Robbery spree spooks businesses 

Three late-evening robberies in the past two weeks have business owners in the southwest sector of San Francisco on alert and watching who is walking the streets at night.

Three businesses in the Bernal Heights and Ocean View/Merced Heights/Ingleside neighborhoods have been robbed at gunpoint since Dec. 23, according to Inspector Stephen Morimoto. In two of the incidents, the men responsible were clad ingloves and masks to hide their identity. In the third, the suspect was described as a black male with a receding hairline and no teeth. In all three robberies, the suspects have threatened business employees with a black semiautomatic handgun.

The suspect or suspects may also be using a light blue van for an escape vehicle.

"The MO is very similar, the men come in around closing time, the descriptions of the suspects are close, and the final two robberies were within 45 minutes of each other," Morimoto said.

On Dec. 23, an Italian restaurant on Cortland Avenue was robbed just before midnight. On Jan. 2, Dan Cleaner on Gates Street was robbed in a similar fashion at 7:50 p.m. A half-hour later, Taqueria El Jalapeño was robbed, this time by a black male with a receding hairline, in his late 40s, standing about 5 feet 6 inches tall and missing his front teeth.

Cleaner owner Kathy Huang said she and her coworkers are still shaken up after the suspect stole a small amount of money from their cash register while brandishing the handgun.

OMI Business League Chairman and CEO Royce Vaughn said the tight-knit community has met with SFPD officers from the nearby Taraval station to discuss safety, and patrol officers from the station are increasing the time they spend around the affected areas.

"I am regularly in touch with the Taraval station, weekly, sometimes daily, because frequent involvement has a lot to do with leading towards more civil behavior on the part of the neighborhood," Vaughn said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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