Break-In Vigilantes: Residents in San Francisco helping protect their neighborhood from car break-ins

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Sunday, October 6, 2019
Residents in San Francisco helping protect their neighborhood from car break-ins
One San Francisco neighborhood is taking a stand and doing their part to stop car break-ins.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There is a car break-in in San Francisco every 22 minutes, according to San Francisco Police. There was one every 20 minutes the year before and one every 18 minutes the year before that.

However, the number of break-ins seems to be growing in one neighborhood, according to residents. So, they're doing something about it and can be called the "break-in vigilantes."

In a video recorded by Jim Bock, car burglars are seen casing a tourist's SUV near the iconic Lombard Street, then coming back to smash the back window and grab whatever he can.

RELATED: Building a Better Bay Area: Tips for avoiding a car break-in

"I'm going to start choking up," says Bock as he recalls the many tourists he's seen become victims.

"We have some vigilantes who are adamant about finding those people," Bock continues.

In the video Bock is showing us, the man comes back not only a third time, but a fourth. All in broad daylight. All in stunning detail. All caught on Jim Bock's security camera.

"This building is my ship and I'm going to protect it," he said.

Jim Bock isn't alone in wanting to protect his building, reporting the crime to SFPD. The two million tourists drawn to Lombard Street every year from around the globe make prime targets. Neighbors say they catch crimes like this in the act...two or three times a week. And they do something about it.

Bridget Duffy says she watches would-be criminals in the act from her bedroom window.

"I yell out my window so people who get out of their car with nothing in their hands. I yell back and say 'go get your bag!' They think I'm a crazy lady, but I just don't want to see heartbreak."

Another man, Dennis Saenz not wanting to show his face for safety, posts these signs in various languages so tourists from all parts of the globe can understand the serious risks of leaving their belongings inside their cars.

Others draw pictures depicting a break-in happening in progress. It's the universal language to warn tourists to "watch out for your luggage."

RELATED: Building a Better Bay Area: Your safety

Some even offering up their own garages, and park their own vehicles on the street or offering victims cash so they can make it home.

"Dennis and our neighbor, Helen, actually takes them into our house to help them call the embassy and their passports."

While the number of personal property crimes in the city went down about 10 percent in 2018 and another 10 percent in 2019, the DA's office acknowledges there's a lot of work still to be done. Help that can't come soon enough for these folks.

"I've lived here several years and it's definitely gotten worse," says Lorenzo DiCarlo.

Duffy says she wants to see a dedicated police officer at the corner of Lombard and Hyde every single day.

The San Francisco District Attorney's office says oftentimes these break-ins are committed by larger crime rings. By reporting the incidents to police and handing over clear video like Jim has done can help in the larger scheme of solving crimes. SFPD says while there are risks in yelling out to criminals in the act, they encourage neighbors to continue being "great witnesses".

Preventing heartbreak is this neighborhood's way of Building a Better Bay Area.

See more stories and videos from the Safety series of Building a Better Bay Area.