Blue tape and Criminal Activity

I follow the Bernalwood blog; it’s well-written and entertaining. Recently, they’ve been talking about blue masking tape in potential criminal activity.

The way it works is this: The criminals put a small piece of blue tape on the door (or, I suppose, the garage door) of a house – or many houses on a street. Then they come by at night to see if the tape’s been disturbed. If it isn’t removed for a number of days, they can guess that the house is unoccupied and therefore safe to break into.

Apparently, the Bernal area has had a rash of these blue-tape tags. There’s no report of subsequent break-ins, at least on the blog. But many of the neighbors there have been removing tape-tags they see.

Why does it have to be blue? I don’t know. I’d guess white masking tape would work as well.

I haven’t seen or heard of anything like this from any other source, but if you’re aware of it, let us know?

Emergency Response Training via NERT

I got this note from the NERT co-ordinator for the Clarendon area. This is a really worthwhile program, and those who attend these classes do a favor not only to themselves and their families, but also are able to help people around them if there’s an earthquake.


Early last month, many of us got a very literal wake up call at about 5:30 in the morning, when a slippage on the Hayward fault jolted us awake. This month, we commemorate the 106th anniversary of the far more devastating quake that hit San Francisco on April 18, 1906. It is a good time to reflect on the fact that we need to be prepared. One of the best ways we can make ourselves ready to help ourselves, our families, and our neighbors in the event of a major quake or other disaster is to take advantage of the free training offered by the San Francisco Fire Department’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team program.

This training is offered at various locations throughout the city. This May, for those living in Forest Knolls, the Fire Department will provide NERT training just a few block away at 5th and Irving. For more information, see the attached flyer or visit the NERT website at You also can call the NERT office at 415-970-2022 to sign up for training or to get more information.

Here’s the flyer. Clicking on the image will take you to a larger version you can print out.

NERT flyer April 2012

Beware Speeding on Panorama Drive

If you’re like me, you may use Panorama Drive to cut across the hill to get to Tower Market or Safeway or just onto Portola. We need to bear in mind that it is actually a residential neighborhood. Apparently people have been speeding, and residents have been complaining.

So the police are acting. Here’s from Captain Feeney in the Park Station newsletter:

Speeders Beware!
Radar trailers have been deployed on Roosevelt and on Panorama in Midtown Terrace. Where there are radar trailers there will sometimes be officers with radar guns to enforce the speed limits in these areas. Do not assume that the trailer is out there for decoration and for us to say we have done something about improving traffic safety. We cannot be everywhere all of the time but when we are, beware! We will take enforcement action. We have received several complaints about these and other locations throughout the Park District and I assure you that we will address each of them at one time or another. Please slow down and be considerate of those who live on the street you drive on. If you or your friends drive on Roosevelt or Panorama, slow down or risk becoming a statistic.

Security Concerns for Houses, by SF SAFE

This is the second note that SF SAFE sent me, that I mentioned in the previous post. It’s relevant to most of us, so I thought I’d publish it here. (SAFE is a community crime prevention organization sponsored in cooperation with the San Francisco Police Department.



Most Homes Can be Secured by Methods that are
Cost-Effective, and Aesthetically Acceptable

Definition of Burglary (Section 459 in the California Penal Code):  Burglary is simply entering a premise for the purpose of committing a theft or a felony. (The definition does not require forced entry.)

The Good News and Bad News

The bad news is that the average home is not difficult to enter without a key. The good news is that preventing intrusion can usually be accomplished with cost-effective measures that do not detract from the appearance of your house.

About Half of Residential Burglaries are Unforced Entries
Most burglaries and other serious crimes involve some degree of opportunism. Burglars often watch a group of houses from the street, a park, or some other vantage point. They notice schedules and patterns of the people coming and going. They also notice small valuables (such as laptop computers) being carried in, or lying on a table that is visible through a window. They are willing to do significant climbing to access an open window. While some people assume that climbing to a window would be blatant, the burglar considers it an opportunity.

