SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — A community-led effort is helping San Francisco crush and seize victims to reunite their stolen belongings.
With dozens of car break-ins happening in the city every day, neighbors in the Richmond District say many of the stolen luggage, backpacks and other items end up being dumped in their neighborhood.
Thanks to the power of social media, these neighbors usually post about the stolen luggage they found and connected through the Nextdoor app.
A man who started this massive effort about a year ago says he has already helped 50 tourists get their belongings back, and he was recently able to help a group over the weekend.
First the shattered glass, then the strewn luggage on the streets of San Francisco.
“From Park Presidio to about 20th Avenue is a place where we find them every day,” said Mark Dietrich.
Neighbors in the Richmond District, such as Mark Dietrich, say scenes like this are becoming more common in the neighborhood after burglars at tourist spots like Fisherman’s Wharf and the Center for Fine Arts break into cars, steal items and then dump the stolen suitcases.
“If they want to escape quickly, they jump on the Golden Gate Bridge and it spits it out into our neighborhood, and boom, this is the first place they can pull into a parking lot and dump it in someone’s driveway,” Dietrich says. said.
Dietrich says he found dozens of bags in the past year as he began tracking down victims to return their belongings. He says he has already helped about 50 tourists.
“Sometimes it’s one backpack, a week or two ago it was an entire college women’s volleyball team whose vans were wrecked again in Land’s End, taking all their gear and equipment,” Dietrich said.
They are also sentimental items like an army veteran’s backpack.
Dietrich says a bag was recently stolen while a group was visiting from Kentucky on Saturday.
He says one of the victims told him that the bag survived two round trips in Iraq, but didn’t make it to two hours in San Francisco.
Dietrich eventually found the backpack and was able to return it to the veteran.
Meanwhile, on Monday, another neighbor found this bag and posted about it on Nextdoor, a social media site where many in the city are posting about the recovered items.
“Someone messaged me, ‘Hey, I found a bag. I don’t know what to do with it.” So I zipped over there and grabbed the bag. I mean the bags here. I’ve gone through it and there’s no identification, nothing in it at all,” Dietrich said.
In these cases, Dietrich will turn it over to the police.
While this community effort isn’t stopping the thefts, he says at least it’s something everyone can do to help remedy this growing problem.
“The least we can do as neighbors is help these poor tourists who come here on vacation and we rob, the least we can do when we walk down the street is at least shovel the sidewalk of stolen luggage and find out how they can get it back,” Dietrich said.
This effort is something that many local networks in the city are now leveraging and collaborating to return stolen items.
In addition to Nextdoor, you can sometimes see neighbors posting about stolen items on Facebook or Twitter.