San Francisco Business Owner Defies Police To Get His Van Back, Is Lectured By Local Moonbats

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

A few years ago, I decided to have a heart-to-heart talk with my little brother, the artist currently known as Bark M., about something that had always puzzled me.

“Dude,” I asked, “why did you quit being a performing musician? You were making halfway decent money, you were on the road all the time, you were playing music that you loved, you were hooking up with a different college girl every night. Why would you leave all of that behind and manage a Men’s Wearhouse, for Christ’s sake?” Bark gave me this very sour look and replied, “I got sick of being in a van.”

I had to laugh, because at that point it made perfect sense. I’ve never met anybody else who is as picky as my brother when it comes to travel. Take this past weekend for example. I was on a two-stop Southwest flight that ended up taking ten and a half hours in the air to get me from Oakland to Columbus; he was on a nonstop from LAX to Cincinnati. When I finally landed after my back-of-coach-class ordeal I found that he’d been on Instagram complaining about the quality of his Delta One meal service. If ever there was a man who would give up dating a new 19-year-old every weekend night just so he didn’t have to ride in a van, it would be Bark.

Don’t tell him, but there’s now a company that rents first-rate, brand-new vans to traveling musicians so they can enjoy all the comforts of home while they travel. The company is called Bandago and it’s based in San Francisco. These vans have leather recliners, video games, and giant flatscreens. If you had a touring band, you’d never want to give your “Bandago” back. If you were renting your Bandago so you could perpetrate some crime with a crew of miscreants, you would also not want to give your Bandago back. Which leads us to a real San Francisco treat of a story.

Sharky Laguana — yes, that’s his name — was part of the band Creeper Lagoon before he became the CEO of Bandago. He’s pretty much the prototype of a “woke CEO”, with a Twitter profile that includes a “blessing for his son” written after a “bad experience with a riptide.” He works in activist causes and uses his vans to transport donated food. In other words, he ain’t exactly Travis Kalanick. Still, if the old saying about a conservative being a post-mugging liberal is true, Sharky is probably taking stock of his life right now. His Twitter thread about a stolen van went viral yesterday. I’ve excerpted the relevant parts below.

Last month a lady named Linda rented a van from us for a few days. It was due back on January 31st. It didn’t come back. Instead, the next day, a guy we’ve never heard of called and asked to extend the rental… a month! This isn’t normal.

We know from experience this is very suspicious. We told them to bring the van back right away. He said they would be back the next morning. We knew that was unlikely. We were right. The next day came and went with no sign of the van.

Now at this point you have people, probably using stolen IDs, likely using the vehicle to commit more crimes, in a van that is past due. So we should call the police, right? Wrong! The police are *not allowed* to even take a report yet. We have some hoops to jump through first.

So first we have to wait for the vehicle to be five days past due. Then we have to send a certified letter to the address on the contract. Then we have to wait for the letter to either be signed, or returned as undeliverable.

Once we have the letter we can go file a claim for embezzlement. NOT stolen car, even though the vehicle has been stolen. It’s embezzlement which is far lower on police priority scale. And we can’t call the report in either. We have to go in person to the station.

We have to have all original docs including the returned certified letter., title, reg etc. No digital copies. Everything original. Then we have to fill out the paperwork at the station while they run a warrant check on our ID. Yes that’s right: we get investigated first.

Then the license plate is in the system and maybe we get lucky and a police officer notices the van and runs the plate, but we don’t get a dedicated detective or anything. It’s simply a flag in the system.

So today we got our certified letter back. Meanwhile we’ve been running a skip trace on this person and they are, as you might expect, bad news. It’s been a week, that van could be anywhere, even Mexico. It takes a while to file a police report, so we decide to go tomorrow.

This is where the story gets crazy: I’m driving back from a dental appointment just before 5pm and notice I’m right behind one of our vans. Thinking they are returning I call the office to give them a heads up and holy shit it’s the stolen van! Here’s a pic I took while following

The odds of this happening at rush hour are about 1:450,000. But it happened, so I follow the van until it parks in Portola. Sales manager @TheDavidElrod hops in a Lyft and meets me while I’m staking it out.

While we are waiting I call the police. “Hey can you send an officer to come meet us at San Bruno & Bacon, we have a stolen rental van”

“Has it been reported stolen? What’s the case#”

“Uh, no not yet, but it meets all the criteria, we have all the docs with us”

The dispatcher isn’t sure if they can help, but after failing to reach a sergeant on the other line she *reluctantly* agrees to send a car to come meet us.

So we wait.

And wait.

The driver goes in to pick up some Korean food.

We wait some more.

After about an hour I call the dispatch to see if there’s an ETA. Nope there isn’t even a car dispatched yet.

We wait some more.

Then the driver gets back in the van and we start following them from a safe distance while I call the police again.

I tell the police we’re following a stolen van. This seems to get some attention at first, but after asking more questions and learning it’s a rental they start slow walking. We have a trainee on the phone and his supervisor is right there telling him what to do.

The supervisor gets a hold of the sergeant, and I can hear her asking for permission to disconnect. They want to end the call. And then I get a call on the other line. It’s the sergeant, I think. He never introduced himself.

I answer: “Hello?”


It’s in caps because he was kinda yelling. I know there’s no point in arguing about this.

“OK I understand, thank you”

Click. He hangs up.