What about the Other Half of Residential Burglaries ?
Force is used to make entry in about half of residential burglaries. The most common tool for a burglar is a prying tool, usually a simple screw driver. A great deal of force can be applied to a door with such a tool, without making much noise. Some burglars do break glass to gain entry to a house, but usually not large panes of glass. The glass most often broken in residential burglary is a small pane in a window on which the glass is sectioned into small panes. After breaking one pane of glass the burglar reaches through and turns the interior handle on the lock. Lack of visibility to the window from the street or neighboring properties increases this vulnerability. Avoid adding a lock that requires a key for exit, which is against the code because it could prevent your escape in an emergency.

Most Residential Burglaries Occur During the Day
Most residential burglaries occur during the day as the burglars usually prefer to enter when the resident(s) are not home. They want to get in and out without being detected. Always check who is at your door when somebody rings or knocks. This does not mean that you should open the door to a stranger, but speak to them through the door to make your presence known. If at any point the person acts suspiciously, or is in any way aggressive or belligerent, call the police.

Some burglars do enter homes at night while residents are sleeping. Still most of these burglaries do not result in assault as long as the resident does not try to stop the burglar. San Francisco Police refer to burglary of an occupied residential unit as a “hot prowl”.

So What About an Alarm System?
A burglar alarm on a dwelling unit can serve as a good back-up communications tool for security. If despite your reasonable efforts to maintain good physical and procedural security, a burglar still enters your dwelling, the alarm should help limit their time inside if not lead to their arrest. Keep in mind an alarm does not physically prevent anything from happening. Maintain good physical security so that you are not over-reliant on the alarm system.

If your dwelling unit is shared by several people coming and going on different schedules, then all members of the household should discuss the responsibilities of using an alarm system before purchasing one. All occupants must in fact be out of the house when the interior motion sensors are armed. (Or at least occupants must not enter zones in the house where motion-sensors are armed.). Arming only perimeter sensors, and not interior motion-sensors, will help in some houses. Alarms are not usually recommended for common areas of multiunit residences.

Visibility and Upkeep, Deterrents or Attractors
Visibility and general upkeep are very important factors in preventing crime at or near a property. Some people question if increased visibility and attractiveness of a property will actually attract the burglars. The answer is that you want to make the improvements in a manner that is advantageous for prevention: Minimizing obstructions to visibility, using adequate lighting, and general upkeep of properties allows residents, neighbors, and police more opportunity to observe the area and recognize suspicious activity. As many criminals are opportunists, they prefer to target areas where their activity can appear casual and discreet without having to actively hide.

Take the Initiative
Many people forgo making improvements to the security of their homes for the fear of just thinking about it. If they knew exactly what to do, they would do it. However, prolonged worrying about crime without addressing one’s own vulnerabilities actually contributes to anxiety and dysfunction. Most residents who have been burglarized say it’s better and more reassuring to become educated on the topic and implement the necessary improvements. A security assessment of a home instructs the resident how to strengthen its security so it can better defend itself against burglary. This is analogous to a self defense class that teaches people how to protect themselves against physical attack. Then you can run your errands, go to work or on vacation with a justified sense of security and comfort rather than with anxiety
or a false sense of security.

Neighborhood Watch- Crime Prevention as a Collective Effort
In addition to strengthening the security of your home you may want to consider (if you have not already) establishing a Neighborhood Watch on your block. Neighborhood Watch is a very effective process for neighbors to acquire all the essentials for practicing awareness and communication in an organized fashion with the police to prevent crime in the immediate area. Call Oona Gilles-Weil, SAFE’s Program Director (415-553-1982) if you would like to start a Neighborhood Watch, or ask any questions about that program.

© Copyright 2011

850 Bryant Street, San Francisco, California 94103
Phone: (415) 673-SAFE or (415) 553-1984
Fax: (415) 553-1967

SAFE tips for Discouraging Burglars

Recently, the Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization passed round flyers with safety tips and SF Parks Station Police phone numbers. One of them used information from the organization SF SAFE, so we asked permission to use it.

They not only gave us permission to use their copyright material, they sent us another useful document we’ll post later: Security Concerns for Houses.

For now, here it is, (with emphasis added):

Residential Burglary Prevention Tips
10 Best Tips for Residential Security

1. Keep doors and windows locked when away from the home. Approximately half of all residential burglaries are made via unforced entries.

2. To lock a door or window means it is held tightly in place, and does not budge when pushed, pulled, or lifted. Even if a window is open for ventilation, (no more than three inches), it should be locked tight in that position to eliminate movement.

