San Francisco targeted by car thieves

June 25, 2008 10:51:22 AM PDT
There is a warning from police to anyone who drives a car into San Francisco. If you wind up parking in one of the city's "hot spots," you could easily become a victim of a batch of bold and brazen, smash-and-grab burglars.

The San Francisco Police Department revealed a videotape of a typical smash and grab robbery in the city:

The burglar approaches the car. He's about to break in. Suddenly, by coincidence, a patrol car passes by on the adjoining street, so he walks around the decoy car. Seconds later, he comes back undaunted. The burglar throws a sparkplug into the window, quickly reaches in and grabs the laptop.

It took just 20 seconds and he was gone.

Later, police in an unmarked car chased and arrested the suspect.

"This individual may break into three, four, five cars a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. So when you're lucky enough to apprehend one of these suspects, that's a significant impact on the reduction of auto burglaries," says Dep. Chief Kevin Cashman.

Police say the video shows just how brazen and determined smash and grab burglars can be. The sight of a police car didn't even deter the suspect.

"It just stopped him momentarily. He waited for that marked unit to go back and still committed the burglary of that vehicle," says Dep. Chief David Shinn.

Investigators say the stolen property is usually sold within an hour of the burglary.

Some popular items like laptops and iPods are even ordered by burglary rings in advance.

"We've seen people that have been taking or recruiting individuals to go out and procure more of these items at a low price," says Lt. Michael Biel.

Police say most of the smash and grabs occur in three areas of the city:

  • The Embarcadero between Fisherman's Wharf and Howard Street.
  • A wide section of the Western Addition.
  • Point Lobos near the Great Highway.

    Police say they're averaging a thousand cases a month.

    One woman we spoke to had her GPS stolen, which was worth $300 and cost her an additional $250 to have her window fixed.

    Police are warning burglars that they'll be conducting more stings like this one.

    "We're using vehicles like this and if something looks too good to be true, it probably is," says Biel.

    Police say that this is the most preventable of all crimes, just don't leave any items in your car for the burglars to see.


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