Gangs have a fun weekend in San Francisco – robbing and looting

Drivers blared their horns Saturday evening as dozens of thieves carrying luggage and bags darted from a Nordstrom department store near San Francisco and hopped into cars waiting for them outside. All but three of the 80 or so looters escaped, police said…

The spectacle Saturday night was one of several incidents of looting and shoplifting reported at high-end retail stores around the Bay Area over the weekend.

On Friday night, thieves broke into at least 10 stores, including a Louis Vuitton in San Francisco’s Union Square. And on Sunday night, officers in Hayward, about a 30-minute drive from San Francisco, were investigating after a group of smash-and-grab burglars destroyed glass cabinets and stole merchandise from a mall jewelry store.

…Nordstrom employees and shoppers in Walnut Creek were ambushed by approximately 80 thieves who entered the store in unison just before 9 p.m., police said.

Jodi Hernandez, a reporter with NBC Bay Area, was outside the store and recorded footage of what she dubbed the “flash mob robbery.” Hernandez said about 25 cars blocked the street in front of Nordstrom before the occupants stormed inside and then returned to the vehicles with stolen merchandise.

Jim Dudley, a retired San Francisco Police officer who now teaches criminal justice at San Francisco State University, said the burglaries might be the result of a “perfect storm” created by corporations and policymakers in California, where many retailers have “no chase” policies regarding shoplifters and where at least $950 of merchandise must be stolen for state prosecutors to press felony charges.

The weekend’s looting and shoplifting incidents “seem to be coordinated, with tools, lookouts, vehicles for getaway and swarming tactics used by criminals with intent to plunder,”

You know if these gangs were Left-wing political groups…just planning peaceful flash mob demonstrations…absolutely everything about the planned events would be known in advance by the local coppers. They all get sufficient funds to pay for informants inside any political organization standing to the left of Fox News. Just another line item in the budget.

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After the San Bruno blast – locating all the old pipelines


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

People who were rattled by the Sept. 9 San Bruno disaster and want to find out if there are potentially explosive pipelines under their neighborhoods have a tough task of sleuthing ahead of them. Most of the information is out there, if they hunt and push hard enough – but that information reveals only so much.

Databases, maps and help lines are available through national and state agencies as well as Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the main supplier of natural gas in Northern California. But there are too many kinds of gas lines from too many companies, and too many security concerns, for any one person to get locations easily, experts and public officials say.

Everyone is asking where these pipelines are, and the answers aren’t easy to get,” said Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer organization. “Customers can’t wait years or months for that information. We need a better system…”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, California has 122,217 miles of liquid and petroleum pipelines crisscrossing its towns, fields and mountains. To find out where these are, the central source of information is the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration’s national map of major pipelines. The map gives a general idea of where the lines are, but it doesn’t show detail street by street…

In the Bay Area, the most recent high-profile accident involving gas pipelines was in 2004, when a backhoe operator punctured a high-pressure gasoline pipeline in Walnut Creek owned by Kinder Morgan. The explosion killed five construction workers.

We haven’t an accident of this size in a few years in New Mexico. We’ve only just avoided a couple, though, including a gas leak recently reported in the heart of Albuquerque associated with roadwork – that went unrepaired for a few weeks.

Robots that crawl through pipelines have been available – and rarely used – for several years. PG&E is deploying them 24/7 since the San Bruno explosion. But, more often they’re limited to scheduled maintenance trips based on budget as much as anything else. Or when they produce a profit – like drawing cable TV and broadband lines through existing pipelines.

None of which engenders a lot of confidence.