3. In addition to being equipped with good locks, a door and door jamb should be of sound construction.

4. Garage Security: Burglars see the average garage as a not-so-secure cache of valuables. Generally the larger garages that store more cars, experience more entries and exits, and hence more chances for a burglar’s opportunistic entry.

a. Disconnect any exterior electric key switches or electronic number pads that open your garage door. Use either a remote control opener or a key.
b. Bikes in a locked garage need to be locked securely to a sturdy bike rack (such as with a motorcycle chain and lock), at least as securely as when the bike is parked outside in public.
c. Most storage lockers are designed for storing non-valuables. A secure storage compartment has sturdy walls, doors and locks like the entryway of a building.
d. A locked vehicle in a locked garage does not keep laptops, purses, PDAs, backpacks secure. Remove all valuables.

5. Keep the property in good repair and appearance as much as possible. Good maintenance enhances the look of good security. Maintain visibility.

6. Mark your valuables for identification and recovery. Keep an up-to-date inventory of your valuables, include serial numbers, photographs, and physical description of each item. Learn about the Operation Identification Program by calling SAFE. Try not to keep valuables in a visible location in your home.

7. Install a 180 degree wide angle door viewer on your front door and look before opening it.

8. Be alert when answering unsolicited visitors and callers. Do not provide entry or information to people until you have determined who they are and that you have reason to provide such access.

9. Consider having an alarm system installed as a back up to the physical and personal security measures you have taken. Obtain estimates from at least three companies before purchasing a system.

10. Join or establish a SAFE Neighborhood Watch on your block to network and plan a crime prevention strategy for your block. Contact SAFE at (415) 553-1984 for more information.

If you see any suspicious activity, immediately report it to the police
at (415) 553-0123. Call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Be prepared to provide a description of suspects involved.

This document has been produced by SAFE and SFPD.
For more information visit
Copyright © 2010 2/10
Please take a moment to look over the following tips to enhance the security of your home.

Thanks, Mr Rider-in-the-Fog

Lest anyone think that all I do here is grumble about bicycle riders who don’t stay safe… especially in the fog — I’d like to talk about one I saw this evening.

The sunny afternoon turned to a gray foggy evening. The mist was already wrapping itself around the hillside and trees. And there was this cyclist, working his way up the steep Twin Peaks Boulevard.

  • Wearing a yellow safety vest and a light-colored helmet.
  • With front and rear lights.
  • Staying to the side of the road, and clearly conscious of traffic.

From a grateful motorist: Thank you thank you thank you. May the wind be ever at your back.

Flyer: SFPD Park Station Contacts

Another flyer that Forest Knolls Neighborhood Organization circulated was a list of contact details for the SFPD Park Station police. (They’re our neighborhood police station.) Here it is:

The other side had burglary prevention tips. We’ve asked SAFE, the outfit that wrote them, for permission to publish them here. If they agree, we’ll edit this to add them in. [Edited to Add: SAFE gave permission and additional information. We’ve published them separately, here and here.]

(FKNO is at, not — a cheap realty website; nor — which is the site you’re on now. Note the different extensions: org, com, and info.)

Meeting Report – Inner Sunset Park Neighbors – Summer 2011

I attended a meeting of the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors today. This group represents some 300 households in the Inner Sunset; the meeting was chaired by Andrea Jadwin.  Since this is just below our neighborhood, I’m reporting some updates:


The parklet outside Arizmendi Bakery (on 9th Avenue) is probably going ahead. This will be a small area with chairs and tables for anyone to sit.

Opponents have chiefly been concerned about putting people so close to traffic; supporters love the idea of a place to enjoy the neighborhood (and perhaps a delicious snack from Arizmendi!)


This year’s Inner Sunset Street Fair is scheduled for October 16th. This would be the second annual Inner Sunset street fair. They’re looking for donations and volunteers. Their website is here, with information about getting booths, volunteering and donating.


The Hidden Garden Steps project is also seeking donations and volunteers. Neighbors want to refurbish an existing staircase with a colorful ceramic tile mosaic — something like the brilliant tiled steps below Turtle Hill. The delightful design starts with a worm and mushroom at the bottom, and rises into a blue sky with flowers and a dragonfly.


