Home Art shop From martial arts to high-end locks, SF residents invest in self-protection

From martial arts to high-end locks, SF residents invest in self-protection

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On a recent hazy night in the Richmond District of San Francisco, a group of a dozen people bent their knees and braced their fists to strike a fighting pose.

Master Jeff Chow’s thunderous voice led the Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy class through a sequence of blocking and punching movements to practice palming, elbowing, kneeling and kicking. – imitating a confrontation with a potential striker, all hoped they would never have to. meet.

With San Francisco immersed in an intensifying debate over crime and public safety, classes taught by instructors like Chow are increasingly in demand. Several operators of self-defense schools and people who sell security equipment have said they are seeing an increase in business.

San Francisco – which has long battled a high rate of theft crimes – has not seen a significant increase in violent crime this year, according to police figures, but more burglaries, thefts and other crimes are captured on videos that go viral on social media. , and the city was consumed by the war of words against progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his efforts to reduce incarceration in favor of treatment and rehabilitation.

The Tat Wong Academy, which has more than 450 students, saw its number of new students double last year, with more than 100 students enrolled in 2021 to date. Many of these new students are women and older adults who say they came to the studio for reasons other than just physical fitness.

“It was something I wanted to do in light of recent events,” said Dorothy Wong, 35, referring to attacks on Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, some captured on video, which shocked the city. during the summer.

“The hatred, especially towards the elderly, is very worrying,” she said, adding that she lived with her 99-year-old grandmother. “So I was partly trying to prepare myself in case I needed to stand up for my family. “

Hayes Valley’s Tactica Krav Maga Institute, which teaches a combative form of self-defense developed by the IDF, has also seen its enrollment increase by more than 60 new students this year, and has seen an increase in enrollments from women and men. “Asian Americans looking to learn self-defense,” CEO and chief instructor Danny Zelig said.

Dorothy Wong, 35 (center) prepares to take a dive while training in the pad during a martial arts class at Tat Won Kung Fu Academy in San Francisco, California. Self-defense classes at Tat Won and other studios have seen enrollments increase due to public safety in San Francisco.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

“There has been a big change,” Zelig said, adding that most of the students came to the center mainly to get stronger or in shape. “People come here to literally defend themselves. The urgency for this has definitely increased more than before. “

The United Studios of Self Defense martial arts center, located in Lower Pacific Heights, has seen an increase in student numbers over the past year – from 60 to around 85, according to director John Collins. He added that around 70% of his new students said they did not feel safe walking the streets.

A wave of well-publicized violent incidents over the past year in San Francisco and the Bay Area – particularly assaults against Asian Americans – has fueled concerns about crime in the city. In addition, home burglaries increased after the start of the pandemic, with police moving away from other potential targets as stores closed and tourists stayed away.

Overall, the per capita rate of reported violent crime in San Francisco – murder, theft, assault and rape – declined between 2017 and 2020, according to data from the city’s police force. So far this year, assaults have increased slightly from 2020, with 165 more incidents reported so far, compared to the same period a year ago.

There were four more homicides in San Francisco through November 14 compared to the same period a year earlier and 33 fewer rapes reported. Burglaries through November 14 this year have also decreased slightly compared to 2020.

In addition to self-defense classes, San Franciscans turn to computer equipment to enhance their sense of security.

Locksmiths and home security companies say they are struggling to meet the relentless demand from people looking to invest in premium protection to deter thieves, as well as those who have experienced break-ins in the past.

“People are panicking,” said Nestor Guardado, store manager at Lock World, who noted that he could only give a brief interview because the store phone kept ringing. He estimated his store had seen a 25-40% increase in business over the past year, with around 150 more customers this year compared to regular sales models.

San Francisco retailer Yes Locksmith has seen its purchases of smart locks and additional security triple in the past year, according to owner Ramon Nia, who added that people are adding premium, anti-picking deadbolts. even on top. deadbolts they already have. And compared to years past, they are seeing hundreds of additional security-related inquiries, he said.

Home security alarms and surveillance cameras are also flying off the shelves of San Francisco. Bamboo Communications owner John Jiang said his business has seen an increase of up to 70% over the past year – around 50 more customers this year – especially among residential customers.

Paul Singh, chief executive of Northern California for security firm ADT, said inquiries and business among San Francisco residents have doubled since the pandemic, a change that is now made difficult due to problems. supply, shipping delays and chip shortages. He said they were seeing thousands more customers this year, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“We just exploded, everyone wanted a camera,” he said.

“When you have an alarm sticker on your house, you send a message that you are somehow security-conscious,” said Brian Jones, an employee of Rhinoceros Security, who broke into someone. in his SF home just before the pandemic while he and his wife were having dinner. He chased the assailant out of his house with a crowbar, he said.

“It leaves you with such an odd feeling afterwards that you can understand,” he said, referring to the impetus to invest in security systems.

“Almost immediately after something like this, people have alarm systems. They are looking for anything.

Annie Vainshtein is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]