Mission District Police Captain Robert Moser says pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings, especially when using an iPhone.

It’s been a productive year for cops and robbers in San Francisco’s Mission District, and a dangerous time to be a smartphone owner.

As of the end of August, the neighborhood has seen a sharp rise in robberies, with 34 percent more incidents compared to the same period last year, according to San Francisco Police Department CompStat data.

Robert Moser, Mission District police captain, said his data indicates robberies are up 41 percent for the year. Meanwhile, police arrested a whopping 147 percent more robbery suspects in the Mission than in the first eight months of 2012.

Moser said: “It’s hard to say” why. “Robberies, like a lot of street crimes, are cyclical. They kind of come in waves, up and down.”

Of the robberies, most occurred on Mission Street between 16th and 24th, frequently around the highly trafficked BART stations, said Moser. Smartphones are the most common targets, and police warn pedestrians to be particularly careful when using their phones in the area.

In response to smartphone robberies, District Attorney George Gascón sent out a statement this week asking iPhone users to update to the newest operating system, which includes a feature, “Find My iPhone Activation Lock,” designed to make stolen iPhones easier to track.

The upward trend in robberies began in February, with an unusually high 71 robbery reports – a 57 percent increase from January and a 129 percent jump from February 2012, according to police data. The number of reported robberies dropped back down to 42 in March, but started to pick up again in the summer. In May to the end of August, the Mission saw a total of 271 robberies, about 43 percent more than in summer 2012.

To many in the Mission, the numbers aren’t surprising. Munstasir Alkhrissat, 21, works in the Mission, and waits for the bus near the busy 16th BART station almost every day. He often witnesses criminal activity, arrests, or evidence of crimes committed, such as broken car windows, he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of trouble around here,” said Alkhrissat.

William Jackson, 60, who was selling newspapers on Mission Street Wednesday afternoon, echoed a similar sentiment, noting that he’s seen brazen robberies in midday. “The Mission don’t surprise me,” he said.

However, others in the neighborhood say it’s been a relatively quiet summer, including Alex Suen, who has owned Mona’s Apparel on Mission Street for more than 30 years. Suen hears about strangers being mugged in the area, but hasn’t experienced any serious incidents this year, he said.

“To me it’s not bad,” Suen said. He added, pointing to the corner of 16th and Mission: “But of course it’s much worse over there.”

Moser chalks up the rise in arrests to good police work: saturating the most crime-ridden areas with officers, following up with robbery victims and getting good information from witnesses and surveillance footage.

“When you look at a particular crime going up, what I’m really concerned with is, ‘How are we doing in terms of arrests?’” said Moser.

Almost all arrests stemmed from incidents reported this year, he said, though he wasn’t sure how many led to charges.

The District Attorney’s office didn’t return a request for comment.

Many robberies in the Mission are crimes of opportunity, Moser said, so police advise pedestrians to be conscious of their environment and stay in well-lit streets at night to avoid becoming victims.

“Being aware of your surroundings is number one,” he said. “It really is key.”

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Andy Mannix is a national-award-winning investigative reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he worked as in-depth projects desk editor for the Minnesota Daily, named the best college newspaper in the country by the Society of Professional Journalists during his senior year. After graduating in December 2009, Andy spent three and a half years as a staff writer for Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, writing long-form, in-depth stories on state politics, city government and the criminal justice system. He's now a freelance writer pursuing a master's degree at UC-Berkeley's graduate school of journalism.

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  1. Having moved out of the MISSION years ago, I can unhappily report that CRIME has always been a “growth industry” in the Mission. And now with the income inequity being what it is and all the gains going to the top less than 1%, what can you expect ??but more of the same ! ! After all that is what gangster and predatory Capitalism is all about !!

  2. Hey Landline, yes, this cesspool is MY (VERY) longtime home and I want to see it improve. By that I mean become safer and cleaner. You’ve done an excellent job of dehumanizing yourself with your ignorant comments. Do you simply hate anyone who has his/her own stuff? You say you’re sober — well you sound like a Dry Drunk to me. Take my “bread” and I’ll have your ass arrested.

    1. Nope, just classist commenters like Pamela always harping on “quality of life” issues without offering any solutions.

      Clean Up the Plaza. Are the people that hang out there garbage?

