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Breaking Bad: Clairemont edition

"Do you know Theresa?... That's all I need to ask."

Clairemont Square
Clairemont Square

On July 10, an East Clairemont neighborhood was faced with a vandalized SUV asking people to "Call Turko" because "This neighborhood is a meth op." Michael Turko said no one ever did "Call Turko."

Somebody vandalized this SUV in seemingly a cry for help

On July 15, a south Clairemont resident photographed a man in the canyon changing his shirt before scoping out her condo mailboxes and then heading back to the canyon to change again. This sighting correlated with a recent uptick in thefts. She feared last summer's “camper bandits" were back.

This Carl's Jr. has a lot of people hanging out for hours, often with doors open wide. Sometimes you'll catch a glimpse of someone smoking a glass pipe at high noon.

In the summer of 2016, residents shared photos and info about these suspicious people on NextDoor. We gave them nicknames so neighbors could know who we were talking about. This summer, a possible "Scooby Doo" sighting garnered 100 comments.

Tioga towed.

Other than "Scooby Doo," "Shaggy," "Spicoli," and "Old Man,” "Oranges" seemed to have returned; she was nicknamed so because she said she was picking oranges when it appeared she was casing cars. "Scooby Doo" was accused of assaulting a resident and was known for wearing white knee-socks with flip-flops.

On July 27, a neighbor told me a homeless guy was hiding in the bushes near my residence — he was making a sandwich when I approached.

On July 24, a Tioga camper parked at the laundromat in the Clairemont Village shopping center (Clairemont Drive and Burgener Boulevard). Neighbors said it looked like drugs were being dealt and that some "camper bandits" were in attendance.

Balboa Mesa

One guy was wearing a chemical apron. This same guy was seen going into that camper the day before with a gas mask. After ten minutes of several neighbors watching the vehicle, an odd assortment of characters rolled out of the camper before it took off.

Neighbors then clued me in on three suspected drug houses in the neighborhood. One has been raided several times by the police. Recently, people were out front handcuffed while the police searched the house.

By far, the most disturbing sight seen was that of a homeless man dancing through our neighborhood with a hammer in late June, early July, singing loudly about putting holes in people's heads. Some residents say they've seen him with a hammer and chisel, singing an Eminem song.

While I'm no drug-war cheerleader, the thought of that gas mask, cooking apron, the "camper bandits" return, and hammer-guy loomed large as I saw the Tioga camper later that night in the shopping center parked in front of Carl's Jr. When I called the police, I didn't think they would show — I was just hoping they would patrol more often.

One witness photographed the camper being towed that night. He saw one guy getting arrested and two others dragging suitcases out of the camper and kicking things as they headed for one of the suspected drug houses. He checked arrest logs and said that the guy was noted as a transient arrested for petty theft and drug possession.

Another resident spotted the camper a few days later. While it stayed out of the shopping center, the drug dealing didn't appear to. Some of the same people that rolled out of that Tioga camper were hanging out in front of the laundromat the next morning.

Later that same day, a white truck parked and flung its doors open in front of the laundromat — a girl wore roller-skates on the passenger side. This was the moment I first wondered if wide-open doors might be a signal of some sort. The Tioga camper had its hood open, I recalled. Later, I saw the girl sans roller-skates hanging in a black Mercedes.

On July 27, a neighbor told me a homeless guy was hiding in the bushes near my residence — he was making a sandwich when I approached.

Without any prompt, he said: "You look like someone that wants to make a statement downtown in court!… You look like someone that wants to make a statement about product being sold on the street!" His facial expressions and hand gestures were intimidating. He left once neighbors came to my aid. One neighbor had seen him a couple days prior, in a car with Montana plates. Other neighbors said he's a homeless guy who usually hangs out on the corner of Clairemont Mesa and Shawline. Someone else said he's always yelling crazy things.

Right away, a dark SUV parked across the street. The driver, wearing dark sunglasses, stared at my front door. Later that day, two guys were seen crunched down in a black Mercedes eyeballing anyone who came within range of the laundromat. At this point, I felt like I was in a badly directed episode of Breaking Bad.

A few days later, at 3:15 a.m., a neighbor texted that a homeless guy was loitering at my place.

