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Why SFPD Should Pursue Fleeing Auto Break-in (852) Crews
Not the family killer’s first reckless crash
Erin Burnett, CNN
On March 17, 2023, CNN reporter Kyung Lah was preparing a story on crime in San Francisco. Her car was parked directly in front of City Hall with a dedicated security guard watching over it. Nevertheless, an auto break-in crew was able to steal equipment and Lah’s personal items in a four-second strike.[i] Not good for tourism.
In 2022, there were 22,700 auto break-ins in San Francisco. Down over 11% from pre-pandemic 2019.[ii]
Why SFPD officers are not allowed to pursue auto break-in crews
Auto break-in crews are referred to by their SPFD radio code as 852 (“eight-five-two”) crews. An 852 crew is usually composed of 2 to 4 partners, that wear masks, and either employ a stolen car or their own car with stolen plates. This concealment makes it extremely difficult for SFPD to make arrests based on video surveillance. If SFPD attempts to pullover one of these vehicles, there is a 100% chance they will endanger the public by fleeing at a high rate of speed.
852 crews know that SFPD General Order 5.05 (IV)(1)(b) specifically disallows SFPD from pursuing them because auto break-ins are only considered property crimes. The premise is that SFPD must weigh solving an insurable property crime against the risk to innocent lives if the 852 crew drives recklessly. Frequently, 852 crews speed away from an auto break-in even without SFPD’s presence as a precautionary maneuver to ensure no unmarked SFPD cars are following them.
I agree with this no-pursuit policy, especially when you look at Ryniqueka Dowell and her son, Jamari Dowell that were killed by Ralph White driving with a gun in a stolen car in Rodeo on March 23, 2023. White fled the accident before he was caught.
Are 852’s inherently violent?
At 5:55am on March 23, 2023, Aaron was walking his dog when he saw an 852 crew breaking into a Ford Mustang at Kirkham and 43rd Avenue. He attempted to take a photograph when the crew told him “Mind your own business. Do you want to get shot?” The crew drove off, but not before they fired six to eight rounds, twice striking an unoccupied Ford Prius.[iii]
In my January 17, 2023 article, I described how catalytic converter thieves actually fired shots at SFPD.
In my November 11, 2022 article, I described how SFPD had a foot chase with an 852 crew onto the Central Freeway and confiscated two of their guns.
On September 3, 2021, catalytic converter thieves near Mount Davidson shot at a citizen who yelled at them from his home’s window.
How 852 crew call an audible for a robbery
An audible occurs when an armed 852 crew, already masked up and in a stolen car, spots a person isolated from the pack- the only pedestrian on a quiet and presumed safe street. That’s when the property thieves become violent robbers.
In my June 2021 article, I described how Hakeem and his crew drove from Antioch to Golden Gate Park with the intention of breaking into cars. At Stow Lake, they observed an isolated photographer with expensive camera equipment. They called an audible and robbed the photographer at gunpoint.
On September 27, 2021, in the Oceanview District around 10 am, Ms. Hoang was parked in her car listening to the radio.[iv] An 852 crew from Vallejo approached her car. Ms. Hoang hit the lock button on her car, but Corey Edmonson broke the window and stole the purse from her hands. Ralph White, the designated getaway driver used his mother’s Nissan Rogue, displaying license plates belonging to a Toyota, and fled in a reckless manner.
Despite no SFPD vehicles around him, White was still driving recklessly on the other side of the city when he drove into oncoming traffic at 23rd Street and Minnesota Streets. White crashed into a Ford Ranger. The Ford owner, Steven, saw White put a gun in his waistband and gathered up the electronic loot, before fleeing on foot. SFPD officers Borg, Walker, and Sergeant Manning caught and arrested White and Edmonson and confiscated a Glock 22. They were also identified and arrested for the robbery they committed at Oakland’s International Airport parking lot earlier in the morning.[v]
Yup, that is the same Ralph White that killed Ryniqueka and Jamari Dowell on March 23, 2023. In both situations, whether or not he was pursued by law enforcement, White drove like a madman in a car that was either stolen or had stolen plates while armed with a gun. And when he struck another vehicle, he fled both times without rendering aid.
