Resistance is futile for a majority of street robbery victims in San Francisco

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerCell phones prove to be the most sought after item in robberies. See more details below the article.

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerCell phones prove to be the most sought after item in robberies. See more details below the article.

Resistance is futile for the vast majority of mugging victims in San Francisco.

An examination of a whopping 100 muggings in 23 days on city streets and on Muni vehicles showed that victims who fought back or resisted were most likely beaten up and still lost their possessions.

Of those 100 thefts, which were reported to police between Aug. 28 and Sept. 19, victims tried to retain their belongings in 33 incidents. Only three of those victims managed to recover their belongings. In 29 cases, victims were physically assaulted.

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Alas, simply giving in to a robber’s demands does not necessarily mean one is spared from an attack.

In 67 cases where muggers did not face resistance, more than half of the victims, 36, were still physically harmed. In some thefts, police said, the muggers assaulted the victim, incapacitating them, before swiping their loot. And in others, crooks reportedly stole the item and fled before the victim could react.

The majority of the injuries in the 100 cases were not life-threatening, police said, but instead were characterized as lacerations, scrapes and bruises.

The Police Department has repeatedly advised against resisting a mugger’s demands.

“You don’t want to find out whether or not they are armed with a weapon,” police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said. “And you never know the suspect’s mind-set at the time.”

But it’s not easy to give up what belongs to you, Esparza said. Just ask Philip Jones, 32, of Glen Park, who was texting on his smartphone in downtown Wednesday during his lunch break.

“If I can take him, I will,” Jones said, pointing out that the devices are not cheap.

Since January, Esparza said, 2374 robberies in which items were taken by force or fear were reported in The City. 

Of those robberies, 1199 involved cellphones, he said.

The best way to reduce such robberies is to prevent them. Supervisor Scott Wiener wanted to send that message when he and Supervisor Christina Olague held a community meeting Wednesday to address muggings in the Duboce Triangle and Lower Haight neighborhoods.

“People need to … not do things that I do sometimes, like working on their iPhones while walking around the streets,” Wiener said. “People also need to report to the police anything out of the ordinary that is happening. Crimes go underreported.”

Paying attention to your surroundings goes a long way toward preventing thefts, Esparza said. It’s never a good idea to be glued to your phone while alone at a Muni stop late at night, he said.

Installing tracking applications in devices also offers police an effective tool to catch crooks, Esparza said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Most popular item?

Cellphones were stolen in 63 of 100 incidents. Worth the fight?

  • Victims resisted in 33 incidents.
  • Victims were physically assaulted in 67 incidents (mostly minor).
  • Of 33 cases in which victims resisted, 29 ended in physical harm to the victim.
  • Of 33 cases in which victims resisted, 3 recovered their items, leading to 1 arrest.
  • Of 67 cases in which victims did not resist, 36 were physically assaulted (mostly minor).

*Number exceeds 100 due to multiple victims in some robberies.
Source: San Francisco Police DepartmentNationwide trend

  • 7 million iPhone 5 smartphones were sold during the weekend after its Sept. 21 release
  • 50-plus percent of Americans currently own smartphones, up from 25 percent last year
  • 40 percent of all robberies in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and other major cities involve cellphones
  • 54 percent increase has been seen in robberies involving cellphones in Washington, D.C., since 2007

Sources: Apple Inc., April figures from Federal Communications Commission

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsSan FranciscoSan Francisco Police Department

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