Smash-and-grab car heists on the rise

With the summer travel season on hand, out-of-towners and locals alike need to keep a close watch on their belongings, as a recent spate of car break-ins indicates.

San Francisco police in the Central District, which encompasses North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf and parts of downtown, said car burglaries continue to occur frequently along the Embarcadero and the Wharf and police have stepped up patrols of the area.

Just last week, officers received 19 reports of cars broken into — 14 of which occurred between 2 and 10 p.m. — and made two arrests. Burglars took cameras, global positioning system units, iPods and cell phones from cars.

The burglars do not go out on “fishing expeditions” but pace a row of parked cars on the street or in a parking garage, looking for valuables in the car, according to police. Suspects also ride bikes past parked cars to gain a better vantage point into the car.

“When we do catch the individuals, the majority are drug-related individuals looking to score some quick cash,” Central district Capt. Jim Dudley said.

They might steal big-ticket items such as a laptop computer, but only sell it for $50-$100, he said.

Police have begun putting together operations for officers to patrol “hot spots,” such as the Embarcadero or near Fisherman’s Wharf, and the results are tabulated for a weekly report so the department can stay on top of the problem, Dudley said.

“It’s a crime of opportunity that only literally takes a minute or less to take place,” Dudley said.

Police recommended taking all valuables from the car — including bags, phone cords, chargers and cradles for hand-held electronics — or at least tucking them out of view in the trunk.

Lynn Bloom, a civilian aide at Central Station and a lifetime San Francisco resident, said she was “embarrassed” to take these reports from tourists because of how it reflects on The City.

“They’ll take something that means everything to you and me but nothing to them, and they’ll dump it,” Bloom said. “You feel bad because people come from out of town and boom! Their things are gone.”

dsmith@examiner.com


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