Popular downtown parking garage beset by break-ins

When Gabrielle Naughten pulled her car into the Stockton-Sutter Garage near Union Square on Thursday, she had no idea the garage has been beset by vehicle break-ins.

In the past year, the garage has seen 80 reported car break-ins, accounting for a third of all car burglaries in the northeast part of The City, which has made the garage a priority for the police who patrol the area.

The San Rafael resident said she was surprised the garage, on the corner of Stockton and Sutter streets, was so prone to thefts.

“That seems kinda high,” she said. “It would be nice if there was some signage.”

At a recent police command staff meeting with some of The City's station captains, the head of the district where the garage is located said it is one of his main focuses.

“Auto burglaries are on the forefront of my mind,” said Cpt. David Lazar, who heads the Central Police Station.

In the past year, Lazar said, 80 reported cases of car break-ins have come out of the garage. He said the garage, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and police are making a plan to address the issue.

“We have operations to address the problem of vehicle break-ins at the garage and also an educational component to limit the number of break-ins, reminding people not to leave any visible property in vehicles,” Officer Albie Esparza said.

Those plans will not include more cameras, said Lazar, who discussed more cameras with the SFMTA — there are 15 now — but the agency said the costs would be prohibitive.

“Sutter is receiving most of the attention at this point, it's certainly a situation we are aware of,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

The SFMTA plans to upgrade the surveillance system and is looking to put more cameras in at some point. In the meantime, they have replaced older cameras already on site.

The Sutter-Stockton Garage — one of 18 owned by The City — has 1,865 spaces and is run by the nonprofit Uptown Parking Corp., whose management would not comment for the story.

The garage's annual net revenue is $16 million, all of which goes to the SFMTA's operating budget.

A walk through the facility Thursday found at least two no-trespassing notices, which said anyone asked to leave who did not comply would be escorted off the premises by police. There were also warnings to lock vehicles and make sure nothing was left inside.

But Lorenzo Garcia, a resident of Palo Alto, said he saw no signs warning him of the garage's issues.

“There should be signs,” he said.

Now that he knows of all the thefts, he said, he will steer clear of the garage.

Car-related crimes on the rise

– As of June, citywide car break-ins were up 9 percent compared to the first six months of 2013. So far, 8,044 such incident have been reported this year compared to 7,378 in 2013.

– Actual auto theft was up 16 percent in the first half of the year. There were 2,689 in the first six months of 2013 compared to 3,126 in 2014.

– In the police district that covers the Stockton-Sutter Garage, property crime is up 19 percent for the first half of the year and burglaries are up 54 percent.

– The City has more than 15,000 parking spaces at 40 parking facilities. And as of 2011, they generated about $87 million in city revenue. The facilities are a mix of city-owned lots and garages.

Source: Police and SFMTA

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