San Francisco Bicycle Coalition‘s Neal Patel made a presentation about their current initiatives. Apparently, 7 out of 10 San Franciscans use bicycles at least occasionally. The Coalition’s focus is on getting people to use bikes more, both for recreation and transport. They’ve added 34 miles of bike trails in 2009, but now want to have bike lanes connecting the city, safe for people from 8 to 80 to use. New bike lanes get people out on their bicycles.  Their vision is of a safe biking trail, ideally with a physical barrier between the bike lane and car traffic, from the beach to the Bay.

The Coalition also offers urban cycling workshops covering rules and safety for kids, adults, and older adults who haven’t been on a bike in years… Questions focused on safety (including cyclists’ respect for pedestrians), specific bike routes, and bike-share systems.

I wanted the Coalition to use its outreach capability (it has 12,000 members) to warn people to wear reflective clothing in the fog. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen cyclists riding almost invisibly on Twin Peaks and areas surrounding our neighborhoods.


WalkSF’s Elizabeth Stampe talked about her organization, which focuses on making SF safer and more fun to walk. Since we’re all pedestrians to some degree, this is important for everyone. She pointed out the 800 people were hit by cars each year in SF — and thought this was possibly an understated number.

She mentioned measures to improve safety:

  • School zone speeds will be reduced to 15 mph for most schools in the city, which will make it safer for kids to walk to school;
  • They’re looking for better law enforcement (people don’t stop at Stop signs, for instance, or yield to pedestrians as they legally should do);
  • Looking for ways to redesign streets to slow traffic down and curb speeding.

One person described his efforts to get action on the dangerous intersection at 8th and Lawton, the site of several accidents. He wanted a Stop sign put in there. The SFMTA refused because (a) it’s a bus route, and this would slow the bus; (b) it increases carbon dioxide emissions; (c) enforcement of Stop signs is a problem, they’re widely ignored so why bother to add more?

The subsequent discussion focused on other ways to make a street less speedy; Stampe pointed out that the most dangerous roads are wide, straight and one-way because they encourage speed. Someone suggested more of the pedestrian-activated yellow flashing lights at crossings. The yellow signs in the road median saying State Law required stopping for pedestrians also helps.

Besides advocating for safety, WalkSF has volunteer-led walks all over the city. The next one is 12 miles, “Peak2Peak.” Also, they will host a Mayoral Candidates’ Forum on September 12th. (Details on their website.)


Craig Dawson spoke about UCSF’s Community Action Group (CAG), of which he is a founder member. They provide input to UCSF about issues concerning the community.  UCSF initiated this group in 1991, when Laurel Heights neighbors were in legal battle with UCSF. They approached, Dawson said, their critics to be in the Group. He and Dennis Antenore have been on it since then. It includes four ISPN members: Craig Dawson; Dennis Antenore; Susan Maerki; and Kevin Hart.

The CAG is expecting to increase its activity as UCSF is currently working on its new Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) expected to be adopted in Feb 2014. Dawson urged neighbors to get more involved as the new LRDP would bring many changes affecting the neighborhood.

One issue is UC Hall, one of the oldest UCSF buildings. It was slated for demolition so UCSF could get within their “space ceiling” — a total amount of space the University can use within the Parnassus campus. (The ceiling was adopted when neighbors became concerned at the University’s rampant growth, but UCSF has exceeded it for many years.) However, it’s a historic Beaux Arts building, and some oppose its destruction. UCSF is now considering other uses for it; one possibility is housing, which would not count toward the space ceiling. The cost of a seismic retrofit may be an issue. Look out for public hearings.

Neighbors wanted to know how to get involved. UCSF’s Damon Lew (who was present) has joined ISPN, and will be posting information. Also, UCSF offered to host an ISPN meeting to discuss UCSF-related issues.


Speaking as Executive Director of Sutro Stewards, Craig Dawson very briefly described activities on the “underutilized” 61 acres of Mount Sutro owned by UCSF: planting the Native Garden, building trails, and preserving native plants under the eucalyptus. There was no mention of UCSF’s proposed plans to cut down thousands of trees.

Coyotes on Twin Peaks

Some of you already know there are coyotes living in the area: one, maybe two families are somewhere around in the Twin Peaks/Glen Canyon/Golden Gate Park habitats. We’d posted about it on the Sutro Forest website, here.

