An Attempted Mugging

Some dude tried to mug my friend Tracy last Monday night on the corner of 18th and Mission. She was standing near Yamo waiting to catch the 33 at about 10:30pm. She was checking the bus schedule on her iPhone when she noticed out of the corner of her eye a figure coming toward her in a deliberate fashion. She gripped her phone tighter.

With two hands, the man tried to grab it, but Tracy had it firmly and pulled away. She was repeating, “No,” and looking him in the eye. He looked down at her purse, which she had slung over her shoulder and around her torso, and then back at her face. She waited for him to act. She held her phone tight, and that purse wasn’t going anywhere.

In frustration, the man punched the purse, and walked away.

Tracy thinks that by making eye contact and keeping calm, she freaked the dude out. And she says that if she hadn’t been aware of her surroundings, he might easily have snatched the phone and been gone in a flash.

Here’s something else Tracy was aware of: There were people all around. Lots of people: Waiting for the bus, walking by. There was a woman right behind her talking on her phone. Nobody said or did anything.

The lessons? Always be aware of your surroundings, stay calm, and don’t necessarily count on the kindness of strangers. (Although, it’s possible the presence of all those people might have kept the dude from going to greater lengths to acquire Tracy’s riches. So maybe another lesson is thank goodness Mission sidewalks are always packed with people.)

Photo by GrimReynard.

50 Responses to “An Attempted Mugging”

  1. Paul Valdez says:

    Thanks for posting this. I live at Folsom @25th. I have seen purse snatchings from my window and blatant jewelry(necklace) snatchings on 24th. It’s crazy to witness. Yes, be aware 360 degrees. That’s why I stopped carrying a man bag and cash..

  2. Jake W says:

    I got jumped on St Patty’s Day at 15th and S van ness. They tried to take my girlfriends purse but I managed to keep them off of her. They subsequently whooped my ass and took my money. Fuckers

  3. Glenparker says:

    I doubt if the presence of other people stopped the punk from taking greater lengths to acquire the woman’s phone. This was a crime of opportunity and I doubt he cared about witnesses or Good Samaritans. This woman got lucky: He could have easily have punched her face instead of her purse. Or he could have pulled a weapon. I don’t think she “freaked’ the guy out by refusing to be a victim, I think the punk wasn’t expecting resistance and just gave up.
    Playing with your phone or Ipod is a very bad idea after dark. It represents quick cash to these punks who it will happily injure you in their attempts to relieve you of your property. If you’re fiddling with your phone you’re not paying attention to your surroundings and you become a magnet for these hoods.
    As Drew Remenda says: “keep your head on a swivel.”

  4. Glenparker says:

    Jake, what time was it, how many were there, what color were they and did they have any weapons? Thanks.

  5. JC says:

    SFPD? Isn’t it sort of obvious that a really public sting operation is called for here? I bet Apple might even donate the product gratis? Station a few undercover operatives in the Mission and SOMA at bus stops or on buses? I bet they could make a bunch of arrests a night? And having those arrests publicized might instroduce a little fear/deterrence into the system.

    Just a thought.

    • Public Frenemy says:

      I don’t trust SF cops any more than crack-head purse snatchers wandering around the Mission.

      That being said, when I saw a dude getting beaten down outside my window last year, I yelled at the attacker to get his attention and told him (falsely) that I had just called the cops and they were on the way. He took off pretty fast.

  6. Stan Heller says:

    Also, the “make a lot of noise” strategy is a good one, especially when there a lot of people around you. Harder to pretend there is nothing going on if it is screaming in your ear. They will probably help you just to shut you up.

  7. Why do people not help out? There were people around, watching? And nobody did anything? Guess what…. if 5 other people see this, and jump on the idiot that is trying to mug somebody, the 5 people will win!

    Stop just watching. Take your neighborhoods back, people!

  8. DMACK says:

    Similar story but at 6:00 p.m. waiting for N Judah by the tunnel at Duboce and Noe.

    Checking email, not looking behind me. My own fault. They hit me from behind but I got the phone back in a scramble. Lots of people around. Most bystanders pretended that they didn’t see anything.

