South San Francisco, CA November 21, 2015
The Community meeting hosted by our Police Department on Thursday November 19th in response to the increase residential burglaries in the Buri Buri neighborhood was attended by nearly 500 people, according to NBC News. The City Council Chambers were packed and the over flow filled the atrium all the way to the back door as is shown in the photo by John C. Baker who attended, yet found it easier to watch the meeting on his mobile device. The City agreed to broadcast the meeting on their website and the archived video can be viewed CLICK HERE.
Police Chief Jeff Azzopardi made it clear that the Department is doing all they can to find, what they believe is the same group of suspects, and bring an end to this recent rash of break-ins. City Manager Mike Futrell echoed the words saying the City would bring forth all resources to see this trend end, acknowledging the roles the Department of Public Works and Park and Recreation Department might have in this endeavor. Both Brian McMinn and Sharon Ranals were on hand as they are the directors of these departments respectively. Mayor Rich Garbarino also spoke and reassured the community that South San Francisco is a very safe City and expressed the importance of knowing your neighbors. He also recommended not tagging check ins on social media which is basically letting everyone know you are not at home at that time.
Sgt Sean Curmi handled the majority of the meeting and it was explained there have been 14 residential break-ins since October 21st; 12 were burglaries and 2 were robberies when the suspects came across residents in homes they most probably thought were empty. One of the latest break-ins on Lomitas Avenue happened when the 79 year old female homeowner was in her bedroom around 9pm. When she encountered the suspects they pushed her to the ground and stole items from her and from her home. She was not seriously injured. Another female resident was also home during a break-in and was not harmed by the intruders. Again, Police do not believe these homes were targeted due to female residents, rather they did not expect anyone home. The suspects have been described as dark skinned males in their 20’s.
The break-ins happened mostly in the Buri Buri neighborhood were 13 burglaries took place with one attempted break-in happening in West Winston Manor. The suspects appear to be entering through rear sliding/glass doors and there are some indications that they may have rung the front door bell first to determine if anyone was home before breaking in. PD says this type of crime is consistent with what other neighboring cities are also working to thwart. Most of the activity has happened during the day or evening.
Securing Your Home
Neighbors were encouraged to take the time to meet up with each other and to keep a watch out for suspicious people on their block and not to hesitate to contact the police if there was any concern. Increase in patrols have been made through out the neighborhoods and foot patrols in other areas of the City outside of the downtown are considered.
Lighting was offered as one way to help protect your home and suggestions were made about installing motion sensors around homes as well as cutting back trees and shrubbery which might make good hiding places for unwanted strangers. Homes located with easements in the back were also encouraged to be sure they have good fences as well as lighting since that area cannot be monitored. Keeping the front free of newspapers and mail are also recommended as is making your home look occupied with inside lighting.
Simple things like closing and locking doors was suggested as South City neighbor Mr Richardson spoke about his recent walks in different parts of the City. He was surprised to see how many neighbors left their cars running, purses on the seat, windows down as well as opened garages which give strangers driving by the opportunity to see what possessions might be available. Police described most stolen items to be small such as jewelry, cash, etc. Buri Buri resident Scott W spoke about a past occurrence not related to this recent increase we are seeing; his wife walked in on a burglary to see the suspect attempting to open his gun safe, he fled immediately. Good locks on gates was also suggested by Curmi and audible alarm systems were also sited as important tools to stop criminal activity.
The meeting allowed for extensive questions and answers as Futrell had told the audience early on “We will stay here as long as needed to answer all the questions asked”. The City’s proactive and interactive approach was not lost on the standing room only event. Many residents reported their appreciation of the outreach on our social media. Some also complained that the venue was too small for the large crowd, however past Town Hall meetings have only garnered 50 or less people. Had the City known the audience would be so large they would have made other arrangements as they made it clear, the better informed residents are, the better protected we all are.
The Police have also offered a FREE Security Assessment for concerned neighbors. An officer will come out to your home and walk the perimeter and inside of your home making recommendations on how to beef up your own security. Suggestions can be as easy as adding additional locks, installing motion detectors or outdoor lighting, cutting back scrubs or securing windows and fencing. For more information contact the SSFPD during normal business hours at 650/877.8900 or email CLICK HERE
Neighbors asked what they should do if strangers were at their door and Curmi explained you do not need to open the door but it is important to let strangers know someone is home. However if someone is actually IN your home you might be best served in not confronting them, rather keep quiet and contact PD immediately as it appears the current suspects are looking to steal, not harm, their targets. That said, when a neighbor asked about using a taser on an intruder into her home who might threaten harm, the reply was you must do what you need to do to remain safe.
Street Lighting Questioned
Another concern voiced by neighbors was the new pole lighting the City installed this past year. Many voiced their opinions on social media. (CLICK HERE for New Street Lights Met with Mixed Reviews) DPW Director McMinn spoke to this issue stating the lighting in our City is not consistent due to the different ages of our neighborhoods and how the original lighting was put in. Resident Ms Brosnan made the issue she is a tax payer and wants better lighting to which many in the audience agreed. While the position has been the lighting is for the roadway and not necessarily for residential safety, Futrell agreed with McMinn and said the City has heard the comments and will look further into this concern.