From here, it kicked into high-gear with lots of different cars and people loitering around the laundromat. The only constant was their modus operandi: cars with doors and/or trunks flung open, sometimes with random things piled on their roofs, and always making a show out of folding whatever shirt was laying around in their car. I saw one guy folding the same long-sleeved black shirt off and on for hours.

On August 6, after a few minutes of talking to a homeless couple that sleeps in their car in the laundromat parking lot, a girl walked up and asked me, "Do you know Theresa?" When I answered no, she said, "That's all I need to ask" and turned away.

I learned from someone in the know that "T" names like Tina, Theresa, and Trump are code for meth. I was told dealers sometimes do online ads with code words and any misplaced capital "T" in a word is code for meth.

Glass pipes started making the rounds in early August — in the hands of those using them in broad daylight in the shopping center and stashed in residents' bushes. Several residents informed shopping-center management but got nowhere. Individual store managers weren't much help either.

Are others living near Clairemont shopping centers dealing with this?

Three years ago, Adam moved into his West Clairemont apartment near the Balboa Mesa shopping center (Balboa Avenue and Genesee Avenue). "Everybody has a peculiar neighbor but this is beyond anything I've ever experienced in my life. For the first couple of years, it was just a nuisance with his friends coming over at all hours and seeing all the garbage left behind."

In late 2016, residents saw homeless guys dealing drugs out of a carport. Adam recognized some of the transients from the nearby shopping center.

When a homeless camp appeared on the grounds, vandalism and car break-ins started. Bongs and meth paraphernalia were found.

"We caught one guy breaking into a truck and called the police. I saw the guy in the bushes the next morning when I was walking my dog. I guess he didn't get arrested."

After Adam helped neighbors break down the homeless camp, he got a threatening note: ”It will all be over soon,” signed by, “Your Killer.”

Then, according to Adam, a homeless man threw a knife into a neighbor’s enclosed patio where kids often play. "He knocked on the door and asked for his knife back. This finally got the police involved."

After the knife incident, Adam said things quieted down for about a month until the same homeless guys started coming around again.

Second-generation Clairemont native Zed lives north of the Clairemont Square shopping center (Clairemont Drive and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard). He said that since the shopping center changed security companies six to eight months ago, the situation has improved.

"Before the changeover in security, there would be motorhomes that would be parked at the 99 Cent Store and Vons parking lot late at night. I could see their engine idling or whatnot — probably doing something.... Very suspicious there at night."

Zed said a drug house in his neighborhood was seized by the city about a year ago. "There is another drug house nearby but not much action now. I believe the gentleman that owns it has clamped down on that."

Sam has lived in Clairemont since 1989 and currently lives south of Clairemont Square. He said guys with backpacks come around at 4 a.m. pushing shopping carts down his street. A couple months ago, two were seen taking off around 4 a.m. after a dog barked. They left behind a T.J. Maxx shopping cart with containers of pancakes and french toast.

Sam is a business owner who has done jobs in the neighborhood where the "Call Turko" SUV was parked. "The guy that owns that SUV, he's a weird character. He actually painted his own car like that." Sam said that it's a nice neighborhood full of nice people except for the one weird guy and a party or drug house. "He must have gotten fed up."

I checked out other laundromats in the area and found those with attendants didn't appear to have homeless people or dealers hanging out. Fast-food restaurants were another matter. By far, the most hardcore was the Jack in the Box at Genesee and Derrick Drive, where dealers appear to be hanging out inside the restaurant. A lot of sketchy characters were seen stopping by. Then a gold truck parked next to me, a guy got out and went inside, and came out with two guys — one in unforgettable mint-green shorts. Directly in front of me, one guy handed a plastic baggie full of miniature envelopes to the guy who had parked next to me. The latter then went into the restaurant and the other two left.

A few residents near the Clairemont Village shopping center have said they're considering a nuisance lawsuit.

A program called Safe Streets Now helps residents sue those fostering a nuisance in their neighborhood. It's based on state law that requires property owners to use their property in ways that are "conducive to the peace and harmony of the neighborhood" and do not interfere "with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property."

