S.F. car thief only makes it a few blocks

A would-be car thief found his scheme thoroughly foiled last week after his victim, an off-duty San Francisco sheriff’s deputy, found him and held him at gunpoint until police arrived, just after the deputy reported the car stolen.

On the evening of Sept. 6, the deputy and his girlfriend discovered that the car, a 1986 Nissan 300ZX registered in her name, had been stolen, Inspector Vince Repetto, of the Auto Theft detail, said Thursday.

They made a report at the Park Police Station at about 7:10 p.m., then drove off down Oak Street. At the corner of Oak and Asbury streets, Repetto said the couple spotted the parked car.

“The deputy parked around the corner and approached the vehicle on foot,” Repetto said. “He saw the suspect in there with the doors closed.”

The deputy drew his gun as he approached the vehicle and held it on the thief while he called the police with whom he had just made the report.

Police arrested Anthony Fardella, 24, on charges of auto theft, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools, Repetto said. He said evidence in the car suggested Fardella had stolen at least one other car in The City.

As unlikely as Fardella’s capture seems, Repetto said it is not the first time such an arrest has been made.

“It’s happened before. Cops have had their cars stolen, they go looking for them and catch the person that did it. It’s not unheard of, [but] it’s unusual,” he said.

About 95 percent of autos stolen in San Francisco are recovered in San Francisco, Repetto said, which suggests that most don’t leave town.

Fardella allegedly stole the Nissan by “punching” the ignition, Repetto said. Punching is a technique whereby a long, thin piece of metal, usually a screwdriver, is jammed into the ignition to force a spark.

Many cars, especially Japanese models more than about 10 years old, are vulnerable to punching, Repetto said. He advised owners of older cars to have the ignition replaced or use a steering-wheel lock.

amartin@examiner.com

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