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San Francisco’s effort to clean up its tattered image suffers a blow after a Czech news crew is robbed of camera equipment during APEC Summit

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San Francisco’s push to use a major international conference to reverse its image as a city in decline is getting off to a rocky start.  

A Czech journalist and his camera crew were robbed at gunpoint Sunday evening by three armed assailants, according to a statement from the San Francisco police. The incident occurred in the North Beach neighborhood, about two miles from the city’s downtown, where world leaders are meeting for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. 

“The suspects demanded their production equipment and the victims complied,” the police said. “The suspects then entered their vehicle and fled from the scene.” 

North Beach is a busy tourist area known for its Italian restaurants and City Lights, a landmark bookstore made famous by beatnik poets such as Allen Ginsberg. The San Francisco Chronicle, which earlier reported the robbery, said Czech TV journalist Bohumil Vostal was filming the bookshop at dusk to capture the city’s beauty. 

The camera equipment was valued at $18,000 and San Francisco Mayor London Breed has promised the city will help replace it, according to the newspaper. 

The incident occurred as San Francisco hosts legions of international delegates, world leaders and journalists for the APEC event. While most of the attention is focused on a planned meeting between President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping of China, San Francisco is hoping to use its moment on the world stage to encourage tourism and pitch itself as a thriving hub of innovation. 

Municipal workers have been been power-washing sidewalks, moving homeless people, and sprucing up buildings in its downtown core, all in hopes that visitors will see a positive side of the city. 

San Francisco has notoriously high property crime rates, and local television crews have been known to travel with armed guards. However, homicide rates are below those of cities such as Austin, Miami and Washington, DC, according to federal and local data.

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