Was it the work of opportunist crooks or political saboteurs?
The day before the election, Supervisor David Chiu’s mayoral campaign headquarters on Van Ness Avenue was ransacked and burglarized — with cash, cellphones, computer equipment and “confidential” documents stolen, according to police and outraged staffers.
The theft was reported to police after horrified campaign workers stumbled upon the wreckage at the 1800 Van Ness Ave. office around 9:30 a.m. The crook or crooks “rooted through” top-secret campaign materials, pulling them out of drawers and leaving them scattered on the floor, campaign manager Nicole Derse said.
Within hours of the discovery, the campaign released a statement “Chiu-ing” out the burglars.
“If this was a politically motivated attempt to distract the Chiu for Mayor campaign on the eve of Election Day, it has failed miserably,” Derse said in the statement.
None of the 16 mayoral candidates or their staffers has been named as a suspect.
Staffers said they were working in the office Sunday until around midnight. Around 9:30 a.m. Monday, they returned from campaigning around The City and found the headquarters in disarray.
San Francisco police investigators instructed staffers not to disrupt the crime scene. The investigators gathered evidence early Monday afternoon.
There were signs of forced entry, SFPD spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
The SFPD Special Investigations Division has been assigned to the case since the crime involves a politician. The unit’s work includes coordinating with the Secret Service when a president visits The City and investigating hate crimes, Andraychak said.
Investigators were searching for surveillance cameras in the area Monday, the police spokesman said.
Political consultant Jim Ross, who is not affiliated with any campaigns this election season, said he doubts rivals would resort to stealing. While politically motivated graffiti has occurred in the days before an election, there likely isn’t any top-secret document that would make a difference a day before the election, Ross said.
But robberies of campaigns are common, he said. Many people flow through a campaign’s headquarters daily, allowing opportunists to case a place, Ross said.
“You always have to be very careful,” he said. “You’ll get someone walking past campaign headquarters looking in the windows thinking, ‘Wow, laptops, cellphones, things that I can sell.’”
And limited campaign dollars are spent on winning elections, not installing security at headquarters, Ross added.
Derse said the incident will not deter the Chiu campaign, adding that the staff is confident cops will catch the crooks.
“In the meantime, we will get back to work,” Derse said.
The City was the site of another campaign-related heist in 2003. According to reports, a thief swiped a laptop from a car belonging to the spokesman for then-presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who had delivered a speech at the Commonwealth Club of California. The laptop reportedly contained sensitive campaign information.
Examiner file photo
No advantage: A political consultant says a rival would gain little by stealing sensitive documents the day before an election.