No matter how hard they try, San Francisco’s finest can’t seem to stay ahead of the city’s illegal gambling operations. Like whackamoles, the more the cops hit them with raids, the faster they pop up elsewhere.

SFPD raid illegal gambling dens

San Francisco police raided an illegal gambling den this week, but the problem is much larger, residents attest. (Image: Joe Eskanazi/Mission Local)

San Francisco police have declared war on illegal gambling dens and “thrift shop” Jhec of All Trades on Mission’s Excelsior corridor is the latest casualty. Authorities arrested five suspects on Tuesday when they raided the shop, which also advertises as a coffee shop, but apparently sells no coffee.

Citywide Problem

Officers seized equipment, drugs, cash, money orders, financial papers and other records to strengthen their case against the criminal operation. Exactly what kind of gambling was going on inside the store was not specified.

It’s the second time authorities have raided Jhec of All Trades and SFPD say they’ve been watching a number of storefront operations in the Excelsior, Mission, Bayview, and Chinatown neighborhoods of the city. Cops have even warned criminals involved in illicit gaming activities before that police raids are imminent.

What’s happening behind closed doors at Jhec of All Trades was no secret in the community. City news site Mission Local featured an in-depth article about the alleged activities happening there just eight days before the raid. Ingleside Police Capt. Joseph McFadden told Mission Local that for months, neighbors and organizations located near the store had been filing complaints.

“There’s a cop’s mother who lives right near there; she’s one of the complainants,” he says of the Jhec. “I told her I’ll have that place shut down if it’s the last thing I do.”

Unwinding these operations can take months, and in a local case, McFadden said there were more than 200 phone complaints about a specific location before it was closed for good. The challenge is these holes in the wall pop right back up, often nearby, and are back in business again in just a matter of days.

Like Bad Pennies, They Keep Coming Back

It took a reported shooting, an onslaught of 911 calls, and finally a desperate act of vandalism by the business owner for police to force out the illegal gambling den subleasing space in the former Fizzary soda shop in the Mission District. Within a year, illicit operators scammed their way back into the very same location, and it was business as usual.

Eventually, they overstayed their welcome, and have since opened up shop in an art studio in Bayview, where the complaints from neighbors have already started coming. The tenant who unknowingly sublet the property to the illegal gambling operation, spoke to Mission Local on the condition of anonymity.

“My neighbors said on weekend nights, it’s wild,” said the source who lives in a different state. He said, “(The streets are) packed with Mercedes and fancy cars” on weekend nights.

Area business owners report witnessing fights, finding broken glass, and hearing loud music in the middle of the night.

With these stealth operators being so resilient, authorities are looking at how they can squash them out of existence. Priority should be given to the players at the top of the food chain, San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Archie Wong said at a Thursday meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

“It is very important, obviously, to have a long-term solution to shutting down these shacks … It is important to find out who the owners and operators truly are,” Wong said. “You have to follow the money. You have to go upstream.”