‘Our City Has to Fix It’: Ingleside Businesses Grappling with Burglaries, Broken Windows

Marcelo Filho, owner of Monza Pizzeria, after all of his storefront windows were broken in December 2020. Alex Mullaney/Ingleside Light

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Smashed windows. Shoplifting. Stolen cash registers. 

A string of burglaries, theft and pricey storefront vandalism has hit Ingleside’s merchant community, making the recovery from the pandemic that much harder for a commercial corridor that has had a sharp increase in boarded-up businesses and windows.

The neighborhood’s Target Express, due to close on June 26 despite being profitable, has regularly hired off-duty San Francisco Police Department officers to accompany its security team to minimize theft. Meanwhile, Walgreens released a report claiming that organized criminals target its stores and has led to the closure of 17 stores over the past five years.

Small business owners, who often work long hours to make ends meet, have little recourse  — such as compensation or protection — when their storefronts are vandalized or burgled, even after filing police reports, multiple small business owners and staff told the Ingleside Light.

The SFPD crime dashboard doesn’t indicate if crimes occur at commercial or residential buildings. However, comparing 2020 and 2019 incident reports, burglaries dropped 15.9%, larceny thefts dropped 6.5%, motor vehicle theft rose 35.4% and robberies dropped 29% in the Ingleside, Merced and Ocean View neighborhoods, according to analysis by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Burglaries and Shattered Glass

In late May before dawn, a man broke the front door of a storefront on the 1500 block of Ocean Avenue without triggering her alarm, grabbed the cash register and then fled on an electric scooter.

The burglar got away with $1,500.

“Everyone says there’s nothing you can do,” said the business owner, who did not wish to be identified. “We are so sad, and we work so hard … and the government, the city, do nothing.”

After filing a police report, the business owner was told there was nothing law enforcement could do. It remains an open investigation, a police spokesperson told the Ingleside Light.

“When police came, they said, ‘This is very common,’” the merchant said. “What does that mean, ‘very common’? We have to fix it. Our city has to fix it. Our government has to fix it. We cannot be living like that.”

The merchant said she hears stories of break-ins and other crimes regularly from business owners along Ocean Avenue.

A neighboring business owner, who said someone had recently tried to break in, said that Asian businesses were primarily being targeted. The merchant wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

Monza Pizzeria, operated by Marcelo Filho for more than two years, has had windows broken about six times. He eventually shelled out $9,000 for a metal gate.

Filho often pays for repairs out of pocket to prevent his insurance from increasing.

“I’m an immigrant,” he said. “I came from Brazil, and I work my butt so hard and try to save some money, and I have this business, and it’s kind of tough.”

Lucky Ocean Cafe, on the 1500 block of Ocean Avenue, also had a window broken in mid-May, the second time since 2018.

In May, a man broke into Nails by Lisa on the 1800 block of Ocean Avenue. One of the owners, who did not wish to be identified, said that he and the police knew who did it. 

Solutions

Ahmad Murad, the owner of That’s Amore Woodfire Pizza, has had experience with burglary and vandalism. In 2018, a person broke a window to steal some items. During the pandemic, someone broke five windows at different times.

Murad said signs reminding residents to not leave things in their car would be helpful along with having police patrol more often at night.

After a hearing on the situation of retail theft highlighting the plight of Walgreens, District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who represents part of Ingleside, requested more data on the state of organized theft in the city to better understand measures taken by SFPD and the District Attorney’s Office, he said in a social media statement last week.

Citywide legislation proposed this week by the Castro Merchants Association and District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would reimburse merchants up to $2,000 for windows broken due to break-ins or vandalism.

Michael Andraychak, an SFPD public information officer and Ingleside native, stated that it’s important for victims of crimes to file police reports because they are necessary for investigations and the best way to document losses and provide contact information. It also helps SFPD understand where, when and to what degree crimes are occurring, allowing the department to be more strategic with patrols, staffing and operations, he stated.

“There are a number of factors that may indicate increases and decreases in certain crimes. As a department we are constantly evaluating all crime trends and different ways to combat those trends throughout the city,” Andraychak stated. “This includes the redeployment of resources and increased patrols, foot beats and officers on fixed post in crime hot spots.”