In what is perhaps a sign that local law enforcement is doing an OK job at deterring and catching auto burglars for a change, police in Southern California have noted a trend in Bay Area gangs traveling down there to target tourist vehicles.
Multiple law enforcement agencies in and around Los Angeles report that they've nabbed suspects from San Francisco, Oakland, Antioch, and Pittsburg in the last year in what appear to be coordinated smash-and-grab campaigns aimed at rental cars. As the Los Angeles Times reports this week, targets have been in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, the Sunset Strip, and Mid-Wilshire, especially around tourist magnets like the Grove, the Beverly Center, and the Original Farmers Market. Much as thieves do every day here in SF, these groups look for rental vehicles with bar codes on the dash and unattended luggage or other items left visible in the back seats.
In one spree last April, an Oakland gang is believed to have committed 40 auto burglaries in Hollywood using electric scooters to move around quickly. The good were later recovered in Oakland and five people were arrested in connection with the spree.
A different group of three from the Bay Area were caught after a 100-mph chase that ended in Sherman Oaks, and they are accused of a series of car burglaries in the Mid-Wilshire area.
Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police have been coordinating with the Oakland Police Department, and in some cases traveling to Oakland themselves to make arrests. And from the sound of it, cops in a place like Beverly Hills aren't taking such quality-of-life crimes as casually as the SFPD has been perceived as doing. Beverly Hills Police Lt. Scott Dowling tells the LA Times, "By living up there, [these thieves] feel this is a safe business model to follow. [But] We will go after you if you leave a cookie to follow. This is a quality-of-life issue for us. It’s quite a burden."
As SFist noted last week, car break-ins are trending downward at least in San Francisco, with the reported figure for 2019 being 3 percent below the same figure for 2018. Also, the mid-December bust of a major Bay Area fencing ring may end up having an impact on thieves' outlets for stolen goods — though the LA Times piece notes that the goods often just show up for sale on Instagram.
Don't leave stuff in your cars!! Tell all your tourist friends!