A San Francisco reporter for a local news station was conducting an interview about theft problems in the Twin Peaks neighborhood when he was accosted at gunpoint and robbed of his camera.
Don Ford, a reporter for KPIX 5 News, was working on a story about robberies in the neighborhood that have been on the rise since the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority (SFMTA) closed the access road to the vista point — a popular tourist attraction — at the start of the pandemic. The road is still closed. The thefts that were once centered at the vista point and targetted at tourists have moved to a marked rise in car break-ins to the surrounding area since its closure.
On Wednesday afternoon, in broad daylight, Ford was interviewing nearby homeowners when what is described as a “white luxury sedan” with four men inside pulled up and accosted Ford at gunpoint.
“The car came up here while we were about to do an interview, three guys jumped out,” Ford says. “One had a gun and put in my face and said, ‘We’re taking the camera.’”
Both Ford and the subject of the interview held up their hands and let the men take the equipment. The reporter says that the entire encounter took less than a minute.
“I just looked and I said, ‘I’m not going to get shot today,’” the homeowner said in a retelling of events.
While the equipment was stolen, no one was harmed.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is the representative for San Francisco’s District 8, which includes Twin Peaks, tweeted that the robbery was “ridiculous and unacceptable… but not entirely unexpected.”
but not entirely unexpected in San Francisco in 2021. We need to adequately resource public safety agencies, adopt better strategies to stop repeat offenders & make clear that San Francisco is not a place that you can commit crimes & put people’s lives at risk with impunity. 2/2
— Rafael Mandelman (@RafaelMandelman) March 3, 2021
In response, the SFMTA addressed the situation:
“We are saddened to hear about what happened to reporter, Don Ford, while covering the story today… In an attempt to address these concerns, the south end gate at Portola Drive was opened in September daily between 6:00 p.m. and midnight to provide local access to the top of the peaks for people driving. However, some unresolved issues remain, so the SFMTA worked with the community and other city departments including Rec and Park, SFPD and Public Works on new ideas to ensure access and balance needs at Twin Peaks.”
It is unclear if opening the roads will reduce the crimes or simply reroute it. Twin Peaks is a common, popular vista point that San Francisco locals understand is also rife with crime. For several years, drive-by thefts of camera equipment and valuables have been commonplace. It appears that with the loss of that thieving ground, local groups of roving robbers have spread to the surrounding area and without the full reopening of the Twin Peaks lookout, it is unclear if that will change. Even if it does and no other changes are made, thefts will simply resume where they left off prior to the pandemic.
At the time of publication, no arrests had been made.