    And no, no one is going to step in or help you.

    • Glenparker says:

      I’m afraid you are correct DMACK. Your only help is you and your smarts. There are too many instances of innocent bystanders getting hurt when they get involved in helping stop a crime that they just don’t risk it. Why take the chance of getting fucked up saving someone’s Iphone? I’ll step in and do whatever I can with whatever I am carrying at the time but it’s nothing you can count on. Use common sense. Know your surroundings and what you would do if approached by someone bent on taking your property.

  9. Mark 2000 says:

    I always tell people who ask me to watch their laptops at a cafe that I’ll watch it, but don’t expect me to chase someone down and tackle them for it.

    That being said, if someone was in a struggle with someone else weaponless and I’m not tugging my kid around, I’d probably at least scream at the person to knock it off. But I am in so shape to beat anyone.

  10. Mission Mistaken says:

    That rotweiller is looking kind a cute right about now…

  11. lemur says:

    I think a lot of you talk tough, but maybe won’t do anything either. You don’t quite know what’s going on because things happen fast: (“who’s the perp, who’s the vic? maybe it’s a scam and they’ll both jump me, or maybe hombre has an accomplice who’ll jump me”). you might end up taking the bullet (is it worth dying for a stranger?). you don’t care, or you do, but it ain’t your problem, and you might not be able to act fast enough if you wanted to become involved.

  12. Glenparker says:

    It’s true: each situation is going to be different so you have to be able to instantly adjust your strategy. If in doubt, don’t do it.

  13. Bob Dole says:

    I’ll do what I can if shit’s going down but dont ask me to step in to save some hipster if some 6′ 250 lbs black doode is on top of him whooping his ass.

    • Ariel Dovas says:

      Right. Watch out for black people.

      • Glenparker says:

        Actually there currently a couple of young black gentlemen attired in the requisite dark pants and hoodie going around robbing people in the Mission. Read the local blogs; Check the Police Calls-94110

      • Ariel Dovas says:

        If you’re trying to convince us that we should head out and start racially profiling the area, I’m still not there. It’s a dense neighborhood, there are a lot of different people.

        Just ask Sirron Norris, there are a couple of young white men with skinny jeans throwing bricks through windows, so keep your eyes peeled.

  14. Glenparker says:

    So, at least in the Mission, should we keep our eyes peeled for young white guys in skinny jeans the same as for young black guys in dark clothes and hoods?
    I’m not trying to convince anyone to profile anybody. That’s a personal decision we all make for ourselves. Myself, I personally discount all senior citizens as grave threats when it comes to my personal safety but when you’re standing alone at a bus stop at night in the Mission anyone could potentially do you harm. While I think it’s bullshit that someone threw bricks through someone’s window that’s not the same as having a gun stuck to your neck.

  15. LINDYLULA says:

    Me and a coupla friends got mugged by gun point by three Latino kids who pulled over in a car and hopped out on Folsom and 20th around late September of last year. I’m Latina. I know they were Latino so suck it.

    I think it would have been perilous to us as well as anyone else who tried to step in to help as it could have escalated a fairly benign situation. Better to observe well, gather a description and discreetly get on the horn with the police on our behalf that risk your life or mine. I wouldn’t want either one of us hurt.
    The exception to me would be abduction, battery or rape in progress. Then yelling and telling the perpetrator that the police are on the way would be the way to go.

  16. Steve G says:

    I have a similar story to the girl who almost got mugged. I was walking back to my car behind the nursery on Bayshore, in broad daylight, chatting on my phone. A pudgy plaid-wearing late middle aged black guy tried to grab my phone from behind me, but I involuntarily clenched my hand so hard the back of the phone popped off and the battery disconnected. As I turned around, I asked what he was doing. I think he grunted, and I asked again what he was doing. Then he told me to give him my wallet. At this point, he had both hands wrapped around my wrist, but I did a wrist escape (thanks, 5th grade camp self-defense class) and started backing away from him, all the while asking what he was doing. I honestly think he was too ashamed to admit that he was trying to mug me, and he just didn’t respond. He also didn’t try to stay super close to me, so I was able to back away from him (and my car) far enough that I could eventually sprint around him with enough space to get in the car and lock it again before he got there.

    So, what did I learn from this? Pay attention to surroundings when talking on the phone, wonder why there would be a random guy on an empty street where the only car was mine, and yes, engage in a little racial profiling. I admit I am more nervous around black and latino men who dress and carry themselves a certain way, but my life experience of one near mugging, black kids throwing rocks at my car in the lower haight, and black and latino youths yelling homophobic slurs at me has taught me that certain stereotypes, while sad, stem from real statistics and it is worth being more careful around people who fit certain profiles. And yes, I recognize the irony that I probably wouldn’t profile the harmless looking pudgy late middle aged black guy, and he’s the one who potentially could have done me the most harm. Poverty and desperation will engender crimes of opportunity at the most unexpected times.

    • Ariel Dovas says:

      One of the reasons I think this is problematic is that young black kids walking down the street are not unaware of the white person gripping their purse tighter or somehow displaying some kind of subconscious fear and mistrust. This behavior is a major component of the cycle.

      I mean, I know this is old news, but it seems like it needs to be mentioned here.

      I think that when I walk around the Mission by myself late at night (which is pretty much every night) I am more aware of the energy that the people around me have than their ethnicity. For example, if there is a white person in dirty clothes anxiously scratching at their body and looking around nervously and a black person dressed in clean clothes walking upright with a normal stroll, I think it’s clear who I’d be more aware of.

      No matter what someone’s state of mind or intentions are, there are some things that remain constant. But there are some things that will clearly convey those intentions. These are the things we should be focused on.

      • marco says:

        As much as people think they’re they may be “racially profiling” black kids, or latino kids or whatever, I think most people aren’t racially profiling as much as they are profiling based on clothing and characteristics. If you saw a group of well groomed black kids in polo shirts and loafers, I doubt you’d be clutching your wallet. It’s when you see a group of rowdy kids in hoodies and baggy pants, walking the prison shuffle and eyeing your shit that you get nervous.

      • tracy says:

        I agree with Ariel. this blurb was written about my experience. the reason I clutched my phone was I was standing right up against the end of the sidewalk and noticed someone walking towards me. I knew there was no reason for someone to walk in front of me cause there was no more sidewalk to walk on. it was strange that this person was getting so close. It had nothing to do with race or the clothes he was wearing. It was the energy I be honest I didn’t even look at him until he had actually grabbed me.

  17. Glenparker says:

    Way to blame the victim. So clutching our wallets and phones when these punks walk by is somehow contributing to their criminal behavior. Maybe the tighter I clutch the more they want?
    “You made me rob you by being afraid of me.”

    • Ariel Dovas says:

      I think the fact that I wrote “young black kids walking down the street” and you interpreted that to mean “punks” illustrates my point.

      I think it’s bizarre that someone would be blind to the fact that criminal behavior manifests as a result of a variety of factors, one of which is the way that people are treated. The burden of proof is not on a black person to show me that he or she is not a criminal.

  18. Glenparker says:

    Ok, how about young black punks, young white punks, young Latino punks and young Asian punks all set off my alarms. Don’t you think there is a reason these people are treated this way? Is it my fault that they commit crimes that make me wary of them? When these collective punks stop pointing pistols at us and start helping old ladies across the street then maybe I’ll not be on guard when a couple of them pass by.
    If these people want to be treated with anything more than suspicion then perhaps they should look to their own actions first.

    • jimbeam says:

      Yes, because every young black/asia/latino “punks” are criminals. So when you see someone you think is a “punk” they’re clearly part of the “criminal punk collective” and are at fault because of your prejudiced reaction to them, right? It’s all their fault. When you see a young black guy, it’s his fault you’re suspicious, because he did something. Just be racist instead of pretending like you have a good reason to be.

      • Yo says:

        Sometimes it by what a person wears or how they wear it. It’s the gangster style that gets me on guard. A young man wearing preppy clothes, to me, seems less likely than him wearing sagging pants and a long-white tee to pull a gun on me and rob me.

        A lot of kids look up to gangsters and criminals and dress like them, and wonder why people are afraid.