The Tioga camper returned to the laundromat on August 28. This coincides with other familiar faces driving different vehicles. The black Mercedes duo now drive an old white truck filled with recycling. One guy who’s been sleeping in a beat-up white car is now driving a Jaguar.

On September 2, they were all gone. A neighbor saw a shopping-center manager telling them to scram the day before. Thoughts that the shopping-center management finally cared about our plight quickly fizzled once a resident of nearby senior apartments told me they've been ordered not to park there either: she was told it was about freeing up parking for the Sprout's opening in October.

The Tioga camper was back on September 3.

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Clairemont Square
Clairemont Square

On July 10, an East Clairemont neighborhood was faced with a vandalized SUV asking people to "Call Turko" because "This neighborhood is a meth op." Michael Turko said no one ever did "Call Turko."

Somebody vandalized this SUV in seemingly a cry for help

On July 15, a south Clairemont resident photographed a man in the canyon changing his shirt before scoping out her condo mailboxes and then heading back to the canyon to change again. This sighting correlated with a recent uptick in thefts. She feared last summer's “camper bandits" were back.

This Carl's Jr. has a lot of people hanging out for hours, often with doors open wide. Sometimes you'll catch a glimpse of someone smoking a glass pipe at high noon.

In the summer of 2016, residents shared photos and info about these suspicious people on NextDoor. We gave them nicknames so neighbors could know who we were talking about. This summer, a possible "Scooby Doo" sighting garnered 100 comments.

Tioga towed.

Other than "Scooby Doo," "Shaggy," "Spicoli," and "Old Man,” "Oranges" seemed to have returned; she was nicknamed so because she said she was picking oranges when it appeared she was casing cars. "Scooby Doo" was accused of assaulting a resident and was known for wearing white knee-socks with flip-flops.

On July 27, a neighbor told me a homeless guy was hiding in the bushes near my residence — he was making a sandwich when I approached.

On July 24, a Tioga camper parked at the laundromat in the Clairemont Village shopping center (Clairemont Drive and Burgener Boulevard). Neighbors said it looked like drugs were being dealt and that some "camper bandits" were in attendance.

Balboa Mesa

One guy was wearing a chemical apron. This same guy was seen going into that camper the day before with a gas mask. After ten minutes of several neighbors watching the vehicle, an odd assortment of characters rolled out of the camper before it took off.

Neighbors then clued me in on three suspected drug houses in the neighborhood. One has been raided several times by the police. Recently, people were out front handcuffed while the police searched the house.

By far, the most disturbing sight seen was that of a homeless man dancing through our neighborhood with a hammer in late June, early July, singing loudly about putting holes in people's heads. Some residents say they've seen him with a hammer and chisel, singing an Eminem song.

While I'm no drug-war cheerleader, the thought of that gas mask, cooking apron, the "camper bandits" return, and hammer-guy loomed large as I saw the Tioga camper later that night in the shopping center parked in front of Carl's Jr. When I called the police, I didn't think they would show — I was just hoping they would patrol more often.

One witness photographed the camper being towed that night. He saw one guy getting arrested and two others dragging suitcases out of the camper and kicking things as they headed for one of the suspected drug houses. He checked arrest logs and said that the guy was noted as a transient arrested for petty theft and drug possession.

Another resident spotted the camper a few days later. While it stayed out of the shopping center, the drug dealing didn't appear to. Some of the same people that rolled out of that Tioga camper were hanging out in front of the laundromat the next morning.

Later that same day, a white truck parked and flung its doors open in front of the laundromat — a girl wore roller-skates on the passenger side. This was the moment I first wondered if wide-open doors might be a signal of some sort. The Tioga camper had its hood open, I recalled. Later, I saw the girl sans roller-skates hanging in a black Mercedes.

On July 27, a neighbor told me a homeless guy was hiding in the bushes near my residence — he was making a sandwich when I approached.

Without any prompt, he said: "You look like someone that wants to make a statement downtown in court!… You look like someone that wants to make a statement about product being sold on the street!" His facial expressions and hand gestures were intimidating. He left once neighbors came to my aid. One neighbor had seen him a couple days prior, in a car with Montana plates. Other neighbors said he's a homeless guy who usually hangs out on the corner of Clairemont Mesa and Shawline. Someone else said he's always yelling crazy things.

