With violent crime on the decline in San Francisco, police have turned their attention to the recent swell in certain property crimes that leave shattered glass on city streets and drivers with hefty bills.
Police and the District Attorney’s Office may debate the reasons, but police data shows The City experienced a 49 percent jump in auto burglaries and a 18 percent increase in vehicle thefts in the first two months of 2015, when compared to the same period last year.
Police recorded 4,142 auto burglaries during the first two months this year, compared to 2,772 last year. As for vehicle thefts, the numbers jumped from 816 during January and February 2014 to 959 during that period this year.
“It’s rare that you see no broken glass on any block in San Francisco,” Police Chief Greg Suhr said at a special Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday, called to address the uptick in property crime.
The surge in auto burglaries and vehicle thefts is the continuation of a trend since 2010. The number of recorded auto burglaries has more than doubled since then, from 9,554 in 2010 to 19,827 last year, with the steepest rise occurring in 2013 when the amount of incidents shot up by about 5,000, police data shows.
While The City experiences less vehicle thefts than auto burglaries, the number of thefts have still grown: from 3,903 in 2010 to 6,126 last year. Suhr pointed to the state’s 2011 jail realignment law, which is geared toward reducing prison overcrowding. Suhr said the law resulted in more low-level offenders on city streets, coinciding with the increase in property crimes, as a potential reason for the uptick.
Christine DeBerry, District Attorney George Gascon’s chief of staff, disagreed with Suhr, saying “that is not what we’re dealing with here in San Francisco.”
“The other jurisdictions in California are seeing a decrease in their property crime that we’re not seeing,” DeBerry said. “So there is definitely a San Francisco issue that we need to look at more closely.”
To that end, police and the District Attorney’s Office are working together to form larger investigations targeting groups of criminals responsible for, at times, 50 to 100 property crimes, DeBerry said. Proposition 47, the new state law passed in November reducing certain property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, makes it harder for prosecutors to lock up low-level criminals.
“We need to figure out how to bundle the misdemeanors to get to a good solid misdemeanor conviction, even if the person only gets a year in the county jail and does basically six months,” Suhr said. “It would still give us some release from that person out on the street.”