OK now what do we do? Well shit we have the keys. It’s our van. Let’s follow, wait for them to leave, and we’ll just drive it away.

So we follow them. First it goes down to 9th where it makes a left. We speculate it’s going to the Tenderloin.

But they drive up Hayes, and eventually turns on Fillmore and parks in front of some housing projects. We watch a guy get out and go to a dark parking lot where he meets someone else in a car. We can’t see what he’s doing. There are other people in the van still. Can’t grab it. Then the guy comes back and stands around outside the van smoking a cigarette. At one point he’s about five feet from us and even looks at us which makes us nervous. We debate whether we could call in suspicious activity to the police, but worry we’d get in trouble somehow.

Eventually he gets back in the van. They leave. We follow them to the Mission. They go to a gas station and we discreetly watch from across the street. Then they go to the corner of 17th & Mission and park in front of a fire hydrant.

There is no parking in the Mission at night. We’re forced to drive past, but get lucky and find a spot at 17th & Valencia. We can see the van in the rear view mirror. @TheDavidElrod gets out to see what they are doing. We learn there are three people inside.

While David is scoping them out a police officer drives by. His passenger window is down. I decide to try one last time to get some assistance. I jump out of the car and walk over to him:

“Excuse me officer, I might need your help, do you have a minute?”

He directs me to the police station across the street and says he’ll meet me in the lobby.

I wait in the lobby for 15 minutes.

He comes out and asks questions. I’m very upfront about it being a rental car. He goes back inside to ask the sergeant questions.

Then he comes back out.

“We can’t help you without a stolen vehicle report”

“But it qualifies as embezzled, can I file a report right now?”

“Do you have all the original paperwork with you on your person?”

“I have PDFs on my phone”

“Sorry, come back tomorrow”

He’s nice and sympathetic. This is just the protocol he has to follow.

I go back to the car and meet Dave.

We’re pissed, might never see this van again.

We come up with a plan.

It’s risky.

We walk up to the van, smiling, looking friendly.

We motion the driver to roll down the window.

I’m hanging back a couple feet. Don’t want to be scary or threatening. She rolls the window down.

David: “Are you Linda?”

Linda: “Why are you asking?”

“Hi, I just filed a stolen vehicle report at the police station right there”

(I point at the police station.)

They are coming, if you are still here you’ll be arrested. If you take off in the van they’ll just arrest you down the street, but if you leave now it’ll be chill”

We are bluffing. But we caught them off guard. They discuss for a second and then say “OK”.

David asks for the keys, she hands it to him.

Then we watch them unpack all their stuff. Tons of luggage. They were living in the van.

SanFinally they got all their shit out and left. David got in the van, and I got in the car and drove home.

SF is having an explosion of car break-ins right now. Lt. Luke Martin head of the crime task force told me they are often using rental cars as getaway vehicles.

When mayoral candidate Jane Kim responded to Sharky’s tweet, some SF locals got involved in the situation. Triggered by Sharky’s offhand comment that the perpetrators of the van theft were “living in the van,” they decided that a law-and-order approach just wouldn’t do. After all, if someone steals your van and starts living in it… that’s their home now!

This isn’t a story about stealing a van… it’s a story about lack of housing! And when Sharky managed to get his property back despite a complete and utter lack of interest on the part of the SFPD, he was actually evicting its legitimate tenants! In a city where meter enforcement is also called “eviction,” surely the whole situation is up for grabs. Or maybe it’s just further proof of something else my brother told me about living in a van: “You don’t want to live in a van… with anybody who is actually willing to live in a van.”

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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2 of 101 comments
  • DirtRoads DirtRoads on Feb 13, 2018

    Great story anyway, Jack. Thanks.

  • Synchromesh Synchromesh on Feb 13, 2018

    I've lived in SF for 4 years now. What the owner experienced isn't particularly shocking. That the SFPD are some of the absolutely worst and useless cops out there isn't much of a surprise. Just look at the crime rates. They're high and not all of it is due to the city hall's idiotic policies. I've been a victim of thefts several times myself (my cars got broken into) and the cops don't do diddly squat other than collect your report. One guy got caught but he was a drug addict and it was more of an coincidence. As for the housing part - meet the San Francisco commies. I was born in a communist country but it wasn't until I moved to SF that I realized how much I hate communists. And the SF/CA closet commies are the worst. I just hope one day we get a mayor who is not a commie and he'll clean this place up Giuliani-style.

  • EBFlex No they shouldn’t. It would be signing their death warrant. The UAW is steadfast in moving as much production out of this country as possible
  • Groza George The South is one of the few places in the U.S. where we still build cars. Unionizing Southern factories will speed up the move to Mexico.
  • FreedMike I'd say that question is up to the southern auto workers. If I were in their shoes, I probably wouldn't if the wages/benefits were at at some kind of parity with unionized shops. But let's be clear here: the only thing keeping those wages/benefits at par IS the threat of unionization.
  • 1995 SC So if they vote it down, the UAW gets to keep trying. Is there a means for a UAW factory to decide they no longer wish to be represented and vote the union out?
  • Lorenzo The Longshoreman/philosopher Eri Hoffer postulated "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and ends up as a racket." That pretty much describes the progression of the United Auto Workers since World War II, so if THEY are the union, the answer is 'no'.