SFPD Chief Bill Scott, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and Supervisor Catherine Stefani held a press conference Thursday morning to discuss a long overdue crackdown on the epidemic of car break-ins in the city. And just as they were about to kick it off, a break-in was occurring a short distance away.
The conference was being held at the Palace of Fine Arts, which has been a known hot spot for these petty crimes — with photographers taking wedding photos and such sometimes becoming targets as well. And as the Chronicle reports, a tourist from Missouri, Lindsey Dobbelare, and her family had parked a rented minvan and spent 15 minutes checking out the famed landmark, only to come back and find a back window smashed and a bunch of their stuff stolen.
Tourist areas are especially ripe targets for thieves seeking quick, smash-and-grab crimes of opportunity, known as bipping — and as we saw in a video from just last week, one crew was just going from parked car to parked car near Fisherman's Wharf recently and finding bags to steal in every one. How has no one gotten this memo about leaving stuff in their cars?!
"We will not continue to tolerate these crimes growing at the rate that they’re going on,” Scott said at the news conference, per the Chronicle. “We’ve come a long way from 2017 where we had 31,000-plus car break-ins in our city. If you look around, you see the evidence of what has plagued our city. You see broken glass around this beautiful iconic Palace of Fine Arts, and this has to stop."
The SFPD has a plan, they say, to send out more officers on patrol in tourist hot spots like Alamo Square, Lombard Street, the Palace of Fine Arts, and Fisherman’s Wharf. (Why this wasn't happening already, Scott seems to imply, was because of budget constraints, and the newly approved city budget has allowed this operation to resume.) There will be plainclothes officers patroling as well.
The department also plans to deploy bait cars to entrap some of these thieves.
"When people come into this city or people who are in this city break into cars, they may be breaking into cars that are put out there by the SFPD — we intend to catch them in the act," Scott said.
DA Brooke Jenkins addressed the often-discussed issue of car burglars not being prosecuted, or acting with impunity because they know they'll only face a slap on the wrist if they're caught. And Jenkins herself has complained about SF judges being too lenient on drug criminals, but she didn't mention judges in her comments.
"We have gotten to a point in S.F. where people didn’t even fear being arrested because they didn’t think anything would happen when the DA’s office took over the case,” Jenkins said. “They have to learn not only will the police arrest, but once that case is filed, something meaningful will happen on the backend to serve as a deterrent for the future.”
Jenkins added, "I want San Franciscans, and even everybody outside of San Francisco to know that you have a district attorney here that is committed to ensuring that there is accountability, that we work together with the police department to create a system of deterrence. We have to make sure that those are thinking about committing these types of crimes think twice."
In addition to deterring auto burglaries & vehicle break-ins, @SFPD’s new operations will provide invaluable evidence to @SFDAOffice prosecutors so that we are able to ensure there is accountability and consequences when crimes are committed and arrests are made. pic.twitter.com/wTNl1biH0J— Brooke Jenkins 謝安宜 (@BrookeJenkinsSF) August 24, 2023
Supervisor Dean Preston claims that some politics are being played here, and while his office has called on the SFPD for a new strategy and asked if there was one in the works, they were annoyed.