The SFPD’s ballyhooed bait-car campaign yielded its first arrest a week into the effort, and a KGO I-Team report found the suspect has a doozie of history of car break-ins — and of walking free after previous arrests.
A late August press conference announcing the rollout of SFPD’s bait-car campaign, which uses decoy cars to catch serial car break-in suspects, was marred by the fact that a tourist's car was broken into not far from the press conference just before it got underway — at noted break-in spot The Palace of Fine Arts.
It was an inauspicious start to the campaign for sure, but KGO has a new investigative report on the first suspect arrested using the bait car tactic, who was nabbed just a week after the effort started. But that station also found he reportedly has more than a dozen previous arrests, and it seems he’s has gamed the system to get out of jail repeatedly.
We should note that the suspect, 26-year-old Robert Sonza of San Francisco, was arrested way back on September 1. So it’s possible that in the six weeks since, there may have been more arrests of suspects lured in by bait cars. And Sonza is currently in custody at SF County Jail, and with a lengthy list of burglary, stolen property, and evading an officer charges that the screenshot below does not capture. But KGO’s investigations into Sonza’s background sure makes you wonder how on earth this man had been allowed to go free previously.
Certainly one arrest is a big deal, as many of the car break-in suspects pretty much do that deed professionally and commit the crime several times a day without getting caught. In Sonza’s case, the day he was arrested for the bait car break-in, he also burglarized the car of a visiting couple from Indiana profiled in the KGO report below.
Sonza allegedly stole luggage, cash, a $1,200 iPad, and a $3,500 laptop from the car of Linda and Dan Olgides while they were visiting Alcatraz. (Police did recover the luggage.) "We were in a great mood after we saw Alcatraz. You need to open it up again," Linda Olgides joked, referring to the prison.
But while they got the luggage back, no such luck with the iPad and laptop.
"Is there a chance for us getting our computers back?" Dan Oldiges tells KGO he asked the police. "And they said, 'No, your computer will probably end up in either Vietnam or another Asian country.'"
Sure enough, Oldiges pinged his iPad three days later, and it was in Vietnam.
But back to the suspect Robert Sonza. KGO’s investigation found he had been arrested “more than a dozen times” over the past five years, and was on probation at the time of this arrest.
They also dug up records of a February 2022 incident in Japantown, where police tried to arrest him, but he hit another car, ran over an officer’s foot, and got away. Three months later, police chased him when he was driving a stolen vehicle in North Beach, on a day when he’d allegedly broken into several other cars. He was finally arrested that day, but not before he hit three police cars, injured an officer, drove into a stairway, totaled someone’s Vespa, and sideswiped someone’s house.
Obviously, that begat a slew of charges. But Sonza got a plea deal where was only charged with evading an officer, and he was released for his six months’ time already served. We’ll see what happens this time, as Sonza has 16 charges pending against him. His next court appearance is pending for November 7.
According to SFPD, car break-ins are down 5% compared to this time last year. But there is still an average of 55 car break-ins each day, according to KTVU, and a total of 15,357 on the year. The jury’s still out on how well the bait car program is working, and perhaps more importantly, whether the judge will let suspects free after they’re arrested.
Image: @KyungLahCNN via Twitter