Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zebra Killers

Tourism Nosedives

            After the brief reprieve, the city was thrown into a state of shock. The streets emptied. Strangers clumped together at bus stops, chatting nervously and peering down the street for the too-slow bus.

            As the shocking Zebra Killer stories made national headlines, San Francisco's bustling tourism industry took a beating. Potential visitors booked their vacations elsewhere. Even North Beach, a neighborhood with a seven-day-a-week nightlife buoyed by abundant Italian eateries and sex shops, was deserted after dark.

            The Chronicle reported that a widely publicized ballroom dance featuring an 18-piece band drew only 10 people. Movie theaters and large restaurants that offered valet or garaged parking did slightly better business than those that didn't.

San Francisco's Broadway, deserted in the evening
San Francisco's Broadway, deserted in the evening

            "People simply won't walk the streets after dark anymore," North Beach resident Davey Rosenberg told the paper. 

            Meanwhile, scores of frustrated cops cruised the city in unmarked cars and found no suspicious activity.

            The day after Shields was murdered, the SFPD held a press conference and announced a controversial plan it hoped would end the murders.

Police sketch of one suspect descibed by two victims
Police sketch of one suspect descibed by two victims

            They handed reporters the first complete description and sketches of a suspected Zebra killer — a black man with a short Afro and a narrow chin. One sketch showed him wearing a knit stocking cap, the other did not.

            "This is an extraordinary situation and it calls for extreme measures," Mayor Joseph Alioto told the press. "We are going to be stopping people in San Francisco who have a certain profile. We're going to stop a lot of people.

            "We ask the cooperation of citizens and we want to assure them that we will be mindful of their constitutional rights."

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