Right away, a dark SUV parked across the street. The driver, wearing dark sunglasses, stared at my front door. Later that day, two guys were seen crunched down in a black Mercedes eyeballing anyone who came within range of the laundromat. At this point, I felt like I was in a badly directed episode of Breaking Bad.

A few days later, at 3:15 a.m., a neighbor texted that a homeless guy was loitering at my place.

From here, it kicked into high-gear with lots of different cars and people loitering around the laundromat. The only constant was their modus operandi: cars with doors and/or trunks flung open, sometimes with random things piled on their roofs, and always making a show out of folding whatever shirt was laying around in their car. I saw one guy folding the same long-sleeved black shirt off and on for hours.

On August 6, after a few minutes of talking to a homeless couple that sleeps in their car in the laundromat parking lot, a girl walked up and asked me, "Do you know Theresa?" When I answered no, she said, "That's all I need to ask" and turned away.

I learned from someone in the know that "T" names like Tina, Theresa, and Trump are code for meth. I was told dealers sometimes do online ads with code words and any misplaced capital "T" in a word is code for meth.

Glass pipes started making the rounds in early August — in the hands of those using them in broad daylight in the shopping center and stashed in residents' bushes. Several residents informed shopping-center management but got nowhere. Individual store managers weren't much help either.

Are others living near Clairemont shopping centers dealing with this?

Three years ago, Adam moved into his West Clairemont apartment near the Balboa Mesa shopping center (Balboa Avenue and Genesee Avenue). "Everybody has a peculiar neighbor but this is beyond anything I've ever experienced in my life. For the first couple of years, it was just a nuisance with his friends coming over at all hours and seeing all the garbage left behind."

In late 2016, residents saw homeless guys dealing drugs out of a carport. Adam recognized some of the transients from the nearby shopping center.

When a homeless camp appeared on the grounds, vandalism and car break-ins started. Bongs and meth paraphernalia were found.

"We caught one guy breaking into a truck and called the police. I saw the guy in the bushes the next morning when I was walking my dog. I guess he didn't get arrested."

After Adam helped neighbors break down the homeless camp, he got a threatening note: ”It will all be over soon,” signed by, “Your Killer.”

Then, according to Adam, a homeless man threw a knife into a neighbor’s enclosed patio where kids often play. "He knocked on the door and asked for his knife back. This finally got the police involved."

After the knife incident, Adam said things quieted down for about a month until the same homeless guys started coming around again.

Second-generation Clairemont native Zed lives north of the Clairemont Square shopping center (Clairemont Drive and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard). He said that since the shopping center changed security companies six to eight months ago, the situation has improved.

"Before the changeover in security, there would be motorhomes that would be parked at the 99 Cent Store and Vons parking lot late at night. I could see their engine idling or whatnot — probably doing something.... Very suspicious there at night."

Zed said a drug house in his neighborhood was seized by the city about a year ago. "There is another drug house nearby but not much action now. I believe the gentleman that owns it has clamped down on that."

Sam has lived in Clairemont since 1989 and currently lives south of Clairemont Square. He said guys with backpacks come around at 4 a.m. pushing shopping carts down his street. A couple months ago, two were seen taking off around 4 a.m. after a dog barked. They left behind a T.J. Maxx shopping cart with containers of pancakes and french toast.

Sam is a business owner who has done jobs in the neighborhood where the "Call Turko" SUV was parked. "The guy that owns that SUV, he's a weird character. He actually painted his own car like that." Sam said that it's a nice neighborhood full of nice people except for the one weird guy and a party or drug house. "He must have gotten fed up."

I checked out other laundromats in the area and found those with attendants didn't appear to have homeless people or dealers hanging out. Fast-food restaurants were another matter. By far, the most hardcore was the Jack in the Box at Genesee and Derrick Drive, where dealers appear to be hanging out inside the restaurant. A lot of sketchy characters were seen stopping by. Then a gold truck parked next to me, a guy got out and went inside, and came out with two guys — one in unforgettable mint-green shorts. Directly in front of me, one guy handed a plastic baggie full of miniature envelopes to the guy who had parked next to me. The latter then went into the restaurant and the other two left.

