Violent cellphone robbery spree targets moms, caretakers in these SF neighborhoods, data shows

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, July 13, 2023
Violent phone robbery spree targets women in these SF neighborhoods
Victims recount new details on a group of teenagers believed to be behind a spree of cellphone robbery attacks targeting women across San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Victims recount new details on a group of teenagers believed to be behind a spree of cellphone robbery attacks targeting women across San Francisco.

Police confirm to the ABC7 News I-Team only one juvenile suspect has been arrested but they are closing in on several other suspects believed to be involved in targeted attacks across the city.

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According to investigators, at least 11 women were attacked and robbed of their iPhones in broad daylight over a two-day period in late June. The attacks have since expanded to target dozens of people in at least four neighborhoods across the city - including parts of Soma, the Tenderloin, Union Square, and Noe Valley.

"I just briefly glanced down at my iPhone before crossing the street," one mom told the I-Team, who says she was walking in Noe Valley with her stroller to pick up her daughter before daycare. "In that moment, somebody attacked me from behind... he had a ski mask and hoodie, I saw his eyes... he shoved me to the ground forcefully."

Surveillance footage sent to the I-Team shows the juvenile suspect sprint into a stolen silver Kia Soul and drive away as the mom screamed out for help.

"Somebody called the police," she told us in tears as she recalled the attack.

After filing a police report, the mom says she struggled to get any response from investigators.

"I tried so hard to activate the police around my attack, I felt like I was dismissed as a phone robbery, but this was a violent attack," she said.

The next day this woman, who we kept anonymous, went to the Mission District police station determined to get help. But on her way there, she passed another victim of the same crime getting treated by an ambulance.

The stories are eerily similar.

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The next victim -- another mom on her way to pick up her children from school -- attacked and robbed of her iPhone on the same street in Noe Valley just before 3 p.m.

"I had gotten a call, it was the one day I didn't have my earbuds with me," the second victim told the I-Team. "I had just picked up the call to say hello."

Police say that's when the alleged assailant struck again. Surveillance video from a Tesla across the street shows this time, the suspect punched the victim in the face.

"I felt violated in many different ways," she said in tears. "The first thing I think about is your kids, who's going to watch after them? You're just broken..."

Turns out these women aren't alone. Another victim wrote the I-Team reporting two teenagers "beat me over the head from behind with a bat while the other stole my iPhone."

Police say they believe the same group of teenagers are responsible for the first string of attacks that happened from June 26-27. Victims tracked many of those incidents occurring 20 minutes apart. Witnesses say one juvenile was arrested at the top of Potrero Hill as he was spotted sprinting out of a stolen car.

"We began piecing it together and realized these were part of a series," said SFPD Sgt. Adam Lobsinger. "We've made one arrest so far, we've recovered a stolen vehicle...but we still have a lot of work to do."

The two-day robbery spree didn't end there. Victims say the next couple days, June 28-29, another robbery spree targeted women in parts of Soma, the Tenderloin, Union Square, and Noe Valley.

"We do have some more suspects," Sgt. Lobsinger said. "We're confident we're going to be making some arrests."

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Police records analyzed by our media partners at the San Francisco Standard found at least 22 reported cell phone robberies from June 23 through July 4. Fifteen of those robberies targeted women. At least seven of those cases reportedly involved juveniles. In those cases, many of the women tracked their assailants after the attacks using the find my iPhone feature.

"I saw mine go to Market Street," one victim told the I-Team. "Then, I saw it ultimately end up in Oakland."

Three of the mothers targeted told the I-Team they tracked their iPhones to a flea market at the Oakland Coliseum Swap Meet.

"You have 10 or 11 women who all have the GPS location of attackers that are physically attacking one woman after another in a two day spree," said one of the victims who we kept anonymous out of fear of retaliation. "There must be an avenue to use that data before they punch someone with a bat or in the face."

Several victims told us they provided location data to investigators, but it was rejected. One mom emailed screenshots to the detective assigned to her case showing the moving coordinates of her stolen iPhone.

"Officer I know where they are!" the victim said. "I don't care about my iPhone, this is about violence against women."

The victim says the police officer responded by referring her to contact the Oakland Police Dept.

"I did that... but only got a busy signal," she said. "This just seems like an absolute shame."

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