Today, someone on our neighborhood group described an encounter with a coyote on Twin Peaks while out running with their dogs, early in the morning… in which the coyote chased them off the hill:

I spotted a coyote running up the street…  I would stop and yell at him and tell him to go away (as if), and he would briefly stop but continued coming…..we finally got away…must be protecting his cubs.

It ended with a warning to people going up there with small unleashed dogs. (The coyote picture here isn’t of that coyote; it’s a public domain photograph.)

[ETA 25 May 2011: I personally saw a coyote a couple of days or rather, nights, later. It was around midnight, on the other side of Twin Peaks, near Panorama. Possibly the same animal.]

I’d like to refer everyone to the brilliant Coyote Yipps blog. It’s kept by Janet Kessler, the “Jane Goodall of San Francisco’s coyotes.” It minutely observes and documents the behaviour of a family of coyotes she watches (and also another family of coyotes in Los Angeles, observed by Charles Wood).

However: It also posts a warning.

More importantly, if you go with dogs into coyote areas (most open parkland in San Francisco or its surroundings):  What concerns coyotes is dogs. Here are the special guidelines for dog-walkers. (Note that the person who originated this warning did the right thing by yelling at the coyote.)

[ETA: However, Janet Kessler added in a private communication: “…it is best never to run away from a coyote, but rather to walk away slowly. Running away sparks an instinct to chase.”]

Here’s a link to a Coyote Yipps post with more detailed pointers for dog-walkers. I’d recommend them to everyone. Janet Kessler’s been watching coyotes and their interactions with people and dogs for some years now. She’s deeply knowledgeable.

Golden Gate Park: More Police Patrols

Most of the time, we think of Golden Gate Park as pretty safe, and most of the time, it is. But recently, there were two unusual incidents.

  • Two dogs, believed to belong to homeless people living in the park, got loose and attacked visitors. One dog was shot by the police, the other was captured. (It happened near Lloyd Lake, Area 1 below.)
  • And separately, one homeless man stabbed another; he claims self-defense, and the case remains open. (Behind the Conservatory of Flowers, Area 2 below.)

In response to this, the police are stepping up their presence in the Park. Here’s the Captain’s Message from the Park Station newsletter:

Park Station is working together with Park and Rec and the Park Rangers to increase patrols in Golden Gate Park. In order to keep Golden Gate Park safe for everyone to enjoy, Park Station and Richmond Station will be doing daily early morning patrols in the park to address illegal camping and sleeping in Golden Gate Park.

Good news from our monthly Compstat meeting this week; our year to date stats for Park Station show a reduction in Part 1 Violent Crimes of 14 percent.

Working together with the community has helped us reduce crime through strategic planning, community information sharing, and teamwork. Thank you for your continued support and input.

Captain Teri Barrett
Commanding Officer Park Station

Muni Thefts, SFPD Maps

We’re getting the Park Station newsletter from the SFPD. One of the articles concerned crime on the Muni. Apparently, there’s been an rash of thefts targeting people using laptops and Ipods  and the like on the Muni trains or stops. The newsletter had some tips:

“Passengers are reminded to be aware of their surroundings while traveling on Muni. Suspects prey on victims using these devices knowing they are distracted while texting or listening to music on PDAs, using laptops, and talking on cellular phones. Passengers should be careful to limit the use of these devices and always be aware of other passengers on the vehicle.

“If a passenger notices anything suspicious, the person should call the Muni complaint line, 923-6164. For emergencies or for crimes in progress, call 9-1-1 (553-8090 for cellular phones), and for non-emergencies, 553-0123.”

Maybe a good idea to enter that number on your cellphones.

Anyone who wants to get on the Park Station newsletter list can do so by emailing Captain Teri Barrett. Her email address is


The SFPD website also has a neat tool – an interactive map which allows you to see crimes reported in a specific area in the previous 90 days.  It needs a fast internet connection – DSL or Cable – and it’s a bit slow. It doesn’t show homicides, and it’s hedged about with warnings about its accuracy. Still it gives an interesting picture of crime in the area. (Forest Knolls had three thefts from cars, all on Warren Drive. It’s a relatively safe area, but don’t leave anything valuable where it can be seen.)