I just came across the following facebook status. I cannot testify to its veracity, although given the SF DA policy not to prosecute quality-of-life crimes it sounds believable. Anyway, this status triggered several questions:
Is a robbery that includes smashing a car window with the driver inside considered a non-violent property crime?
If the police witness such a robbery do they have the duty to intervene?
Is it true that if the victim fights back in such situation and injures the assailant, the robbery victim may be prosecuted for using violence against the robber?
Robbery in Golden Gate Park:
On Thursday evening, I was witness to and nearly a victim of an aggressive robbery near the bison paddock on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. I was photographing great horned owls. Around 8:10PM, I was packing up equipment and putting it in my car. Another photographer was doing the same further down the road behind me. As this person got in their car, I saw a small white car pull up and abruptly stop right next to it. A masked man jumped out and began smashing in the rear window of the other photographer’s car.
By the time I got my wits about me and managed to get into my car and start the engine - no more than 10 seconds - they had finished robbing the other person and had now pulled up alongside me. The passenger-side door opened and the masked assailant began to step out, ready to smash his way into my car. With only a few seconds to spare, I stepped on the gas and pulled away, fully expecting that they would give up and flee. But they chased me, and pulled up alongside me, either trying to run me off the road or cut me off and stop me. I sped up and got ahead of them.
Probably going 50MPH with the assailants’ car right behind me, we ran through two stop signs and barreled over speed bumps for nearly a mile before they slowed down, made a U-turn, and disappeared out the 33rd Ave gate. (Keep in mind, I bike this road nearly every day and am very respectful of more vulnerable road users when in my car. I gave the few cyclists that happened to be out a wide berth as we passed.)
I circled back and by then the cops were there. I gave a statement, along with the other victim and two witnesses. Nobody saw their faces or license plate. They were fast, prepared, and extremely aggressive.
The officer explained that these smash-and-grabs are merely considered property crimes and are NOT considered violent crimes (yes, you read that correctly) so they don't really pursue them, and if they did hypothetically make an arrest, the judge would just let them go, including repeat offenders. He even said if police were to witness one of these incidents occur, they would NOT chase the culprits. He also informed me that if one were to fight back and injure (or worse) one of these thieves during a robbery, then that person would likely be charged with assault for using violence against a "non-violent" criminal. Unbelievable. So scary and so very frustrating.
So be careful out there. I am finished shooting pictures and video in the park. Way too dangerous, and the police are not going to be there when you need them. And even if they were, they wouldn't help you anyway. I'm sharing this story as a reminder to others to stay in groups, and always be aware of your surroundings.