SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- With cities across the Bay Area seeing a rise in car burglaries, a South Bay state assemblymember is calling for tougher penalties against those who are committing the crimes.
"Smash-and-grabs and stealing valuables are not just petty crimes," said Assemblymember Kansen Chu, who represents San Jose and other cities in Sacramento.
"They cause real economic hardship and stress for many families. A broken car window can mean unexpected repair costs, lack of reliable transportation, and unplanned time off from work."
RELATED: Building a Better Bay Area: Tips for avoiding a car break-in
Chu plans to introduce legislation this month that would increase penalties on those responsible for committing auto break-ins and property theft.
More specifically, the crimes would be considered a felony, if electronic devices with personal information were stolen.
He says the personal data on the devices should be considered when determining actual losses.
"Tougher prosecution definitely will put a dent into this problem," said Chu. "Personal devices, a cell phone, a laptop, or an iPad, it will automatically become a felony."
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Last summer, Chu secured $3.75 mil. from the state to help five Bay Area police departments, including San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont, Newark, and Santa Clara, with combating the auto break-in epidemic.
Many of the agencies have since launched crime prevention campaigns to remind drivers to remove valuables out of sight.
"The Bay Area is seeing rampant disregard for people's property and there are criminal organizations committing these crimes methodically and frequently," Chu added.
"Increasing penalties and making these crimes a felonious offense will deter potential criminals and keep our communities safe."
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While it's unclear when the legislature may take up Chu's proposal, many in the law enforcement community say the conversation surrounding it is one that's worth having.
"Although Propositions 47 and 57 had very good intentions, they also had some unintended consequences," said Fremont Police Chief Kim Petersen, who believes holding criminals accountable is a key component to reducing crime.
"Criminals feel like they have cart blanche to simply come into our cities and take whatever they want out of our vehicles, so I think that this is a healthy discussion."
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South Bay lawmaker proposes stiffer penalties for auto burglaries
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