I'm no fan of law breakers, and especially those who is looking for a quick buck from elderly residents of my neighborhood, the Outer Richmond district of San Francisco.
When I was getting ready to leave my house just last Saturday, I noticed a couple of my neighbors had a piece of paper taped over their curb, so I took a look and shot a photo (as seen above).
I've known that painting addresses on curbs next to the driveway is both a scam and a violation of the law. The last time I caught someone doing it, I got super lucky when a SFPD officer's car was approaching my block, I flagged it and told him that he's just feet away.
For what happened just a couple days ago, I gave a courtesy call to the SFPD Richmond station at 6th and Geary. The sergeant said they can't do anything in the immediate time and they can only take action if someone sees a person doing the act. He gave me the phone number to dispatch and that ended our conversation.
I put out a tweet to warn everyone about this:
Outer Richmond residents: curb painting scam to happen today. Do not give moneyCall SFPD 553-0123 if you see them. twitter.com/AgentAkit/stat…
— Akit (@AgentAkit) May 6, 2012
What's up with the scam?
Here's the problem. It's a violation of the law to hire someone or do it yourself, and could be considered graffiti, for the exception of the SFMTA who is the only authority allowed to paint curbs (public property). The city only sanctions the SFMTA to paint curbs for parking purposes, and for residential areas, it's normally the red curbs which costs a couple hundred, and gives the city authority to ticket anyone parking too close to one's driveway.
Here's a video where a business next to Union Square hired painters to paint their curbs, but was illegal because the city didn't do the job as required. They also painted over a blue zone:
For this particular curb scam, they call themselves "Community Services" and I found through a search online that they've been doing this before as noted on this flier (click here). The one found on that link is exactly similar, but the one found on my block now has a sobbing story, by providing "self-employment for students and artists throughout the city."
My response, they are putting up a fake suck-up story to suck you out of $15.
Anyway, emergency personnel can find your address, it's on the front of every single building!
On Sunday... caught in the act!
Odds of me catching the crook in the act was a long shot, and the odds was much worse because I didn't get home after the Giants game until 6:30PM. While I was eating dinner, I heard outside the sound of a spray paint can. I looked out my window and noticed a person walking in white coveralls (almost like a hazmat suit) and wearing an orange construction vest. He was also carrying stencils clipped to his hip.
The guy was looking at a fancy car across from my house and looked at the sign saying not to paint the curb. He continued on his way up the block. I knew I caught the bastard in the act and called dispatch to nab him.
While I don't know if the SFPD ever caught the guy, in my point of view: if there's a person wearing white coveralls and an orange vest walking down your street, I don't think the police will have a hard time finding the person.
I don't see any desperate "students" or "artists" going up and down my block doing this. It's just one person doing the job. Just invest a little money in some white paint, black spray paint, and some stencils, write a fake sobbing story, and here comes the $15 to $20.
If they knock or ring your doorbell, tell them no and do not give any money to them, and call SFPD at: 415-553-0123 to give a full description of the suspect.