      • Yo says:

        Now I just read a bunch of comments and have seen my point was pretty much stated.

  19. Wesam says:

    Glenparker, when you say “these people” who do you mean specifically?

    So far in this dialogue the examples you gave have essentialized “punk-like” behavior only to black, and latino men. Do you believe that thievery is endemic to the latino/black community in the mission and/or the bayview?

    • maria says:

      um, i’m not agreeing with him, at all, but second on Glenparker’s list was “young WHITE punks”. i think his point was “punks” – of any color – exhibiting punk behavior.

  20. Luis V says:

    You are probably too young to remember the classic case of do nothing citizenry of the Kitty Genovese murder. Queens NY 1964. She was stabbed returning to her apt. and all her neighbors became deaf, dumb and blind. No one heard her scream or saw anything. Most people are afraid or don’t give a s–t about helping someone else. I agree that making a lot of noise or screaming helps to call attention to the crime being committed, but hey! what the hell are you doing in the Mission or any other neighborhood at night using your I-Phone, carrying your laptop or a camera for that matter. One thing that could help is to get closer to the other people so they also feel threatened and do something (?) It also helps to develop street smarts and be aware of what’s going on around you. Go inside a store or restaurant if you feel something amiss. Forget about being connected for emails or text messages 25 hours a day, that makes you more vulnerable. Pay attention to your surroundings.

  21. Glenparker says:

    Wesam, when I say “these people” I’m referring to the fine folks who are going around robbing other people of their property and in some cases injuring them. You’ll have to check the police records to see who is behind these crimes. I believe thievery occurs in most of the city, not just the bad areas. Look at the shit that’s being going down in the Sunset. Some guy just got stabbed upon Sanchez.

    Jimbeam: I didn’t say every young punk is a criminal. You can be a punk without resorting to robbing people of their shit. Like the mentioned bricks thrown thrown through that artist’s windows. When I see somebody that makes me suspicious it’s based on my experiences; Perhaps you grew up in a different environment than I did (SF public schools in the 70′s).

  22. Wesam says:

    Luis V is right on point. What amazes me about SF in general and the Mission in particular is the degree of class/race physical intersection, but very little substantive integration.

    When you have whole communities feeling the brunt of gentrification and policy driven redevelopment threatening their very presence on the peninsula (the exodus of black/brown folks from SF is increasing at an alarming rate) interwoven with a bourgeoning artist/lower-middle-upper class community consisting of predominantly White folks who have very little historical connection those streets (la mission/bayview), there is bound to be a hostile relationship in the form of communities closing ranks (isolation) and in some cases petty crime.

    So if you’re walking down Mission near 22nd, or 3rd near Palou, understand that no matter how many taquerias you frequent, what community organization you belong to, or what slogan you have on your t-shirt, for some folks who feel under siege, disenfranchised, brutalized by the police, isolated, profiled, and damn near mocked every day, you (indifferent or otherwise) are walking into someone’s war zone. Check your entitlement and protect your neck.

    • Glenparker says:

      And what entitlement would that be? The expectation to walk on the sidewalks of your neighborhood without being robbed or beaten? How about the expectation to keep the stuff you have from being taken from you by force? How about the old Irish guy who has lived in the Mission since it was lily Irish white? How do you think he feels about his “war zone” neighborhood?

  23. Wesam says:

    for everyone, it sucks getting robbed by a stranger. Not feel safe walking the streets where you live (your neighborhood) is something that no one should have to experience. but imagine if you had to watch your back everyday not only for strangers, but the police as well? Knowing that you are profiled by everyone 24/7, and the overarching system that is out of your control funnels your brothers, fathers, uncles and sons into the criminal justice system and tells you it has no resources to educate you, keep you healthy, or give you a job opportunity.

    My point about entitlement is not to delegitimize the pain of a mugging victim. As someone that has been jacked several times by folks of all phenotypic characteristics and dispositions, i’m the first to say that having someone take your stuff is a severe emotional violation.

    What i mean by entitlement is simply to recognize the privileged position that those who are enfranchised have to walk the streets and know that there is at least the pretext of security from the police and power structure, regardless of what space you are occupying (be it in the marina, the bayview or the mission) The police are there to protect the wealthy.

