We've been talking about the smash-and-grab epidemic in San Francisco for a while now, and now the New York Times has picked up the story of this wealthy city's wave of car burglaries "that scatter glittering broken glass onto the sidewalks." They note that new data from the FBI shows that SF can now boast the highest property crime rate per capita in the nation's top 50 cities, and that the jump in property crime has been at least 60 percent since 2010 though it is likely higher because of how many of these crimes go unreported.
The paper also finds a woman who lives at the foot of the crooked part of Lombard Street who has witnessed multiple car break-ins from her apartment window, some in broad daylight, and often involving tourists like that guy who got shot last year because he didn't want to give up his camera.
And of course they highlight the tension between more law-and-order politicians like current Supervisor and State Senate candidate Scott Wiener who nonetheless doesn't want to allow the SFPD to install their own surveillance cameras on the street and David Campos who doesn't want to "criminalize people for being poor," and brings the property crime issue back to the larger issue of the growing economic inequality across the city.
In terms of reported car break-ins, there was a huge jump in those between 2014 and 2015 alone, with 25,899 reports of smash-and-grabs last year approximately 70 per day a 30.62 percent jump over the previous year.
Cops and others point the finger at the state's Prop 47, passed in 2014, which made a number of crimes previously considered felonies into misdemeanors. Many say that this makes car thefts especially attractive to petty thieves because not only are they unlikely even to get caught, but if they are they will barely get a smack on the wrist. The only problem with that theory is that Oakland and other California cities haven't seen nearly the rise in these crimes that we've seen in San Francisco.
SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza tells the Times that the average car burglar at least those that get caught could fit a number of profiles. "Some are homeless," he says, "some are in gangs, some are freelancers up to no good."
Meanwhile, and even less comfortingly, the Chronicle reported that thefts of guns out of vehicles had also risen alongside car break-ins, with 57 guns stolen out of cars last year, up from 48 the previous year, and 31 in 2013. That prompted Campos to propose legislation last fall that makes it a crime to leave a gun unsecured in your car, outside of an affixed lockbox.