Baseball bat-wielding gangs of children are mugging mothers and nannies on the school run in the latest crime wave to hit San Francisco.
Last week Noe Valley, also known as “stroller valley” because of the growing population of young families, endured 11 phone robberies that are believed to have been carried out by the same gang who are targeting women picking up children from school.
One woman was reportedly hit with a baseball bat, while another was punched in the face, before the offender ran to a getaway car and drove off.
On Thursday the police had arrested one minor in connection with the 11 robberies and were searching for the others.
Rafael Mandelman, who sits on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which is responsible for legislating, said there are a growing number of children “doing these really awful things”.
“I think, what happened with kids not being in school, I think there may be something going on with that, that we’re going to be experiencing for a while”, he said.
He added: “Those couple of years where school was erratic or non-existent, where everyone was under stress, parents and caregivers were under stress. That was probably impacting vulnerable communities more anyway. Sociologically. who knows what was going on, but I would not be surprised if we are going to be experiencing the lingering impacts of that for a generation.”
The California city has slumped in recent years from one of the most desirable places to live to one crippled by opioid usage, a disproportionate rate of homelessness and rising crime.
Chesa Boudin, a former district attorney, who was ousted last year, introduced policies in office including refusing to prosecute children as adults, aggressively going after police officers who commit crime, and reducing the prison population.
There has been a 11 per cent increase in robberies for the first six months of the year when compared to the same period in 2022.
Violent robberies are being carried out in broad daylight in wealthy enclaves such as Noe Valley, a tight-knit community, where free yoga classes are held every Sunday in the town square.
One victim of the string of recent attacks, who only wished to be identified as CW, said the police appeared to have “zero interest” in investigating her attack.
She was thrown to the ground by a boy who stole her phone last Monday when she was on the way to collect her daughter from the nursery.
A neighbour’s security system caught the car on video and she was able to track her phone for 18 hours after the attack. But after she reported the crime, no investigator responded to the developments.
When she emailed a police officer to ask who she could contact to help “improve how these things get tackled”, she was told to “do some research yourself”.
The next day she was driving to the police station to complain about the response, when she saw a patrol car on the street where she had been robbed.
Punched in the face
It transpired another mother had been attacked, with the same getaway car, but this time she was punched in the face.
“For 24 hours, I had been trying desperately to get the police to engage with me to stop these guys. Zero response. And then it happened again in the same location,” she said.
Mr Mandelman said the city’s soft approach on crime has been good at “dismantling the systems” without fixing the underlying problems.
“I don’t think that our interventions for people who are committing petty crimes are particularly effective. I mean, fine, you don’t put people in jail, but what are you doing? Well, if you’re doing nothing, then what’s the outcome going to be? Not great.”
The San Francisco Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.