    • Wesam says:

      Correction to: The police are there to protect the wealthy.

      The police are there to protect property, and those in service of commerce.

  24. Glenparker says:

    Ok so you’re saying that it sucks for a US citizen to not feel safe in your own neighborhood but imagine how the illegal aliens feel in that same neighborhood? But they made that choice by coming here illegally and have another choice; they can return to their own country and not have to watch their backs 24/7 while I have no choice but to constantly worry about my safety while out in the Mission.
    But the discussion was about being mugged. We are still talking about the people that are stealing phones, wallets and Ipods, right?

    If I am enfranchised simply for being a citizen then what’s your point? That I somehow have the good fortune to be walking the streets of San Francisco while others don’t? And how is that a privileged position? Theoretically we should all be enfranchised as citizens of the United States. I shouldn’t have to care if there is the “police and power structure” there to save my ass if get jacked; the streets should be safe in the first place.
    The police are out to protect nobody. They can only respond after the fact. True they might get to an address in Pacific Heights in two minutes where in the Bayview it might take all day.

    • jimbeam says:

      Yes, because everyone in the Mission who isn’t white is here illegally. You are so backwards.

  25. Luis Villalon says:

    Inmigration doesn’t always bring the best of people. Starting with the pilgrims, who under the guise of religious persecution came to this land, stole it from its rightful owners, started slavery, and murdered innocent people by burning them at the stake, every other ethnic, religious or racial group since has had it share of good people and criminals. When I lived in NYC, the Russian and Israeli maffias made the Italians look like boy scouts, now it’s the Dominicans. I can’t accept the PC idea that criminal conduct is caused by poverty, being disenfranchized, or singled out because of being Mexican, Asian or Black, although I realize that there is a lot of racism in this country. I am Hispanic, law abiding tax paying citizen of the US, slightly dark skinned, and I have never been detained or harrased by the police for any reason. All my Hispanic and Black friends can attest the same for themselves. People should enjoy the goods that they have worked for to obtain, without the fear of walking down the street and being robbed and/or being injured in the process. It’s not a racial thing. I am a Land’s End, Brooks Bros. kind of guy and the 2 times I have been to the Mission I stood out as a sore thumb. Even as a Hispanic, I can be as much of a victim as anyone else.

  26. AlexisG says:

    I think the trick is to be aware of one’s surroundings without so anticipating a negative – or even violent – event that you’re miserable every moment you wait for a bus (which we know may be a lot of moments). My own experience: I was punched hard in the face waiting for #48 at 24th/Mission. Then Mugger grabbed my bag (what happened to first demanding the purse/wallet with a menacing threat? Give me a chance to give it up without breaking my tooth?) but I was so stunned I hung on and got kicked and hit again. The point I want to make is not in the details of the assault but rather to the reaction(s) of people nearby. Like some others here, no one interfered in the actual assault, tackled the perp, whatever . . . but many – yeah, MANY -responded to ME. Someone helped me up, others called 911, another got ice for my face. Others waited with me ’til cops (finally) came. These were assorted Mission folks of various shades. Those who actually saw the attack said they didn’t “believe” what they were seeing (Is this really happening?!!) and those seconds of disbelief caused the pause as my assailant ran down Lilac Alley. I know my own shock numbed me to my injuries until later. As awful as it was, I think it’s better glad it happened in the neighborhood with good-hearted, if slow-reacting, folks from the Mission nearby. In contrast, I took a brutal fall on an Outer Sunset sidewalk last month. With no reason to fear danger to themselves, nobody stopped – or stopped staring – to offer help or even ask if I was OK.

  27. Wesam says:

    I wasn’t referring to “immigrants” as you put it (which I’m assuming you mean “undocumented or unnaturalized residents”, the way in which you position them in the conversation is f-d up to begin with) that aside, I’m talking about the folks of color that have been living in SF for generations, including the African American community that had the economic bottom pulled from under it post WWII and hasn’t from recovered since.

