Signs warn of groping incidents in San Francisco neighborhood

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The signs are startling to many residents in San Francisco's high end, high tourist area of Russian Hill.

The word "Rapist" is written at the top of the signs in large black letters.

Someone posted the signs at the intersection of Hyde and Leavenworth as well as at intersections throughout the neighborhood, stating that there have been assaults on women in the area.

One neighbor says she heard from other residents about several attacks on women, not raped, but groped by a stranger.

"I thought it was a joke at first," said Melissa Yefsky who lives in the neighborhood, "There's a couple people who've reported that there's some man hanging out down on Filbert who's been grabbing women from behind at night."

San Francisco police say they have received as many as four reports of groping incidents in Russian Hill and Nob Hill neighborhoods.

"The earliest report that we received was back in February regarding this groping incident upon the victims. We do know the incident have occurs between the hours of 10 p.m. at night to 1 o'clock in the morning," said Officer Carlos Manfredi a San Francisco Police spokesman.

Police say the victims have been attacked from behind so their descriptions of the suspect are not very detailed.

"The descriptions are pretty broad. It goes from a male between 20's and 30's, between a thin build, to an athletic build, to a heavyset build," Officer Manfredi said, "We've ramped up patrols in the area and we've ramped up our plainclothes officers in that area."

Residents and business owners have mixed feelings about the posters. Some say they're appreciative of the warning, others say they're also wary of the alarming word rapist being used without any supporting facts.

"Though I haven't heard much of crime in the area, I'd like to be aware of it for sure, but I don't really like the signs," said Thomas Martel who lives in the area.

Mark Busacca who owns a gallery near Hyde and Union Streets says many neighbors are worried.

"I talked with a few people in the neighborhood and they felt they were very concerned. Mainly a lot of the elderly people walking up and down the street," Busacca said.

"I thought there was a better way to go about that, but I wouldn't have known about it otherwise," said Vefsky, who added that she no longer walks her dog at night, because of the signs.

Police say people should try to walk with a friend, stay alert to surroundings and if attacked, it's important to try to get a photo or a good description of any attacker.