San Francisco is grappling with an epidemic in car break-ins. (Courtesy photo)

Wiener to try again with auto burglary loophole legislation

A loophole that law enforcement officials say hinders prosecution of auto burglars would close under legislation being proposed by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

Wiener plans to reintroduce a law that would eliminate a requirement that prosecutors must show a car’s door was locked during an auto burglary, even if the window was bashed in.

The new legislation would make forcible entry sufficient to prove the crime.

“The explosion in auto break-ins we’re experiencing is unacceptable, and we need to ensure our police and district attorneys have all the tools they need to address it,” Wiener said.

Wiener introduced similar legislation earlier this year under Senate Bill 916, but it didn’t make it out of the state Senate appropriations committee.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon supports the legislation, saying the loophole has allowed some suspects to elude prosecution.

Under current law, prosecutors have a difficult time making a case if an offender broke a window and entered a car, leaving it unlocked or the door open. A case against a suspect could also falter if a victim returned and unlocked the car’s door before police took a report.

San Francisco police Chief William Scott said the legislation would provide “a very useful tool to help us reduce vehicle burglaries by making it easier to successfully prosecute these crimes.”

Vehicle break-ins are down 16 percent this year and police have made 31 percent more arrests compared to 2017, Scott said.

-Kathleen Kirkwood, Bay City NewsCrimePolitics

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