes you freeze so much you don’t hand over your belongings, or you don’t know where safety is,” Newman said. “Studies say that some type of resistance is better; if you go through post-traumatic stress afterward, you tend to heal better because you resisted.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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