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Sharky Laguana @Sharkyl
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Ok a little thread about crime in SF and why it’s so incredibly frustrating for the people who live here.

(Hopefully @LondonBreed will help? I know she cares a lot about this issue, hope she reads this thread) @hknightsf might be interested too.
Last month a lady named Linda rented a van from us for a few days. It was due back on January 31st. It didn’t come back. Instead, the next day, a guy we’ve never heard of called and asked to extend the rental... a month! This isn’t normal.
We know from experience this is very suspicious. We told them to bring the van back right away. He said they would be back the next morning. We knew that was unlikely. We were right. The next day came and went with no sign of the van.
Now at this point you have people, probably using stolen IDs, likely using the vehicle to commit more crimes, in a van that is past due. So we should call the police, right? Wrong! The police are *not allowed* to even take a report yet. We have some hoops to jump through first.
So first we have to wait for the vehicle to be five days past due. Then we have to send a certified letter to the address on the contract. Then we have to wait for the letter to either be signed, or returned as undeliverable.
Once we have the letter we can go file a claim for embezzlement. NOT stolen car, even though the vehicle has been stolen. It’s embezzlement which is far lower on police priority scale. And we can’t call the report in either. We have to go in person to the station.
We have to have all original docs including the returned certified letter., title, reg etc. No digital copies. Everything original. Then we have to fill out the paperwork at the station while they run a warrant check on our ID. Yes that’s right: we get investigated first.
Then the license plate is in the system and maybe we get lucky and a police officer notices the van and runs the plate, but we don’t get a dedicated detective or anything. It’s simply a flag in the system.
So today we got our certified letter back. Meanwhile we’ve been running a skip trace on this person and they are, as you might expect, bad news. It’s been a week, that van could be anywhere, even Mexico. It takes a while to file a police report, so we decide to go tomorrow.
This is where the story gets crazy: I’m driving back from a dental appointment just before 5pm and notice I’m right behind one of our vans. Thinking they are returning I call the office to give them a heads up and holy shit it’s the stolen van! Here’s a pic I took while following
The odds of this happening at rush hour are about 1:450,000. But it happened, so I follow the van until it parks in Portola. Sales manager @TheDavidElrod hops in a Lyft and meets me while I’m staking it out.
While we are waiting I call the police. “Hey can you send an officer to come meet us at San Bruno & Bacon, we have a stolen rental van”
“Has it been reported stolen? What’s the case#”
“Uh, no not yet, but it meets all the criteria, we have all the docs with us”
The dispatcher isn’t sure if they can help, but after failing to reach a sergeant on the other line she *reluctantly* agrees to send a car to come meet us.
So we wait.
And wait.
The driver goes in to pick up some Korean food.
We wait some more.
After about an hour I call the dispatch to see if there’s an ETA. Nope there isn’t even a car dispatched yet.
We wait some more.
Then the driver gets back in the van and we start following them from a safe distance while I call the police again.
I tell the police we’re following a stolen van. This seems to get some attention at first, but after asking more questions and learning it’s a rental they start slow walking. We have a trainee on the phone and his supervisor is right there telling him what to do.
The supervisor gets a hold of the sergeant, and I can hear her asking for permission to disconnect. They want to end the call. And then I get a call on the other line. It’s the sergeant, I think. He never introduced himself.
I answer: “Hello?”
It’s in caps because he was kinda yelling. I know there’s no point in arguing about this.
“OK I understand, thank you”
Click. He hangs up.
OK now what do we do? Well shit we have the keys. It’s our van. Let’s follow, wait for them to leave, and we’ll just drive it away.
So we follow them. First it goes down to 9th where it makes a left. We speculate it’s going to the Tenderloin.
But they drive up Hayes, and eventually turns on Fillmore and parks in front of some housing projects. We watch a guy get out and go to a dark parking lot where he meets someone else in a car. We can’t see what he’s doing. There are other people in the van still. Can’t grab it.
Then the guy comes back and stands around outside the van smoking a cigarette. At one point he’s about five feet from us and even looks at us which makes us nervous. We debate whether we could call in suspicious activity to the police, but worry we’d get in trouble somehow.
Eventually he gets back in the van. They leave. We follow them to the Mission. They go to a gas station and we discreetly watch from across the street. Then they go to the corner of 17th & Mission and park in front of a fire hydrant.
There is no parking in the Mission at night. We’re forced to drive past, but get lucky and find a spot at 17th & Valencia. We can see the van in the rear view mirror. @TheDavidElrod gets out to see what they are doing. We learn there are three people inside.
While David is scoping them out a police officer drives by. His passenger window is down. I decide to try one last time to get some assistance. I jump out of the car and walk over to him:
“Excuse me officer, I might need your help, do you have a minute?”
He directs me to the police station across the street and says he’ll meet me in the lobby.
I wait in the lobby for 15 minutes.
He comes out and asks questions. I’m very upfront about it being a rental car. He goes back inside to ask the sergeant questions.
Then he comes back out.
“We can’t help you without a stolen vehicle report”
“But it qualifies as embezzled, can I file a report right now?”
“Do you have all the original paperwork with you on your person?”
“I have PDFs on my phone”
“Sorry, come back tomorrow”
He’s nice and sympathetic. This is just the protocol he has to follow.
I go back to the car and meet Dave.
We’re pissed, might never see this van again.

We come up with a plan.

It’s risky.
We walk up to the van, smiling, looking friendly.
We motion the driver to roll down the window.
I’m hanging back a couple feet. Don’t want to be scary or threatening. She rolls the window down.
David: “Are you Linda?”
Linda: “Why are you asking?”
“Hi, I just filed a stolen vehicle report at the police station right there”
(I point at the police station.)
They are coming, if you are still here you’ll be arrested. If you take off in the van they’ll just arrest you down the street, but if you leave now it’ll be chill”
We are bluffing. But we caught them off guard. They discuss for a second and then say “OK”.
David asks for the keys, she hands it to him.
Then we watch them unpack all their stuff. Tons of luggage. They were living in the van.
I took a picture, sorry, it’s blurry.
Finally they got all their shit out and left. David got in the van, and I got in the car and drove home.
SF is having an explosion of car break-ins right now. Lt. Luke Martin head of the crime task force told me they are often using rental cars as getaway vehicles.
We had over 80,000 reports of cars broken into made via the SFPD online reporting system, but only 7 arrests.
I think there’s a good chance that’s what these guys were doing too.
But I’m not allowed to get any help from the police at all.
I even asked the officer if he would walk just half a block with me and just stand there while we asked them to leave. No dice.
If you read @hknightsf amazing article, you’ll see traceless vehicles are the MO:…
But rental car companies *cant even report the vehicle stolen* until it’s been gone for a week.
We are also forbidden by law from using GPS tracking. It was pure luck I ran into the vehicle.
We would love to help solve this problem. It’s sad we had to do something risky to get our vehicle back and potentially stop more crimes from occurring.
It’s sad they will get away with it.
But it’s mind blowing that the rules prevent the police from helping.
This, and policies like this, are why auto break-ins are spiraling out of control.
Criminals KNOW when the police can’t respond *by law* to a crime that is happening in front of them.
Even though we told them the cops were coming they were in no big rush.
If we want this situation to improve, some of these laws need to change.
That’s it, thank you for reading.
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