Wave of thefts hits Ocean Beach cars

Surfers mostly deal with stolen waves at Ocean Beach, but in the last month, the frequencyof stolen cars has been a bigger problem.

San Francisco police are calling the car-theft problem at Ocean Beach a “huge” problem, saying an average of two cars have been stolen every day over the last month. And the majority of the victims are surfers who leave their keys tucked away somewhere on their car as they drop in on the beach’s legendary waves.

“It’s an easy mark because the key is left on the tire or in the gas tank,” said San Francisco police Officer John Fergus, a four-year veteran of the Richmond station. “[The thieves] are out there watching and as soon as [surfers] hit the water, there goes their vehicle.”

The thieves — whether using keys or entering the vehicles by some other means, such as a screwdriver — are not necessarily targeting the cars but what might be inside the cars, Fergus said.

They will likely drive the car several blocks away, park and abscond with wallets, cell phones, credit cards, watches or any other valuable items that might be left in a locked car, he said.

“It’s grand theft of an auto, but they’re also specifically doing it for the contents,” which becomes a charge of auto burglary, the plainclothesman said.</p>

Fergus said a potential reason for the latest increase in car thefts was the recent improvement of waves.

Officers conduct surveillance and are out advising beachgoers about the hazard, but cars continue to be hit, he said. At least one vehicle was stolen Wednesday, he added.

Surfer John Tomlinson hits Ocean Beach between two and four times a week, and while he has not been stolen from — he keeps his keys zipped up in his wet suit — he called the problem “rampant” in the area and in Pacifica.

“It seems like it happens all the time,” Tomlinson said. “People need to be a lot more aware of their surroundings.”

dsmith@examiner.com

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