A few residents near the Clairemont Village shopping center have said they're considering a nuisance lawsuit.

A program called Safe Streets Now helps residents sue those fostering a nuisance in their neighborhood. It's based on state law that requires property owners to use their property in ways that are "conducive to the peace and harmony of the neighborhood" and do not interfere "with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property."

The Tioga camper returned to the laundromat on August 28. This coincides with other familiar faces driving different vehicles. The black Mercedes duo now drive an old white truck filled with recycling. One guy who’s been sleeping in a beat-up white car is now driving a Jaguar.

On September 2, they were all gone. A neighbor saw a shopping-center manager telling them to scram the day before. Thoughts that the shopping-center management finally cared about our plight quickly fizzled once a resident of nearby senior apartments told me they've been ordered not to park there either: she was told it was about freeing up parking for the Sprout's opening in October.

The Tioga camper was back on September 3.

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Comments
18

This was an incredible story. Isn't this Councilwoman Lori Zapf's district? Where are Mayor Faulconer and SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman? Julie Stalmer is becoming the voice of the people when it comes to public harrassment (and worse) by the criminal homeless. If every Reader reader would forward this to Zapf, Faulconer and Zimmerman, maybe they would start protecting the beleaguered residents of Clairemont.

Sept. 6, 2017

Thank you for your kind words. This one was a one-of-a-kind experience. Let's hope . . .

Sept. 9, 2017

PLEASE NOTE this crime-plagued part of Clairemont is District 6 and the responsibility of Democratic COUNCILMAN CHRIS CATE. Redistricting changed the boundaries a few years ago. Call his office (619)236-6616. Leave your message for Mayor Sunny at (619) 236-6330.

Sept. 10, 2017

It's actually both D2 and D6, mostly D6, but South Clairemont near Clairemont Village is on the border of Bay Park and Clairemont and thus has D2 and D6 divided on one block. The shopping center and the suspected drug houses are more in D2 in this area.

Sept. 11, 2017

Another correction: Councilman Chris Cate is a Republican.

Sept. 15, 2017

As is Zapf. Not always, but there does seem to be some votes along party lines at times. It breaks down like this:

Republicans: D2 Zapf, D5 Kersey, D6 Cate, D7 Sherman Democrats: D1 Bry, D3 Ward, D4 Cole, D8 Alvarez, D9 Gomez

Sept. 15, 2017

Where is the proactive, community-oriented policing that the SDPD has been touting for the past several years? Letting those "small" violations go is what results in a whole area being taken over by criminal gangs or syndicates. Oh, I forgot that the PD is understaffed, underpaid, and is just stretched too thin. But is anyone, least of all the chief, doing anything to turn it around? Uh, she complains, and Kev-boy talks of some way to boost the budget. This is just another case of the city not delivering on its obligations, and having political careers built while Rome, i.e. San Diego, burns.

I think it took a big dose of personal courage for Julie to even write this piece. I'm sure those gangstas read the Reader and know who she is.

Sept. 7, 2017

It's much like our health system which focuses on curing instead of preventing. Prevention is cheaper and more impactful in the long run.

I've been trying for years to get residents interested in neighborhood watch, but hardly anyone is. The same thing with a yearly night out event. Interest peaks when things like this happen only.

It's a complex issue and like I said in the article, I'm no drug-war cheerleader. Prohibition is never the answer and I personally don't like to see anyone going to jail simply for using. It's none of my business.

However, when it's happening right in front of you on a daily basis, it's horrible. Then add to that all the thefts that seem to go along with it, it's even more so. Add to that the thought of them cooking meth in my hood and yikes! And lets not forget the messes, oh the messes they leave behind. It's nuts.

What was most shocking after talking to a lot of people and observation was how many people must be doing meth to have this many people dealing it just in Clairemont. I have witnessed a lot of cars cruising the shopping center parking lot looking for something the shops aren't selling.

Meth is so toxic and has no up-side when it comes to someone's health, decision-making abilities, impulse control, or attitude. It will take a year for any addict to feel like themselves again once they quit. That's why many don't quit possibly.

