Police arrested one person and detained two more during a February 22 raid on an illegal gambling den that had been operating for months out of an empty storefront at 133 Lilac St.
The person taken into custody had an outstanding warrant in another county that was unrelated to the den, said San Francisco Police Department Spokesperson Robert Rueca.
The other two people were detained on probable cause for their connection with the establishment but later released.
At 2:30 a.m. on February 22, police moved in on the space that once housed a soda shop but in the last year-and-half has been illegally occupied and converted into a party venue. Neighbors have complained about alcohol and drug consumption and sale, after hour partying, gambling, violence and prostitution.
While Rueca said police found no evidence of prostitution during the raid, neighbors who have entered the den to capture video evidence of criminal activity alleged that a back room in the storefront had served as as a brothel of sorts.
The long list of complaints against the clandestine establishment originally started with a noise complaint, said Rueca. After coordinating with the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, the San Francisco Police Department was able to obtain a search warrant on the suspicion of illegal alcohol sales.
After entering the establishment, police seized “all property associated to the nightclub,” including alcohol, narcotics, gaming machines, as well as music and lighting equipment, said Rueca.
Police are now monitoring the location in an effort to prevent the party from returning.
Last month’s raid wasn’t the first time that police had pulled the plugs on the gambling den. In January 2016, the den had operated out of the building’s Mission Street entrance and was shut down following a string of nuisance complaints and a shooting incident that sent one man to the hospital.
Although its tenants were evicted by the Sheriff’s Department at the time, the calm didn’t last long. Trouble continued to find a way back into empty storefront at 26th and Mission streets, most recently through its back entrance at 133 Lilac St.
Days before the the February raid, a resident of the area told Mission Local that her friend had filed a police report after a man robbed her at gunpoint near 25th and Capp streets and allegedly fled into the gambling den.
Rueca said that such reports are helpful in building a case and obtaining a search warrant, but do not necessarily authorize police to take action immediately.
“It may have been just a patron that ran in there as a safe haven,” said Rueca. Still, without evidence of a crime being committed, police have little authority to enter an establishment without a warrant.
“We have to see it ourselves, witness it and have strong evidence for us to take further action,” said Rueca, adding that the community’s effort in reporting suspected illegal activity is crucial. “Simple calls for service we can build on. That adds to our cases and allows us to do more eventually.”
As complaints continued to pile up against 133 Lilac St., police were able to shut the party down – for now.
“We are keeping an eye on it. We know it’s a known spot [for gambling] as a lot of these places are. We can’t allow for these places to occur,” said Rueca.