Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Laptop thefts in SF

From craigslist
Date: 2005-12-06, 7:03PM PST

For the second time in two months, I have been sitting next to someone in a cafe whose laptop was literally wrenched out of their hands. The first time was at Bean There on Waller and Steiner right before Halloween, the second was today at Jumpin' Java on Noe near 14th.

In both cases, the culprits were trios of African-American teenagers, usually dressed in black. Their standard M.O. is to enter the cafe, buy something at the counter, then as they leave, to grab the laptop computer nearest to the front exit before they dash out. The two who took the laptop tonight had a third accomplice who drove a getaway car, a weatherbeaten gray and black Honda Accord. Within minutes of the first theft, they hit a second cafe not far away from the first.

The police on the scene mentioned that there has been a rash of these thefts. A first group was caught earlier in the year, and now a second group seems to have taken over. Any cafe within spitting distance of the Fillmore district seems unsafe. Laptops are usually resold on the street, or even in Oakland.

If you use a laptop in a cafe, you should be extremely careful. I am probably going to buy a cable-lock for my own computer, which can be locked to the leg of any cafe table I use. Avoid sitting near the front door if using your cafe at a laptop. In both thefts I witnessed, the laptops were both running on battery power, meaning that there were no plugged-in cables to hinder the thieves from grabbing the devices.

And back up your data! Tonight's victim was a software developer who told me the laptop was unimportant compared to the extremely valuable data that was on it.


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