It was also brought up to have the City host an event, possibly at the Conference Center, having groups sign in according to neighborhoods which would allow neighbors to meet up to discuss more security for specific areas. This idea was echoed by Steve Carey, the interim President of the newly reforming Avalon Park/Pines and Brentwood Homeowners Association. He and other members of those neighborhoods are working diligently to bring their areas together reflecting their mission statement To bring the Avalon Park and Brentwood community together in a way that helps us improve our neighborhood streets, parks and to enjoy the place we call home. For more information on this group CLICK HERE.
Again, the resounding cry for neighborhood security comes back down to the neighbors themselves. To take the time to go next door and say hello. Get one or two neighbors to come together, and add as interest grows. This is how the Historic Old Town Homeowners Association was started by Ida Pena decades ago. She would let her neighbors know the meeting would take place at her home and she would wait. Some months her efforts would only yield one or two neighbors yet with her persistence and dedication, she, along with a few others, created a strong residential group that had a loud voice at City Hall, especially since their homes are in the mixed commercial area. That HOA is also restarting it’s efforts and it’s important this group stay on track of representing the interests of the residents especially during the great growth spurt our Downtown area is experiencing. Last month they swore in a new President, Joe Oakes, yet there are many vacant positions available. For more information on this group CLICK HERE.
Some folks shy away from ‘Homeowners Associations’ and have created neighborhood groups or networks as is the case in Paradise Valley which started a private online group in 2007 after years of informal meetings and get togethers. They continue to meet each year for National Night Out as well as meeting up to care for a community garden while keeping their online network going and holding meetings as needed. For more information on this group CLICK HERE
One of the most active and effective Homeowner Groups in our City is the West Winston Manor Community Association which was formed when the development was being built, therefore membership is automatic and the annual dues is minimal. This group has heavily invested in our School District and have members attending most meetings and report back on what is happening. Sharon Albera is the editor of the monthly Winston Manor Gazette which is underwritten by local Realtor Cindy Alger of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. The Gazette provides information on the monthly activities the group hosts which include; Holiday Toy & Food Drives, Pumpkin Carving Contests, Bicycle Safety programs, Beautification Contests as well as Holiday Decoration Contests among many other activities and not to forget their annual Reno Bus Trip – this is a fun group! For more information CLICK HERE.
Another way to meet up with those in your area is the online Nextdoor.com program which allows neighbors to communicate with each other on many issues while also providing a way for government agencies to share information, including the City and County.
The biggest take away from this meeting is the City, with all the Departments playing a role, are committed to supporting neighbors efforts to strengthen their neighborhoods. And the Police Department is further committed to finding the suspects and ending this recent spike in criminal activity. Again, it falls on us residents to report suspicious activity. If there is a concern in real time call 911 – that is why our Police Department exists – to protect and serve us all. If anyone has information that they prefer to share anonymously and is not a concern in real time, a message can be left on the Anonymous tip line 650/952.2244
Below are some of the comments that were shared on social media in response to this meeting. Please feel free to add your own comments – this is one step we can take among ourselves to build stronger neighborhoods block by block!
Kris Over all it went well!!!
Belinda I wasn’t able to attend but I watched the broadcast. Glad I’m not the only one complaining about the lights! Liked the suggestions: pd walk the neighborhood. I only see them walk over at Grand but never in WM. And also the suggestion of maybe a get together per neighborhood instead of citywide. I only know a few people in WM
Kalani Glad to see such a huge turnout!
National Night Out should be held more often, like every other month.
(NOTE: Everything South City has encouraged a WALK YOUR BLOCK – WALK YOUR TALK event for neighborhoods to come together on a Saturday between 10-noon in the Spring & Fall; we have even included GAME ONs to create more interest)
Mareth Great turnout. Lots of good questions, however not being seated in main room made it difficult to always hear. Sad that it takes crime to get that many of us folks together. Appreciate all the efforts of our Police and City Officials.
Michelle to Mareth, I agree with you as to there not being enough seating & not being able to hear well. However with that said — I honestly believe SSFPD & SSF did not expect such a large turnout. During ALL (I believe there were approx./at least 4) Town Hall Meetings months ago, the turnout was sadly generally quite small in most venues considering the number of residents in SSF. I also agree with you that it is Very sad that it takes evil to get us all to come together… I agree with you also — I appreciate ALL the efforts being made & keeping us informed.
Rose Wow, that’s a great turnout!
Anita I was there, but not in the room, so couldn’t hear well and left.
Should have been held in El Camino High’s Gym. I won’t go to the municipal bldg again, there isn’t enough parking and the room was too small.
Nancy How cool that they offer free security assessments of your home. I also like that they tell you to keep an eye out on your neighbor’s home. “It takes a village.”
Concerned south city residents!!
Laura my advice would be to start a neighborhood watch group if you have not already done so.
Keith Security Surveillance System installations, 415-993-9058 Innovative Solutions Co.
Jim Join your neighborhoods homeowners association this is a good way to start. We just restarted the Avalon Park/Brentwood HOA. A great place/forum to meet your neighbors.
Sandra I’ve lived in SSF over 50 years and I’ve rarely seen SSFPD cruising the neighborhood mostly because its been a safe neighborhood until now. And the PD is in my neighborhood! Thank you SSFPD for making your presence visible lately. We all need to work together
Erica yes….more police presence is necessary in Buri Buri/ Serra Highlands. Get to know your neighbors too it will help.
Karen: Been trying to stop the Examiner newspaper throw away for years. I’ve talked to publisher and still get the paper. Anyone know what else to do?? Tired if having a paper sit out when I’m not there!!