Neighborhood bands together after video shows thieves dumping stolen items in SF driveway

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Richmond District of San Francisco has seen a nearly 400% increase in burglaries this year compared to 2020. But there's another crime that's getting neighbor's attention and prompting them to jump into action.

Mark Dietrich took matters into his own hands after witnessing something wild on his Nest security camera.

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"My neighbor, he said said look out front and I did. Right in front of my house was this huge pile of suitcases and clothes just strewn all over. I checked my video and a car pulled up...they dumped everything out! It's pretty's egregious," said Dietrich.

Law enforcement sources tell ABC7 News that thieves who break-into tourist hot-spots like the Palace of Fine Arts or Pier 39 then discard unwanted items in neighborhoods like Dietrich's.

"It's an easy exit to jump on the freeway toward the Golden Gate Bridge which spits out right into the Richmond District," said Dietrich, who believes the break-ins and dumps seem to happen every day now that tourists are starting to come back to the city.

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The hotel council of San Francisco shows occupancy rates which were around 20% during the height of the pandemic have now risen back to 60% on busy weekends in recent months. Instead of just posting the video on Nextdoor, Dietrich and his neighbors started sharing stories of not only finding stolen items but going the extra step of returning them to their owners. This they say, helps law enforcement who can then be freed up to attend to other matters in the district.

Post after post show examples ranging from reuniting an Oregon resident with their camera to returning bags belonging to a family from Texas who were in town dropping their daughter off at Stanford.

Kinga Sojka, a real estate agent from Tampa was on a girls trip to the Bay Area when she had her suitcase stolen from Pier 39 on her way to the airport.

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The SFPD officer was responding to a call about a man making racially motivated threats in Chinatown, only to be attacked by the man herself.

"I was shocked...we had an amazing time until we got back to the car," said Soika.

Dietrich found her name on a suitcase discarded in his neighborhood. He then found her phone number, matched the area codes and the rest is history.

"I was so grateful I sent him flowers...I wanted to say thank you, Mark," said Soika.

Japanese student Yasu Segawa who is studying at Columbia University in New York was reunited with his passport thanks to Dietrich. While he isn't sure if he'll come back to the city after this, saying he wouldn't "take a chance to go to San Francisco," he wanted to share his story in hopes it'll encourage people in other neighborhoods to take the lead of Richmond neighbors and do the same.

Dietrich has also been proactive in protecting his neighbors against home burglaries. He started a website to give homeowners tips on how to prevent residential theft and break-ins.

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