EXCLUSIVE: Thieves steal visiting young children's Christmas presents in SF car break-in

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Saturday, December 31, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: Thieves steal children's presents in SF car break-in
Thieves steal visiting young children's Christmas presents in a San Francisco car break-in.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Weeks after two high-profile armed robberies took place at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco Police said they're stepping up patrols in response.

But what happened to a family from Hawaii the day after Christmas, when presents for small kids were stolen, raises the question: where are those patrols now?

Husband and wife Malia and Vernie Agustin and their three-year-old daughter Liliana are on a two-week vacation to Northern California to visit relatives in Sacramento.

"Hawaii has the spirit of Aloha, so we had that kind of shield over us when we came here to California and San Francisco," Malia said.

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Two photographers, shooting outside the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, became the targets of brazen armed attacks Wednesday.

But that "shield of aloha" came crashing down the day after Christmas, when the couple along with one other family member took a day trip to San Francisco to soak in the sights.

"The first stop was the bridge. When you've never been here before, the first thing you want to see if the bridge," Says Malia.

It wasn't until after their next stop at the Palace of Fine Arts, the spirit of the holiday season came to a screeching halt.

"We came back to this horrible sight with our vehicle broken into all of our belongings gone. The kids, they had just opened their Christmas presents, and their presents are gone. So to be a victim of that and see how that impacted our children, it was really rough," Malia said, nearly in tears.

MORE: After violent camera robberies, a number of photographers plan to stay away from San Francisco

This break-in happened weeks after two photographers -- one in the middle of taking wedding photos -- were attacked and robbed at gunpoint outside the Palace of Fine Arts. SFPD responded with announcing additional patrols in the area.

The Agustins say that's not enough.

Vernie gave the example of Waikiki Beach in his home state and how there are police in the area around the clock.

"Stationing police presence will stop that from happening. Knowing someone is watching, protecting at all times, can literally affect the rate of theft and robbery," he said.

MORE: SFPD returns stolen 'Pidgey Magoo' plushie to 12-year-old girl in SoCal

SFPD sent ABC7 News a statement saying officers continue overtime shifts, not only at the Palace of Fine Arts, but at other tourist spots like Hayes Valley and Japantown. They added that plainclothes officers continue to make arrests in these cases.

While the family knows the odds of getting their belongings back are slim, they're offering a $4,000 reward and make this plea to the public and California leaders:

"Aloha goes a long way, so we hope and pray someone will hear our story and help make a difference. I would love for whoever is running the state to put more effort into protecting the people visiting here," said Vernie, who said the most challenging part of losing his own photography belongings was missing the memories of Liliana's birth.

MORE: Here's how Union Square's security is beefed up among shops and crowds this year

Malia wrote online: "Thank you God for protecting our Ohana-family. We pray for peace and comfort over San Francisco police who are suffering from poverty that leads to theft. If I could help to make the life of people who stole from us better, I would. We come from humble beginnings and are victims of circumstances, but we work hard day in and day out to break our chains of suppression to make a better life for our children. I cried and cried over the loss of these stolen memories and I hope someone might come across this one day and possibly return this to us."

The family provided this list of items in case they're spotted in San Francisco and urge anyone with information to contact police.

  • Black Hard-case Camera Mosiso Backpack
  • 12+ SD/MicroSD cards
  • Miscellaneous camera gear
  • Coach backpack
  • 2 sunglasses in black case
  • Prescription glasses in blue case
  • Kate Spade wallet blue plaid print (inside: Hawaii State IDx 2, School ID, Heath Insurance Cards, Medication Allergy Card, Hawaiian Ancestry Cards)
  • Green jewelry pouch with gold zipper and keychain
  • Sterling cubic zirconium earrings
  • Pink sketch pad
  • Keychain with heart looking glass image
  • "Emotionally Healthy Woman" book
  • Grey Sunveno diaper bag
  • Grey blanket
  • Water play book
  • Diapers
  • Change of clothes
  • Yellow unicorn toy backpack
  • Baby doll
  • Wipes
  • Diapers
  • Toy
  • Large pink and black diaper bag
  • 2x headphones
  • Sunglasses
  • Diapers
  • Clothes
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