Sept. 9, 2017

Why apologize or equivocate about not being a"drug-war cheerleader?" What you describe sounds like a disaster for any neighborhood -- scary, dangerous, filthy, just plain bad for ordinary civilized existence. Homeless addicts, cruising dealers, casing houses, cooking meth, literal and figurative crap left behind? It IS your business -- and all of ours. People should send this story to "Mayor Sunny" Kevin Faulconer, do-nothing Councilmember Lori Zapf and Police Chief "Smiley" Shelley Zimmerman. Keep up the drumbeat.

Sept. 9, 2017

This situation may be typical of what is happening in many of the older, central neighborhoods in San Diego. In other words, the city may be in far worse condition than many of us imagine. Not only are the streets, water mains, sewers, parks, and beaches a mess, the crime level in the whole place could be out of control. Decades of poor police leadership and city attention paid to everything other than quality of life for the taxpayers and residents is coming home to roost. And no matter what is done, the city will get worse, far worse, before it gets better, IF it ever improves.

Sept. 9, 2017

I was surprised after talking to others in every corner of Clairemont that it's all over Clairemont. Some of the things that I saw were so ghetto and so disturbing (so much of it never made in the article). If we don't do something to take care of it now, it's only going to get worse. Anyone that's been to parts of Midway knows it's like East LA - it's shocking how something that is next door to affluent housing is like that. Our own mayor lives in Point Loma. I've talked to people that live in the Midway area that won't leave their house after dark because of it.

That parking lot and nearby streets must be on some homeless networking website (or maybe shopping centers are just a universal Statue of Liberty for the downtrodden and derelict) because for years they've shown up and just made themselves at home. I firmly believe not addressing that when it first began is what led to the suspected drug houses and dealers feeling all warm and fuzzy about hanging out here now. Neighbors that look the other way get five stars from people like that.

The impetus for this whole thing wasn't even the drugs - it was the breaking into homes and cars and the trash everywhere. Seeing that those suspected of doing that hanging out with those that looked like they were dealing is what got neighbors up in arms. But too few ever do anything until they are victims of a direct crime.

Waiting for the powers-that-be isn't really an option and those that wreak havoc in neighborhoods they don't live in know that all too well. One guy flipped off security at the shopping center and another refused to leave because they have zero respect for anyone that isn't doing their bidding.

Sept. 10, 2017

Would you be willing to do another piece on OB? The situation there is more direly in need of exposure. People being assaulted by criminal homeless and aggressive panhandlers, constant home invasion and theft, public defecation and urination, threat of rape, and both meth AND heroin. It is destroying the beach community. Used to be kept in check by bikers, but they were told to back off by SDPD. And there is almost no police presence at night, poor choice considering the situation. I believe the OB council have resorted to hiring private security with no results. I have personally seen verbal assaults on elderly tourists and stabbings when a person declined to give them money.

Sept. 11, 2017

I sent you a private message

Sept. 13, 2017

Do-nothing Councilmember Zapf is up for re-election from redistricted Council District 2. But as I noted above, Clairemont now is the responsibility of Democratic Council representative CHRIS CATE whose office phone is (619) 236-6616. Give him a call.

Sept. 10, 2017

It's a bit confusing because this area is on the border of both D2 and D6 (where Bay Park begins and Clairemont ends or vice versa). This one block where the shopping center is has two zip codes and three blocks of addresses. When writing things before I've been told the shopping center and part of the block is D2/Zapf and part is D6/Cate. Zapf showed up to the farmer's market in the shopping center bolsters that.

Residents in both D2 and D6 are impacted by this for the Clairemont Village area. The other shopping centers are all Cate.

Sept. 10, 2017

Yes, it brings to the light the dance between the theoretical not wanting to judge others for what they want to do and the reality of it being shoved in your face. The reality of it is tough to take.

Sept. 10, 2017

It's a zoo here now, some of them are driving around in circles and parking in front of my place and hanging out. Not cool to invade a neighborhood like this.

Sept. 15, 2017

Calling Cate is a waste of time. All he does is leak city document to developers.

Oct. 12, 2017

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