Spike in young robbers seen in The City 

Robberies have increased along southern parts of Mission Street where “rat pack” groups of youths are mugging individuals for their valuables, according to police.

The muggings are happening along major thoroughfares in Bernal Heights and the Excelsior district, Ingleside Police Station Capt. David Lazar said. Robberies also have been accompanied by an increase in commercial burglaries — when a robber enters a business — Lazar said Thursday at a CompStat meeting.

In the Ingleside district, there were 40 robberies reported between Dec. 20 and Jan. 16, according to police data. During the same time period in November, there were 23 robberies reported.

Youths committed half of them, Lazar said, often in groups of about five kids who roam around with a “rat pack kind of mentality,” intimidating individuals into giving up their iPods or money.

The rise in robberies, especially those committed by youths, could be a result of schools being closed for the winter break, according to police Lt. Lyn Tomioka.

“You typically see a decrease in juvenile crimes once school is back in session,” she said.

Police arrested 12 people on suspicion of robberies in the past month in the Ingleside police district. Lazar said five youths arrested were responsible for two robberies.

Officers also are seeing youths forming smaller gangs and “making a name for themselves,” Lazar said.

The Bayview district also has seen an increase in robberies. Bayview Police Station officers responded to 31 incidents in a 25-day period, up about 15 percent from the previous reporting period.

Burglaries became a hot-button issue in Bernal Heights two years ago when a spike in violent robberies prompted neighborhood outrage and increased patrols and decoy operations in the area. Neighbors held community meetings and formed citizen patrols.

In Glen Park, which also was part of the 2008 spike in robberies, residents and merchants say hiring a full-time Patrol Special Police officer has been successful in making the area safer.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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