The theft was most likely a crime of opportunity in a neighborhood that has a high incidence of auto break-ins. Still, the laptop and keys are causing serious concern because the Water Department does not want them to get into the hands of people who could sabotage or vandalize the city's water system.
The Water Department truck was stolen Monday night when the utility foreman was making his rounds, checking out gates, or the valves, that regulate the city's water pressure.
Sources familiar with the investigation tell ABC7 that the foreman left his keys in the ignition as he went to a water vault, which houses the valves. That's when the thief stole the truck at San Bruno Avenue and Blanken Street in the Visitation Valley.
About an hour later, police recovered the truck in a commercial district of the Bayview, but not the important items inside the truck.
"Some keys, a laptop computer and some documents associated with the water distribution system in San Francisco," says Assistant General Manager Michael Carlin.
The computer has sensitive information on the city's water distribution system. The keys open up some of the city's water vaults.
Police were called in to search the area for the stolen items. They also went up the hill to the residential neighborhoods of Bayview, offering a $1,000 reward, no questions asked, to informants who might be able to local the laptop and keys.
City water official Michael Carlin told ABC7 that they are taking no chances protecting the safety of the city's water system in light of the theft.
"We're concerned about that, but we also put our crews on heightened alert. They are actually monitoring a lot of our facilities for any unusual activity," says Carlin.
Carlin says the computer is secure.
"It has a password. The password is only known to our I.T. department and the user. The computer was off so it'd be very difficult for someone to break into it."
Carlin says the stolen keys are encrypted.
"They're not like any other key you've actually seen. They're a very unique type of key. You can't copy them and they're numbered."
Water officials say the sensitive information in the laptop would make no sense to a regular person because it's extremely technical.
Nevertheless, they don't want that information ending up in the wrong hands. Officials also tell ABC7 that the laptop contains no customer data. The P.U.C. will now review its field procedures and retrain all of its field staff on security protocol.