On a recent morning, Brian Brophy walked out of his Franklin Street apartment to find the car his girlfriend had been kind enough to loan him was tagged with a parking ticket. This is a sub-optimal way to start the day — and it soon grew worse.
That's because the slip of paper beneath the wiper wasn't a ticket but a notice from the San Francisco Police Department. The cops had noticed what Brophy initially hadn't — the car's window was smashed and the vehicle had been rifled. In fact, a busy miscreant had smashed in the windows on six or seven cars in one swoop.
The thief made off with only some car-chargers. But Brophy's loss was somewhat offset by the souvenir the thief left behind: a glass crack or meth pipe sitting, neatly, atop a napkin on the car's seat.
The rich canon of stupid criminal lore is replete with tales of foolish men and women leaving behind incriminating evidence at crime scenes: Wallets, IDs, or even themselves, in the case of drowsy burglars. A man in 2010 accused of knifing a San Francisco cabbie left a bloody cellphone in the taxi. While investigating the scene, cops were startled when the phone rang. The caller asked for the suspect by name.
Mark Hernandez, a 32-year San Francisco cop now serving as a civilian program coordinator, says he knows of many cases in which a home robber felt the need to urinate or defecate in the houses he victimized — and not in the toilets. It's not uncommon, Hernandez continues, for objects to fall out of the overstuffed pockets of meth-addled robbers. It is, however, unusual for a glass pipe to be arranged, neatly, atop a napkin.
Brophy, an attorney who runs the photography website The Tens, now found himself inheriting a secondhand pipe. He wasn't thrilled about this — or the advice he received from the SFPD to walk an illegal object into a police station. "I'd rather not be tackled and Tased, thank you," he says. (SFPD officers don't carry Tasers, but the trepidation is understandable).
So what is the proper disposal method for a secondhand pipe? A new glass pipe is recyclable, says Department of the Environment spokesman Guillermo Rodriguez. But one that's been fired up a few times, he notes, is inappropriate for either recycling or the garbage; he suggests calling the police.
Been there, done that. Recology government affairs manager Paul Giusti's advice is easier to follow: Wrap up the pipe thoroughly and throw it in the trash. "The amount of residue is going to be minuscule," he says.
And that's what Brophy did. "Frankly," adds Hernandez, "that's what I would have done, too."