Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus speaks at a news conference alongside members of law enforcement to announce a new auto burglary task force on Thursday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF law enforcement agencies announce plan to tackle auto break-ins over the holidays

Law enforcement agencies in San Francisco plan to work together this holiday season to tackle car break-ins that number 70 per day in The City.

Over the next 60 days, a task force intended to combat auto burglaries and retail theft will target the neighborhoods and commercial corridors affected most by vehicle break-ins. The collaborative effort, known as “Operation Tangled Web,” brings together personnel and resources fromt he San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s departments, California Highway Patrol and the District Attorney’s Office.

The announcement, made by Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus, who is running for the office, comes five days before voters will decide who they want as DA in Tuesday’s local election.

“When two percent of the people breaking into cars are getting arrested, that means … a lot of folks are coming here because they think they’ll get away with it,” Loftus said. Today’s about all of these agencies working together with a unified message — that we are going to work together to hold people accountable.”

Loftus said the abysmal arrest rate for vehicle break-ins is due largely to agencies working independently of one another.

Auto burglaries spiked in 2017 when SFPD recorded more than 31,000 cases. Though that number has continued to decrease over the last two years, San Francisco is still seeing an average of 70 car break-ins per day, Loftus said.

“Although we’ve had modest reductions this year, it’s not enough,” SFPD Chief William Scott said. “These crimes haunt our city. Many of you probably have been victims of car break-ins — many of us standing here in law enforcement have been victims of car break-ins — and we know that we can do better.”

Operation Tangled Web also targets retail theft and fencing, the crime of buying and reselling stolen merchandise. Lucrative black markets for stolen goods fuel the instances of car break-ins throughout the City. Officials said they consider this organized crime and look to attack the ring at all levels to further reduce rates of auto burglary.

“We know that there’s a small amount of people that are very organized and commit these crimes, and that’s what we’re going after,” Scott said. “We want to make a difference. We want our city to be the safest city in this country, and we’re working towards that.”

Officials will compile over the 60 days to determine the task force’s impact.

Law enforcement officials are also asking city residents who burglaries to send them videos, pictures, license plate numbers and any other information that may be relevant to their investigation.

The task force will be using “new resources specifically from the CHP,” according to a press release. Although officials declined to share their specific tactics during the press conference, aerial surveillance was mentioned.

“We have the same type of operations kicking off in Southern California, both in Los Angeles and in San Diego,” CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Ernie Sanchez said. “Now, with intelligence sharing that we will have with SFPD, we will be able to assist them with these organizations that are coming from outside the City, not just from the Bay Area but from throughout the state of California, maybe even from throughout the nation. And that is the element that the California Highway Patrol brings to the table.”

Incoming tips will be monitored by the task force, Loftus said, and can be made at sfdistrictattorney.org/auto-burglary-tip-line or by emailing SFDA.AutoBurgTips@sfgov.org.

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