SF police investigate string of pepper spray robberies

November 13, 2010 12:24:48 AM PST
A new crime wave has hit the streets of San Francisco and the weapon of choice is pepper spray. Police say young men spray it in the faces of their victims, then steal their belongings. There have been five attacks since Wednesday, in the Mission, Lower Height, Pacific Heights, and Cow Hollow.

Police say this is unique, not your common street robbery, and they want people to be aware.

"I felt so bad for the young woman," says Nellie Chisholm.

Chisholm was leaving a friend's house last night at Pierce and Filbert when she saw a distraught woman on the sidewalk.

"She seemed like she was crying, she kept wiping her eyes, and she was surrounded, she had five or six police officers around her," says Chisholm.

The woman had just been robbed. Her attackers sprayed pepper spray in her face, hit her in the head and then grabbed her purse.

"You don't think of things happening in that neighborhood very often," says Chisholm.

Just 10 minutes earlier, they had hit in another unlikely neighborhood - lower Pacific Heights.

"It makes me feel like I should carry my own pepper spray. I don't know what else to say. I have always felt pretty safe on the streets, so that's a little concerning," says San Francisco resident Elene Eliopulos.

There have been five attacks in San Francisco neighborhoods since Wednesday. A sixth one happened Tuesday inside the Tourneau watch store on Market Street. A man sprayed the face of an employee and got away with some watches. Since it is the only one involving a store, police don't know if it is related.

"Wow, that seems like a great way to do it if you wanted to do it, but that's kind of ridiculous and it sucks because this is considered one of the safest cities and I don't know, I don't know how you would take care of that other than police presence," says San Francisco resident Greg Benza.

Investigators don't know of the same men are committing all of the crimes. It's possible a couple of robbers pulled it off, bragged to their friends, and then the friends went out and tried it themselves.

"I would be very startled, so I just hope it doesn't happen again. Maybe they're passing through, hopefully police will catch them and put a stop to it," says San Francisco resident David Humphries.

The robbers have attacked men and women of all ages.

"It's just troubling because I walk my dog at night, so I don't want that to happen to me," says San Francisco resident Sarah Matthews.

Investigators at the Northern Station were working two of the cases independently, but now they figured out that two other officers at two other stations in the city were working similar cases. So now they are comparing notes, looking at the broad picture, but as of right now, no arrests have been made.


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