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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rock On: Is Simplistic Smash 'n' Grab Robber Menacing Chinatown Again?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge The 'River Rock Burglar,' portrayed here by Billy Joel, has hit five San Francisco stores in the past two weeks
  • The 'River Rock Burglar,' portrayed here by Billy Joel, has hit five San Francisco stores in the past two weeks
In the annals of criminality, there are numerous men and women who have earned dubious distinctions via decisions such as wearing paraphernalia emblazoned with their names or places of business during a robbery, or tripping on oversize, sagging jeans while fleeing from the cops. In San Francisco, however, special mention is reserved for Chinatown's "River Rock Burglar," whom police believe is currently tossing his signature objects through windows -- for the third time in four years.

Captain James Dudley of Central Station noted that a burglar tossing smooth cobblestones through store windows has hit five Chinatown-area stores in the past two weeks. Twice in the past four years the SFPD has nailed the same man for smash 'n' grab robberies involving smooth cobblestones -- hence the name "River Rock Burglar." The burglar -- a white man, now 48 years old and standing 6-feet-tall and weighing around 190 pounds -- was paroled on July 3, just a river rock's throw from the date of the first smash 'n' grab robbery in the current spate. Guess who's No. 1 on the cops' suspect list?

"Well, these guys tend to go with what works well for them," notes Dudley. "They're not really innovative. That's how we catch them. They wear the same Gap sweatshirt or Yankees hat or bad wig or bad sunglasses."

Dudley showed such confidence in the suspect's intellect and worldliness that he told SF Weekly that the cops are searching for the site of the River Rock Burglar's quarry, scouring local parks and SRO hotels where he's tended to sleep in the past, and, if that fails to turn him up, they'll simply coordinate with his parole officer (he hasn't had to have a meeting -- yet).

The burglar's most recent robbery was a tray of computer monitors and other electronic equipment nabbed from 500 Washington. In the past, Dudley says the police have recovered the River Rock Burglar's stashes in local parks -- meaning his storage system is every bit as cutting-edge as his M.O.

"A tray of monitors -- you can't get too far with that. He's stockpiling it or moving it immediately," noted Dudley.

Last time around, the burglar broke into eight stores before being apprehended; on his first go-round he smashed up at least five.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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