SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Vandals, thieves and burglars have been preying upon financially strapped small businesses in San Francisco’s Richmond District since last October.
K-Elements BBQ shared surveillance video with KPIX 5 which shows a man on a bicycle pulling up outside the boarded up dining platform on Clement Street. He stops and looks around several times before tagging the plywood.
This happened in the evening the day after Christmas, and it’s happened about eight times since the city’s first COVID Shelter-in-Place was issued.
“Definitely sad, because as a small business owner right now, we literally don’t have anymore income coming in,” said K-Elements BBQ Co-Owner Tony Lau. “The business is shutting down, we are not able to open, and now with this extra expense, it’s definitely harsh for us.”
Co-Owners Lau and Alfred Lee say they’ve spent hundreds of dollars painting over graffiti. They recently spent Thanksgiving day cleaning up the mess left behind with their families.
They also invested $10,000 in the outdoor platform they barely were able to use, due to the city’s dining restrictions. Lau also paid $8,000 for security cameras after the first incident.
Currently, revenue from takeout isn’t even enough to cover one employee’s salary
“I think a lot of these people that are committing crimes are sort of depending on the police not being around, the Richmond’s a very quiet neighborhood, there’s not a lot of people walking around or driving around all they need are a few minutes to commit a crime,” said Nourish Cafe Co-Owner Sarah Bacon.
A man broke into their lock box, and then helped himself to money, iPads, tablets and made off with the register in October. In December, Bacon decide to install a $5,000 security gate.
More than 50 businesses have been targeted in the Richmond since October, many of them Asian-owned, according to the San Francisco Small Business Alliance.
Burglaries have gone up 111% in the neighborhood during the pandemic, compared to the same period the year prior, according to SFPD crime data.
Just last week, thieves hit Foggy Notion in the Inner Richmond and stole cash.
And Wednesday, the same thing happened to Spoke Easy SF – a bicycle retail and repair shop on Clement Street.
“I won’t go to insurance with it because it ends up messing with my premiums and I’m at risk of having my insurance drop me due to small infractions,” said owner Anson Vaughan.
SFPD says its aware of numerous break-ins and vandalism and it has increased patrols in the Richmond. It’s working with the merchant association to proactivity secure their property, and maintaining a working group among business owners and residents to share information about community experiences and criminal activity.
K-Elements BBQ Co-Owner Alfred Lee said he hopes people in the neighborhood will step up and report crimes.
“I think it’s just more of the help of the community itself, where if people are walking by and they happen to see someone tagging…” said Lee.