How SFPD Caught One of the Violent Panhandle Bike Thieves

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFPD says it has arrested one of the bike thieves who assaulted six people biking on the Panhandle in October and stole their bikes. Lieutenant Jason Sawyer of SFPD Park Station’s Investigations Unit said police “have no doubt” that the juvenile male was one of the assailants who threw bottles at bike commuters and jammed sticks into their spokes late at night.

Sawyer said police caught the suspect by setting up a sting after one of the victims saw their bike on sale on Craigslist. The victim contacted police, who initiated a faux sale to arrest him. Typically, bike thieves sell the bikes to a third party first, he said.

“He was not the smartest crook,” said Sawyer. “He basically committed the crime, and was right there selling the bike as well.”

Police must still prove that the suspect was directly involved with the attacks, but they “have no doubt,” Sawyer said. “As soon as he knew we were looking at him, all these robberies stopped. There were a rash of them within a few days — all very violent. Nothing since.”

In a blog post, the SF Bicycle Coalition gave “many thanks to the SFPD for responding swiftly to our calls, and for following through on the investigation.”

“Biking on the Panhandle needs to remain safe and comfortable, serving as a busy and important connector for people biking between the Eastern and Western neighborhoods of our city,” the SFBC wrote.

Sawyer said police can’t release many details on the ongoing investigation, or information about the suspect, because he’s a juvenile. He has been charged with possession of stolen property in the juvenile court system, but charges for the robberies haven’t been brought yet since the victims haven’t been able to identify their assailants. “It was dark and they were very terrified,” he said.

“We know he did it; he knows that we know he did it,” said Sawyer.

  • p_chazz

    Until the suspect is convicted of the crime, the story should read that he ALLEGEDLY assaulted six people. I don’t care how sure the police are that they have the right person, in this country we are innocent until proven guilty. Streetsblog is rushing to judgment.

  • The language attributes the actions to what the police say, implying it’s not a conviction or fact. Adding “allegedly” would be redundant.

  • timsmith

    That’s what you focus on, of all things? Your dislike of people who bike is worthy of a parody Twitter account.

  • p_chazz

    I looked up “allegedly” in a usage dictionary and you are correct. Thanks you for clarifying, Aaron although I do think that it would have been clearer to have said “the police claimed…” instead.

  • GetHubNub

    Wow, the SFPD did something for a change.

  • p_chazz

    It’s not that I dislike bicyclists, it’s that I value the civil rights of the accused and that I don’t uncritically believe police statements.

  • p_chazz

  • Gezellig

    “The best way to use the words ‘allege’, ‘alleged’ and ‘allegedly’ is not to use them at all. Instead, have your scripts reveal who is making the claim by using phrases such as ‘police say’…”

    So, in light of that….

    “The SFPD says it has arrested one of the bike thieves…” –Aaron

    “The SFPD arrested one of the bike thieves…” –no one

    But please, do keep Living Your Best Life, making the absolute best use of your time tilting at all those Very Important windmills, Don p_chazz-e.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that “innocent until proven guilty” is a legal construct, i.e., you must be treated as innocent by the legal system until you’re found guilty by trial or by plea bargain. I don’t believe that same statute extends to the arena of public opinion.

  • murphstahoe


  • p_chazz

    Yes, but journalists have an obligation to report the news in a fair and unbiased manner, something that is often not done in so-called “advocacy journalism.”

  • SF Guest

    All lives matter regardless of their chosen mode of transit.

  • p_chazz

    So what are you saying? That all blacks are bike thieves?

  • murphstahoe


  • ImTheGingerbreadMan

    Who says Streetsblog is “Journalism?” A popup ad just informed me Streetsblog is “information and ideas” about city streets. No claims impartiality, no ethical standard here. It’s a blog. People can blog whatever they want.

  • Bobby500

    There is investigative journalism and there is advocacy journalism. The former seeks to inform; the latter seeks to persuade. SB is the latter.

  • Erica_JS

    Yes, we wouldn’t want to tarnish the good name of this… unnamed suspect. If they’d actually identified the kid, you might have more of a point.

  • We constantly strive to meet the ethical standards of The Gingerbread Man.

  • His comments merit #facepalm and #headdesk on a regular basis, but this particular nonsense deserves an #againststupiditythegodsthemselvescontendinvain (allegedly).

  • A writer of juvenile comments can be expected to stick up for a juvenile cohort.

  • One can do both. Consider the exposé of the NBBL memos. While the tabloids were content to simply repeat NBBL’s lawyer’s groundless and strenuous assertions, and while Michael Grynbaum was content to rewrite the same nonsense in Grey Lady prose, it took Streetsblog to actually obtain the documentation and report on it.

    In that case, Times readers were reading nothing but rehashed persuasion while Streetsblog readers got actual information.

  • p_chazz

    The title still ptesupposes that the police have apprehended thr actual perpetrator “How SFPD Caught One of the Violent Panhansle Bike Thieves.” It should read “How SFPD Made an Arrest in the Violent Panhandle Bike Thief Case.”

  • Who are we rushing to judgement on or protecting here?


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