SF Dad Solves Minivan Break-In Investigation, Demands More Action From Police

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A San Francisco resident said he was loading up their family minivan for a spring break getaway when someone stole their bags.

"I ran inside to get one thing, 15 seconds, maybe 30,” said Tyler Sterkel. "There was nothing on the street, nothing. It was quiet. Especially Sunday morning, 8 a.m. there's nothing going on.”

After the robbery, his amateur sleuthing skills kicked in. He filled out a police report, put a message on Nextdoor, and quickly got a video from a neighbor a few doors up the street showing the only vehicle that drove by his home at the time of the burglary.

It was a gold minivan with something strapped on the roof.

Two days after the robbery, he was walking through the neighborhood and spotted the van parked right there, two blocks away from where he lives.

Pictures he took of the van showed a familiar-looking rug strapped to the roof. He said he even found evidence the van was stolen. 

Tyler said he even walked up and talked with a woman sitting in the passenger seat about the robbery two days earlier.

"I told her why I was interested in this particular vehicle and showed her the doorbell video from the neighbor on my phone and she said, 'oh that's terrible, I'm sorry that happened to you,’" said Tyler.

When he returned minutes later with his dog, he noticed the woman was gone and he spotted one of his kid's stolen games inside the van -- so he called police.

Two officers arrived within a half hour. 

The door was unlocked so as police watched, Tyler recovered some of his family's stolen property, including a cherished children's blanket and stuffed animal. 

But the laptops, iPads and other expensive items were gone.

Tyler then left and assumed police would wait for the thieves to return.

But he ultimately got a call from officers saying they let the people in the van leave because it hadn't been reported stolen.

That happened a month ago and he said he's heard nothing about arrests since.

"Inexplicable,” said Tyler. 

His wife, Molly Sterkel, said, “This isn't the biggest crime that could ever be committed but we want them to solve these kinds of crimes and certainly the bigger ones too."

After the NBC Bay Area interview, Sterkel said the SFPD called him and said a sergeant is now assigned to his case.

A police spokesperson confirmed the details of the incident and said it's an open investigation with no arrests made so far.

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