Auto break-ins on the rise at the beach

Smash-and-grab auto burglars have recently turned their attention to the streets lining the ocean, preying on surfers and tourists who head to the beach, according to authorities.

Police said Tuesday that auto burglaries are plaguing the Western Addition, La Playa Street near the Great Highway and The Embarcadero between Fisherman’s Wharf and Howard Street, Lt. Michael Biel said.

Smash-and-grabs have decreased in the last two years, police said, but there are still more than 1,000 cars broken into every month. There were 14,058 reports of auto break-ins in The City in 2007. In 2006, there were more than 15,000 reports.

On Tuesday, police played a video of a sting operation to show how quickly an auto thief can pull devices such as dashboard GPS systems, iPods and phones if they’re left in the open. The video shows a man breaking into a police decoy vehicle parked near St. Mary’s Cathedral in the Western Addition.

The auto break-in took less than 90 seconds, and according to police, an auto burglar can sell the goods in a high foot-traffic area within an hour.

“Unfortunately, there are many people in our society and our communities here that will buy property at a low price and really not take into consideration that these items are stolen or maybe they don’t care that these items are stolen,” Biel said.

The ability to use police testimony is a major part of convicting auto burglars, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors had their hands tied before because defendants would claim they just found whatever stolen goods they were carrying on the street.

The crime is probably one of the most underreported in The City, according to police, meaning there could be many more that police never hear about.

“This is a crime that’s very frustrating for the Police Department because 99 percent of offenses are preventable,” Deputy police Chief Kevin Cashman said.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A server greets diners in a Shared Spaces outdoor dining area outside Napper Tandy’s Irish pub at 24th Street and South Van Ness Avenue in the Mission District on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. San Francisco could choose to resume outdoor dining in the wake of a state decision to lift a regional stay-at-home order. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders lifted as ICU capacity improves

Change in rules could allow outdoor dining to resume in San Francisco

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Methamphetamines (Sophia Valdes/SF Weekly)
New search launched for meth sobering center site

Pandemic put project on pause but gave health officials time to plan a better facility

Hasti Jafari Jozani quarantines at her brother's San Francisco home after obtaining several clearances to study at San Francisco State University. (Photo courtesy Siavash Jafari Jozani)
Sanctions, visas, and the pandemic: One Iranian student’s bumpy path to SF State

Changing immigration rules and travel restrictions leave some overseas students in limbo

Woody LaBounty, left, and David Gallagher started the Western Neighborhoods Project which has a Balboa Street office housing historical items and comprehensive website dedicated to the history of The City’s West side. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Outside Lands podcast delves into West side’s quirky past

History buffs Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher have been sharing fun stories about the Richmond and Sunset since 1998

Most Read