SAN FRANCISCO >> Despite there being more than two dozen surveillance cameras at the top of Twin Peaks, crime at the popular San Francisco tourist attraction continues to increase, hitting a troubling pitch over the weekend with the murder of a 71-year-old photographer.
One problem is the cameras near the viewpoint’s main parking lot are not intended to prevent or help solve crimes targeting sightseers inside the city park. Instead, the equipment was set up to protect one of San Francisco’s most vital telecommunication hubs, at the top of the famous Christmas Tree Point lookout where Edward French — a local film scout — was shot dead during a robbery on Sunday.
It’s not clear if French’s slaying was captured on video from the nearby red brick building, but some city officials are no longer satisfied with merely hoping the cameras catch criminal activity on the hill.
San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee, who represents District Seven, which includes part of Twin Peaks, is seeking funds in the latest city budget for additional security cameras at the overlook to cut down on the hundreds of auto burglaries a year in the park and to help prevent another tragedy like French’s killing.
The budget went before the Board of Supervisors for a first reading on Tuesday.
“I think that crime at Twin Peaks is something that the whole city needs to pay attention to,” Yee said Tuesday. “The locals up there understand that it’s not as safe as it used to be and you have to be careful.”
Locals may well understand the growing risks on Twin Peaks, but with a consistent stream of tourists seeking the hilltop’s breathtaking views, criminals have a wealth of fresh targets every day.
Property crimes at Twin Peaks have gone up 34 percent in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2016, according to the San Francisco Police Department’s crime statistics.
Most of those crimes are vehicle break-ins, 247 this year. There have also been several armed robberies in the past two years, including one this month. And before French was killed, two people were slain at Twin Peaks on Valentine’s Day 2016 in a high-profile early-morning triple shooting.
Richard Contreras, 27, has pleaded not guilty to the killings and his case is set for a preliminary hearing in early August.
For the most part the crimes go unsolved, and police and city officials hope French’s killing doesn’t see a similar fate.
“It illustrates my sense that it’s a priority to get these security cameras up there,” Yee said of Sunday’s killing. “It reinforces it even more.”
The dozens of cameras currently in place are crucial for monitoring the transmission building and its radio towers, which transmit signals for the police, fire department and other city agencies.
Yee said he’s asked for $45,000 in the budget to go to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department specifically for cameras on Twin Peaks dedicated to the parking lot and roads.
“Once we approve the budget, I will urge Rec and Park to expedite this as quick as possible,” he said.
In the meantime, city police have a fixed patrol monitoring Twin Peaks while investigators work to identify French’s killers.
Police said French was approached by a young man and woman shortly before 8 a.m. on Sunday as he took photos in the parking lot.
Witnesses reported hearing a single gunshot before the suspects ran to a dark gray Honda Accord and fled the scene with the victim’s camera, said Officer Robert Rueca, a San Francisco police spokesman.
A jogger found French bleeding in the parking lot and performed CPR, but he later died at San Francisco General Hospital.
Despite having descriptions of suspects and their vehicle, Rueca said “it hasn’t been determined” if any of the attack was captured by cameras on the nearby building. Additional cameras on the summit, though, would be welcomed by the department, he said.
“Anything that is going to assist us in catching people who are committing crimes — and more importantly will stop crime from occurring altogether — we completely support that,” Rueca said.