San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston on Thursday is sponsoring a hearing on strategies to address the city’s problem with car break-ins.  

The hearing will be held before the San Francisco Government Audit and Oversight Committee, and the agenda calls for the Mayor’s Office, police, the District Attorney’s Office, the Office of Economic Workforce Development, Municipal Transportation Agency and the Department of Emergency Management all to report to the committee.  

According to the District Attorney’s Office, between Jan. 1 and July 31 of this year, there have been 127 felony auto burglary/theft cases presented and 86 cases filed. In all of 2021, there were 274 cases presented and 164 filed; in all of 2022 there were 266 cases presented and 212 cases filed. 

Mid-year crime statistics, presented by San Francisco Police on July 7, 2021.

The DA’s Office said from the 86 cases filed so far this year, there have been 45 convictions.

Of course, most car break-ins never make it to the District Attorney’s Office and are never solved. For example, statistics from 2021 collected by San Francisco Police show 8,524 reported break-ins by mid-year, which was actually way down from 2017’s  mid-year numbers of 15,531. 

Preston asked District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to report on any victim services offered to people who have had their cars broken into, but in a letter to the committee, she said that her office’s Victims Services Division primarily assists people who have been the victim of violent crimes, and “due to budgetary constraints, our office does not currently have staffing capacity to support victims of car break-ins.”

In the same letter, Jenkins said that property crime is “plaguing” the city and deeply impacting residents and businesses.

“I am very supportive of the San Francisco Police Department’s recent announcement to dedicate additional resources to addressing auto burglaries,” wrote Jenkins. “These strategies will better equip the Police Department to prevent these kinds of crimes from happening and when they do occur, identify and apprehend suspects so they may be prosecuted.”

‘The situation is dire’

San Francisco police have promised more patrols to address the auto burglary problem, especially in tourist areas. Chief Bill Scott even said they would be using “bait” cars.

In the agenda packet released before Thursday’s meeting, a manager of a high-end shoe store asked San Francisco government heads to take action about the problem.

“I must admit that it is increasingly difficult to find anything positive in a city that is suffering from a seemingly unending epidemic of car break-ins and increased crime,” wrote Denny Garbuio of John Fluevog Shoes on Haight Street. “The situation is dire, and it is utterly perplexing that we find ourselves here despite the extensive surveillance infrastructure throughout the city.”

Garbuio said that the longer the city takes to tackle the problem, the more damage is done to San Francisco’s reputation and economy.

Preston offered on idea on social media Wednesday night. 

“Just as government in the 1980’s launched a massive “buckle up” campaign to retrain drivers/passengers to use seatbelts, we need as a city to pound in every way possible the message to visitors: do not leave anything in your car. Do this and we’ll dramatically reduce car break-ins,” said Preston. “We should not be throwing our hands up on this issue.”

The Government Audit and Oversight Committee meets at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Chamber, Room 250, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco.

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.