By Jonathan Farrell
Former SF Police Chief Anthony Ribera was the guest speaker at a meeting of the
neighborhood group Stop Crime SF. The meeting was hosted and held at the Sunset
Heights Association of Responsible People’s (SHARP) meeting hall on Jan. 10.
After the meeting, the former chief said, “I was very impressed with the gathering.
There were about 40 people or more and they asked good questions. Everything about
the meeting was well organized. It was time well spent.”
Ribera said the most significant issue talked about was car break-ins, or “smash and
According to the SF Chronicle, City 9-1-1 dispatch statistics show more than 25,000
calls came in regarding vehicle break-in incidents. And that statistic was just for the first
six months of 2017. Ribera said the number is more likely 30,000 break-ins because many
smash and grabs go unreported.
The occurrence of auto burglaries are so frequent, at epidemic levels, that there
are many people who have had their vehicles vandalized multiple times.
According to Ribera, many in law enforcement believe the crime can be combated
effectively if citizens band together and fight back.
“Taking the time to follow up and file a report is important – it helps law enforcement,”
But, being persistent is key. Ribera’s many years of experience and insight into the field
of law enforcement and criminal justice, during his years as police chief and as an
officer of the SF Police Department, have led him to believe neglecting to file a report
only allows the culprits to get away with the crime.
Ribera is now director and associate professor at the International Institute of Criminal
Justice Leadership Program at the University of San Francisco. He has been part of the
faculty at the university for 20 years.
Joel Engardio, a board member of the neighborhood group Stop Crime SF, attended the
meeting. He agrees with Ribera about the importance of neighborhood-community \
“Our work focuses on three areas: advocacy, legislation and court watching,” Engardio
said. “Advocacy includes educating the public, speaking with agents of the criminal
justice system and speaking out when necessary. We’re not vigilantes. We want our
criminal justice system to work. We want everyone to have the tools they need to
succeed — because every resident deserves to feel safe in their neighborhood
Ribera said combating crime is just as vital as being pro-active. No matter how
innovative an approach might be, there is no “magic trick that will make crime
disappear overnight. It is about the community coming together to fight back by working
with the police and cooperating at every level to help the system work.”
For Ribera, this is what police-community relations are all about.
“It really is, at times, the squeaky wheel that gets the grease,’ as the saying goes. The
community has to get involved,” Ribera reiterated.
When asked why break-ins and smash and grabs occur and have increased, Ribera noted
that this type of crime activity is group-orientated.
“It can be a small group of only two or three, yet it is a collective – like a gang.”
A Grand Jury report reported the majority of auto burglaries are committed by
professional criminals organized into work groups – like modern-day raiding
parties. The crime itself is usually carried out in less than a minute; one suspect keeps a
lookout, another smashes the car window and grabs whatever valuables are within sight.
One of the problems with vehicle break-ins is the high recidivism rate amongst the
burglars committing the crime.
“We need our correctional system to be more effective in rehabilitating offenders,”
Engardio said. “Understanding the power of ‘it takes a village.’ Our legislative work at
Stop Crime SF helps politicians write and pass the laws needed to reduce crime.”
Making use of available crime statistics information, Stop Crime SF was able to help
combat attacks on tourists.
“Last year, we helped pass two laws involving rental car companies,” Engardio said.
“Rental car companies must warn customers to not leave valuables in the car and to
eliminate advertising and prominently visible bar codes on the car.”
Vehicle burglars were targeting rental vehicles because the renters of the vehicles often
live out of town and would not make a return trip to San Francisco to testify.
To learn more about community involvement to fight crime, go to the website at