The SF Standards’ Jonah Owen Lamb and former DA candidate John Hamasaki immediately faulted law enforcement for the deaths of Ryniqueka and Jamari whom White killed. But there would have been no reckless driving on March 23, 2023, and Ryniqueka and Jamari would be alive today, had DA Chesa Boudin sent White to prison for his September 27, 2021 robbery of Ms. Hoang.
From multiple sources, it was difficult to ascertain how DA Boudin prosecuted White. For the November 2021 Oceanview District robbery, it appears he was initially put on an ankle monitor, with home detention for a whole, entire month, and had to participate in “Thinking for A Change” classes. Yeah, that really worked out well. The San Francisco courts recently changed their computer system, making it unclear on White’s current SF status. It appears his September 27, 2021 robbery charge is still an open.
What to do about armed 852 crews
Is this fearmongering? Are these just anecdotal stories that don’t represent the true nature of the auto break-in industry? Multiple sources within SFPD are telling me that over 90% of 852 crews are packing firearms. So, aren’t 852 crews just taking advantage of a loophole in SFPD’s general orders?
On the surface, 852 crews appear as property thieves, but underneath they are really gun-toting violent thieves ready to revert to robbery mode at a moment’s notice. Don’t think of car break-ins crews as just property crime thieves. Your greatest fear should be walking down a quiet street in a safe neighborhood in the middle of the day. Not West Portal Avenue but say Kirkham and 43rd Avenue. No one on the entire block but you. Your guard is down. Then boom! An 852 “property crime” crew calls an audible, there is a gun in your face, and your life races by. You are now the victim. You are traumatized. And as soon as you get inside your home, you shut the door, turn your computer on and start looking at Zillow ads to join the exodus from San Francisco. Car break-ins crews are just property thieves? Please!
While SFPD General Order 5.05 precludes SFPD from pursuing 852 for property crimes, subsection (IV)(1)(a) allows SFPD to pursue someone “suspected of a violent felony.” Thus, while I agree that car break-ins are technically a property crime, I also believe that 852 crews should be pursued under the criteria of subsection (IV)(1)(a) because there is a 90% probability, they are violent criminals in possession of guns.
For 2019, in California there were 8,822 police chases that killed 14 innocents. Those are too many wasted lives. But starting with Ryniqueka and Jamari, how many victims and innocents have unnecessarily lost their lives because of DA Boudin’s and other social justice DA’s policies to not incarcerate violent criminals and their stray bullets? Similarly, we have accepted at least two-dozen Tesla autopilot deaths in the name of progress. Thus, we accept the tradeoff of deaths caused by the social justice experiment and by Tesla’s R&D, but no one has the courage to accept a lower set of probabilities to remove the violent criminals’ guns off our streets.
SFPD’s blanket exclusion of pursuits is just an invitation to 852 crews that there are no consequences to fleeing. At a minimum, SFPD must allow officers to pursue these vehicles sporadically to at least keep the 852 crews guessing. Replace the SFPD supervisors’ fear with an algorithm to determine when SFPD can chase an 852 crew. Or, purchase a helicopter to follow the fleeing 852 crews from the sky. (There’s no way a third SFPD helicopter will crash.[vi]) But try something!
[i] Because the break-in crew used “force” to complete the theft, SFPD characterized this as a robbery and not a vanilla auto break-in.
[ii] From SFPD Compstat. With auto break-ins climbing in 2017, Mayor Ed Lee directed all citizens’ auto break-in calls, that weren’t immediately in progress, to be handled by 3-1-1. At the 3-1-1 number, victims were advised to make a report online. This head-in-the-sand approach had the effect of removing SFPD from the equation and creating a technological hurdle (yet another password) for the victims to negotiate, which discouraged them from reporting the break-in, which reduced the “reported” auto break-ins.
Auto break-ins compose approximately 50% of the reported annual property crimes in San Francisco. SFPD’s removal from the process created a soundbite boom for the Chesa Boudin’s and Dean Preston’s to mislead the public that SFPD has a low rate of solving crimes. Yet, SFPD was not even privy to these crimes, which is like blaming your spouse for returning home with empty grocery bags because the family credit card was compromised and rejected by the store.
[iii] SFPD Incident #: 230.203.393
[iv] SFPD Incident #’s: 210.627.581 & 210.627.713
[v] Oakland case #: 21-014732