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Federal report shows property crime rise in SF, decline in US

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(S.F. Examiner illustration)

San Francisco was overcome by a wave of car break-ins and other nonviolent offenses during the first six months of 2017 as the nation experienced a downturn in property crimes, according to a new federal report.

The FBI released the report on Tuesday showing a 2.9 percent drop in property crime nationwide at the same time as a 21 percent uptick in San Francisco. The preliminary semiannual Uniform Crime Report compared January through June 2017 with the first half of 2016.

The report, which found that crime in the U.S. was down nearly across the board, except for murders and motor vehicle thefts, is a reminder of the car break-in problem that San Francisco has a struggled to quell in recent years.

At the end of last year, the San Francisco Police Department released numbers showing a 24 percent jump in car break-ins in The City, with more than 30,000 auto burglaries reported.

The issue has persisted despite efforts from city leaders including SFPD Chief Bill Scott, who in January announced that he would dedicate officers at each police station to investigate and prevent property crime.

The report showed an increase from 22,833 reported property crimes in San Francisco in the first half of 2016 to 27,654 in 2017. Property crimes include car break-ins, home burglaries and vehicle thefts.

“San Francisco and neighboring Bay Area cities all saw increases in property crimes during that six-month period,” said SFPD spokesperson Robert Rueca.

Indeed, Oakland experienced an uptick in property crime in that time from 11,450 to 13,023 cases, and San Jose saw an increase from 11,463 to 12,528, according to the report.

Rueca said the increase in property crime dropped to 12 percent by November 2017 compared to the year prior.

“While this is still too high, the San Francisco Police Department is committed to trying new strategies to effectively address this pervasive problem that impacts our city and other cities throughout the region,” Rueca said.

Rueca said the SFPD has doubled the number of uniformed officers on foot beats and continued to run undercover operations out of district stations focusing on property crime.

Earlier this week, District Attorney George Gascon worked with state Sen. Scott Wiener to introduce a bill to close a legal loophole that they said hampers the prosecution of auto burglars.

Gascon said in a statement announcing Senate Bill 916 on Tuesday that San Franciscans need “relief from the frustration and broken glass that has defined The City’s epidemic of auto break-ins.”

“The community’s skyrocketing number of auto break-ins are a stain on our quality of life,” Gascon said. “For visitors it can ruin a vacation to our amazing city and make people less likely to want to return in the future.”

Gascon and Wiener argue that it would be easier to enforce car break-in laws if prosecutors did not have to prove that a door was locked when a defendant committed an auto burglary, just that the defendant broke the car window.

Prosecutors say it’s hard to prove that a door was locked without the victim testifying in a case. That’s a problem when it comes to trying auto burglary cases because the victims are often tourists visiting from out of state.

“The explosion in auto break-ins we’re experiencing is unacceptable, and we need to ensure our police and district attorneys have all the tools they need to address it,” Wiener said in a statement. “When residents or visitors park their cars on the streets, they should have confidence that the car and its contents will be there when they return.”

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