    This discussion (at the point i entered it) wasnt about citizenship. It was about the perception of a threat to property (stuff) and racial/class profiling. What I’m attempting to bring across is that there are many folks out there on the streets of SF who dont have options like you or me. They can’t lean on the city for support. We can say its a class thing motivated by economics, but we cant ignore the fact that the class disparity that exists in this city is starkly divided along racial lines (per capita) (note: there are plenty of poor white folks in this city). Sadly, what ends up happening is people like yourself conflate criminal behavior with communities of color in a way that essentializes them, playing into the structural assumptions about race, region and class. Which is fucked up.

    Speaking to Luiss’ last point about being latino and feeling on the spot. Of course, the sad fact is that there is more brown on brown /black on black violence in this city than toward opposing races/communities. The force that create such a tense environment as we find in places like the mission stem from a combination of issues that cant just be summed up as simply as “young black punks” being the problem. Its racist rhetoric like that which creates a space for regressive policy to pass that target Blacks/Latinos and Muslim American communities.

  28. Glenparker says:

    I don’t “conflate criminal behavior with communities of color” or any of that other BS. I could give a shit what color you are or what your background is. All I care about is personal safety. I’ve had two guns pointed at me at the same time; both white guys.
    Don’t give me that shit about options and how lucky I am “to lean on the city for support.” This city has more options for disadvantaged folks than any other. Nobody has given me shit; I’ve worked paper routes, McDonalds….
    Funny how you can’t explain the black on black/brown violence. How can these two groups commit crimes against each other? Perhaps some are just fucking criminals? Is that possible?
    And please oh please enlighten me as to what “…regressive policy to pass that target Black/Latinos and Muslim American communities?”
    What legislation has passed or is being considered that would implement a regressive policy towards these communities?
    SF is more tolerant than just about any city you can name. We bend over backward not to offend or discriminate against anyone.
    I don’t care if you’re black or white, brown or red, all that matters to me is you don’t mug me.

  29. Anne says:

    “There is but one unconditional commandment, which is that we should seek incessantly, with fear and trembling, so to vote and to act as to bring about the very largest total universe of good which we can see.”

    ~William James

  30. Wesam says:

    Sucks to have any weapon pointed at you, by a thief OR a police officer. I know how both feel. And at least with thief you know you can call someone for help.

    As a person of color that enjoys the privilege of living in a relatively crime-free community, i understand very well the reality that “personal safety” as you put, is a privilege, not a right in America. You can look to the hundreds of blighted communities all across the country to see this, 100% have one thing in common: the lack of any real federal/state economic and infrastructural support. If you really want a safe place to put on your Apple ear buds and stroll through the park blasting Enya to your hearts contentment, then advocate for economic and academic equity in that community that you play in, work in, live in. Don’t blame “the punks”. I promise you, they aren’t much different than you or me.

    ps – The bootstrap’s argument is so 90′s. I know. of course you embody those good ol’ American values. The problem with these criminals is that they’re just plane lazy right?

    pss – The Patriot Act 1 and 2, the secret detention of Muslim Americans in two blacksite prisons on American soil (indiana/illinois), SP1/SP2, City Contract & The Lennar Corp, Prison to School ratios in CA, i can go on…

    psss – thanks for engaging in this debate.

    pssss – thank you for that anne :)

  31. Luis V says:

    I think that the photo and personal information of every person arrested for any type of crime, including mugging, should be posted in the newspapers,public places, and/or in the neighborhood where he/she operates. I also believe that the US Welfare System has to be changed completely. People get “paid” with our taxes and they don’t contribute anything to society except to have more children irresponsibly and enjoy all the time in the world to commit crimes. They should be forced to work 8 hours a day or more like we do.

    • theophania says:

      Its funny you bring that up, iv been told in France that you get around 3 months of government support before the government gives you a job to do, cleaning parks, streets, public spaces and even bathrooms. I was told how fast most people find themselves other line of work after that. They kill two birds with one stone. most government jobs are filled with unemployed and welfare type individuals.

  32. Miss Anthrope says:

    humans suck.

  33. I would like to propose not to wait until you get enough amount of cash to buy different goods! You can just get the personal loans or secured loan and feel yourself free