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City-owned parking garages to see increased security

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Mayor Mark Farrell announces a reduction in car break-ins in city-owned parking garages alongside supervisors Catherine Stefani, Aaron Peskin, Police Chief Bill Scott and SF Municipal Transportation Agency director Ed Reiskin on top of the Stockton and Sutter streets parking garage. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Security will be beefed up over the next two years in all 22 city-owned parking garages in an effort to reduce car break-ins after a successful test of new measures in six garages, officials said Tuesday.

High-definition cameras, more secure gates and fencing, two-way intercom systems, brighter lighting and a foot-patrol officer assigned to garages are some of the ways The City is attempting to reduce break-ins. In two of the garages where they have been implemented since January, the impact has proven significant.

The Sutter-Stockton garage, where Dunky the chihuahua fell fatal victim to a violent car break-in in February, and the Pierce Street garage, in Mayor Mark Farrell’s former district, both saw the most success in decreasing vehicle break-ins.

The Sutter-Stockton garage had an 83 percent decrease in auto break-ins between the months of January and March. As of Tuesday, no break-ins have been reported for the month of April, officials said.

“This was a garage that has been in desperate need of help,” District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani said. “I do hear from constituents every day that they simply do not feel safe and we are responsible and accountable for the safety of our community.”

The Pierce Street Garage saw a 55 percent reduction in break-ins in the same time period. The four remaining garages have not seen an increase in break-ins and some have sustained zero car break-ins, officials said.

Overall, car break-ins are down by 17 percent with 6,401 total break-ins during the first quarter of 2018 in comparison to 7,674 in the same months of 2017. Last year also marked a record high of more than 30,000 car break-ins, according to city data.

“It may not be sexy stuff, but parking garages are a part of the transportation system here in San Francisco,” San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Ed Reiskin, said. “We’ve developed a program a number of years ago that culminates in a $32.5 million, three-year project to modernize and upgrade all of our garages. We’re about a third of the way through.”

To date, six of 22 public garages have been fully secured, and two more are in the works. By 2020, all city-owned parking garages are set to be fitted with similarly beefed up security measures, according to officials.

Farrell said that increasing the budget for police officers in The City’s upcoming budget proposal is also a top priority.

”We’re going to be investing heavily in our police department in the upcoming budget,” Farrell said. “What we really need is more police staffing at the end of the day.”

The police department has also doubled foot patrols since the end of 2017 to help deal with car brea-ins, and a dedicated unit for spotting auto burglaries has had an increase in officers within the police department, officials said.

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