Auto thefts up near Ocean Beach parking lot

Reports of auto thefts are up near Ocean Beach, a crime that police say is often easily preventable.

Opportunistic thieves are scouting out surfers who are lax with their security precautions, according to a report by The City's Richmond Police Station, which has partial jurisdiction over the five-mile beach expanse and its adjoining parking lots.

Surfers frequently attempt to hide car keys on their tire or near their vehicle, according to Inspector Vince Repetto of the San Francisco Police Department's Auto Theft division.

Prospective thieves monitor the surfers' actions from the thick foliage on the walking median of the Great Highway, Repetto said. 

Once a surfer heads out into the ocean, the thieves will snatch the ill-placed keys and head off with the stolen car, Repetto said.

Wes Womack of the San Francisco Surfrider Foundation said the summer months bring an increase in “weekend warrior” surfers who are unfamiliar with the security situations at Ocean Beach.  Womack also said that many surfers have reservations about taking their keys into the ocean with them because the keys have electronic devices inside which are prone to water damage.

Still, Womack concedes that surfers often times just don't pay enough attention to potential warning signs.  Womack said he always keeps his car keys in a pouch in his wet suit, but many of his colleagues opt for less-secure placements.

“Putting your key on your tire or near your car has kind of been a systematic thing for years.  People need to break out of that habit,” he said.

Most of the time, police officers find the abandoned car-minus all valuable contents-just a few hundred yards away from the beach, Repetto said, adding that many of the incidents are easily avoidable.

 “I drove by the parking lot the other day and I saw at least 15 surfers with their car trunks open, making it obvious for anyone looking that they had valuables inside,” he said.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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