Police in the Bayview district, which serves Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, made two automobile burglary arrests in the first two weeks of September, as they continue to struggle to counter high rates of vehicle-related crime. In the same two weeks, district residents reported 17 auto burglaries and 13 auto thefts, according to Officer Ellina Teper.
Police increased their efforts to curb vehicle crimes after residents earlier this year complained that law enforcement wasn’t giving enough attention to the problem. San Francisco Police Department officers made three arrests for auto burglaries and ten arrests for vehicle thefts in August in the Bayview police district.
A total of 90 auto burglaries took place in August, compared with 93 in August of last year, according to SFPD. Sixty-eight car thefts occurred in August of this year, compared with 97 in the same month of 2014. Residents have reported 744 auto burglaries so far this year; 929 were reported in 2014, Teper said. Residents have also reported 416 stolen cars in the Bayview police district this year.
According to Bayview police Captain Raj Vaswani, officers have been noticing burglars driving to the area, double-parking and letting a conspirator out. The driver then parks a block away while the person on foot breaks into cars and runs back to the getaway vehicle. The captain said residents, with eyes and ears on the ground, are the best way police can combat these crimes. He’s asking San Franciscans to call the police if they see something suspicious. If witnesses can safely get a license plate number and photograph of the automobile or suspicious character, police can use the information to arrest suspects.
According Teper, auto burglaries occur more frequently in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch than in other parts of the district because the two neighborhoods are more affluent. Car thefts take place less frequently in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, Teper said, though she didn’t explain why that’s the case.
Teper said many times one person is committing multiple burglaries; when officers arrest a single suspect the number of burglaries drops significantly. One person can steal from 15 cars a night, she said.
Undercover officer surveillance is one tactic police are using to catch thieves, Tepler said. Officers on patrol pay close attention to people familiar to them who may have previously stolen property from a vehicle or stolen a car.
Police advise drivers to leave nothing in their car, not even a plastic bag. Teper said even if burglars don’t take anything, they’ll break a window if they see something that might be valuable; even an iPhone cord or coins are attractive, she said. Teper reiterated what former Bayview station Captain Robert O’Sullivan counseled, which is to put valuables in the car’s trunk before driving to a destination. She said thieves hang around areas where people visit, such as nightclubs, and watch drivers as they leave their vehicles. Vaswani said drivers should avoid even leaving something visible in their car when they pick up a book from the library; many of the burglaries are crimes of opportunity.