      22 years without a drink or drugs. How long for you?

      1. Your comments are that of a 15 year old but you have been sober 22 years? Wow:-) Sobriety usually matures people.

  3. “Robberies Up 34 Percent in Mission” – but down 66% in Specific Whites, and that’s all that really matters. As long as the percentages remain high in the gullies and hollows, but low in the heights, the target is achieved.

    This past January I was burglarized. While SFPD was conducting their “investigation” they got a call and started to leave.
    I asked them: “Hey, where’re you going?!?”
    Answer: “We got an important call, we’ll return.”
    Thanks, I’ll wait here all traumatized until you return.

  4. “Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.” Emma Goldman

  5. Yeah, like how many were done by the same people (even arrested and let out) because the city won’t prosecute them (for “petty” crime).

    1. I, too, prefer to blame the victims of crime.
      About women put their bare legs away too!

      (by the way, this was meant to be taken with lots of sarcasm)

      1. I hear what you’re saying, but he kinda has a point. There are way too many dingpats piddling about the streets with their faces glued to their devices, not paying attention to their surroundings, nearly bumping into people when they’re walking down the street.

        If ya gotta look at the phone, just take a breather, pull over to the side, and look at the phone. Don’t try to walk and text at the same time. If you have your head down, and aren’t aware of your surroundings, don’t be shocked when you get got. Not saying it’s right, but it’s a reality, and it’s up to us to be prepared.

        1. You got it Blurpy. I have the wisdom of age, and kinda brace myself at those SF intersections and neighborhoods without thinking about it, but I work at an unnamed east bay higher ed institution and read the crime reports there, and see the population (sometimes me too), feeling safe as houses, and literally holding these $1000 treasures in front of their faces as they walk. It’s kind of a thing!

  6. No surprise with the 34% increase. The Mission District is a cesspool. 16th & 24th/Mission being the worst corners.
    Yet again Supervisor Campos is being very quiet about the daily violence in District 9.

    1. Hyperbole much, Pamela? How can you possibly compare 24th & Mission and 16th & Mission? Yeah, there is crime at 24th, but nothing like what goes on at 16th.

    2. One person’s cesspool is another person’s longtime home.

      Even casual comment readers get that you don’t like poor people, Pamela. Too bad. There are too many of us, in fact, more each day, and if you kick us out of our houses, we’ll still be here on the street. And when we are on the street with nothing to lose or eat, we might have to steal your smartphone to survive.

      1. Your an idiot ‘landline’. Do you think anyone is scared of you? When you get beat down for trying to steal anything from me you will think twice. Don’t cry:)

      2. You’re funny. Please, landline, could you share with us the Poor People’s Handbook? You know, the one that says if you’re poor, you’re entitled to urinate and defecate all over your “longtime home?” The one that says it’s cool to have litter strewn about the streets and sidewalks, to lay passed out on the ground with your pants down and feces caked onto your buttocks, and where it’s completely permissible to take from others when you are not willing to do what it takes to provide for yourself?

        “we might have to steal your smartphone to survive”

        Be honest, you may “have” to steal one in order to get a shiny new pair of Nike’s, or to get high. Nobody is stealing smart phones to “survive.”

        1. Don’t get high, don’t wear Nikes. Clean and sober so I don’t end up like your detailed description, although I recently learned that the Clean Up the Plaza people like to post pictures of passed out people on their Twitter in order to dehumanize poor people. Shame on them.

          If you don’t understand the link between poverty and crime, maybe it’s you that’s getting high.

          Despite advocates like Pamela, a policy of economic cleansing won’t work and will face resistance. Long live the chess players on Market Street. Long live the Mission for all of us.

          1. Well, you sound like a real stand-up citizen, aside from that part where you stated

            “we might have to steal your smartphone to survive,” meaning you basically align yourself with people that indulge in that kind of behavior.

            Sure, I can see how there is a correlation between poverty and crime, but that doesn’t mean one always leads to another. You make choices, and you create outcomes. Being poor doesn’t mean you have to act poorly.

            You know a good way to get “dehumanized?” When you stop acting civilized. That has less to do with economic standing than you may think.