After suffering several window smashing incidents, the owner of Video Wave is at a loss for what to do after being told by police that it’s up to him to solve the problem.
Video Wave on 24th Street in Noe Valley is one of three remaining video rental stores in San Francisco. Recently, the store experienced vandalism in the form of broken windows. In the last two months the store has had two windows broken. The owner, Collin Hutton, has a pending police report for each incident.
Hutton is the co-owner and sole employee of Video Wave.
“I literally cannot afford to have a trainee.” said Hutton, who has had to pay extra for glass replacement and a better security system. One of the main windows is still broken from the most recent incident. Hutton explained that he is waiting until a window alarm can be installed before he gets the window fixed.
Because of California proposition 47 that went into effect several years ago, the District Attorney’s (DA) office does not prosecute petty crimes. Vandalism, such as breaking windows, falls under the category of “misdemeanors”, and unless the perpetrator has prior convictions, they will not face legal action from the DA.
“I don’t know why the DA has literally let it be known that this is their policy.” said Hutton.
In the past year or so there has been a rise in property crime and car break-ins.4 Uniform Crime Reporting data shows a rise in property crimes in 2017 and a 24 percent increase in car thefts this last year.
“It makes all of us merchants who this has happen to feel like ‘oh, we’re not important.’” Hutton said. He has also tried to contact the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association but said that he was unsuccessful.
On the plus side, the SFPD has more beat cops patrolling commercial streets in Noe Valley and Castro, as well as the rest of the city.6 The cops in the area act as deterrents for petty crimes such as break-ins to cars and shops on 24th Street.
In addition to Video Wave, Russo Music also experienced the same vandalism.
The manager at Russo music confirmed that he had a lengthy conversation with Hutton, where they discussed security and the possibility of filing for a restraining order. However, on top of fixing the windows and getting little help from the police, it is a lot of work for small business owners.
“We don’t have the funds to pay exuberant legal fees just to get our windows fixed,” said Russo Music Manager Patrick Corona. He also said that they were not able to obtain video footage of their own window vandal from a month back.
The Starbucks across the street on the corner of Noe and 24th streets was also hit at the same time as Video Wave. Similar to Hutton, Starbucks was told to handle it themselves.
“It definitely puts us in a hard position to have to deal with these sort of issues that aren’t really our issues.”
Ruvalcaba thinks that if the problem persists that the businesses in the area would try to get a restraining order. However, the perpetrator would need to be identified and Starbucks only got partial video footage of the vandal.
“You start to realize what the police can do is very limited especially when it comes to that type of stuff” said Ruvalcaba, referring to petty crimes such as vandalism.
The business owners affected only have the option to file restraining orders. However, Hutton and Corona are unsure who committed the crimes, and even if they had this information, a restraining order can only go too far.
“I think criminals know that they can break into your car, and then break into a store and nothing will happen to them.” said Hutton.
Additional information obtained from the following sources: