By VANESSA CARR
They weigh 20 pounds on average, often hold thousands of dollars and three have been stolen in the last month from Mission District markets within a mile and a half of one another.
Cash registers, it turns out, are easier to lift than expected.
The most brazen of the register burglaries happened in broad daylight at Sam’s Market near Precita Park on Thursday, Aug. 20 just before 5 p.m.
“They didn’t say anything, just came in and grabbed it,” said Norma Abu, who owns the store with her husband and was working the register at the time. “I was in shock.”
Two men entered the store, Abu said. One took the easy-to-lift cash register—and the $2,000 inside—and one shadowed. Neither showed weapons. The whole incident lasted just a few seconds, leaving her too surprised to react or recall their faces.
“It’s not common to take the whole register,” said Sergeant Jim Miller of the Ingleside Police Department, which covers the area south of Cesar Chavez St. “But it’s the quickest and easiest way to take everything…and a way of avoiding an altercation with the clerk.”
The two suspects fled in an SUV as Abu’s husband chased after them, shouting license plate numbers back to her, said a neighbor who arrived on the scene shortly after police were called and who has asked not to be identified by name.
Though she had to call police more than once before an officer arrived, Abu said was happy with their response.
Police recovered the vehicle six hours later—no cash register inside—in Sebastopol, Ca., but no arrests have been made, said Inspector Alan Honniball.
The other two burglaries happened in the middle of the night, when the stores were closed. In both cases, the burglars entered by cutting the lock and breaking a window.
Rose Food Mart on Potrero Ave. and 22nd St. was burglarized just before 2 a.m. on Aug. 7. An upstairs neighbor saw three suspects leave in a white van with a blue stripe that had been parked out front with its doors open. The police report said the witness was able to write down only part of the license plate number.
Though uncertain whether any arrests have been made, Ateyeh Ateyeh, the market’s owner, said the police who responded to the incident did a very good job.
Raymond Jada, who owns R Image Market on Folsom and 25th Streets, was unhappy with the police response to his burglary on July 29 at 4:30 a.m. A security camera recorded the incident, he said, but police never returned to download the tape.
“Why should they?” he asked, dubious that solving the case was a high priority for police.
R Image lost $1,800 when the cash register was stolen, according to the police report.
It is unknown whether police are investigating a possible connection between these burglaries. However, most serial burglars avoid staying in one neighborhood for fear of getting caught, a foot patrol officer said.
And, though unusual, these burglaries do not suggest that theft and property crime are on the rise in the Mission.
“We have not seen an increase in burglaries,” said Sergeant Lyn Tomioka, public information officer for the San Francisco Police Department.
Since June, there have been 108 residential and commercial burglaries in the Mission District, according to police data. This number is down compared to 189 in 2006 and 218 in 2005, the most recent years posted on the police department’s web site.