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Bay Area Tesla Owners Say Their Cars Increasingly Targeted for Break-Ins

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Bay Area Tesla owner clubs are reminding new and longtime drivers to take measures to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of break-ins, which they said have started to rise as pandemic restrictions ease.

"I felt like it got better during shelter-in-place, during the pandemic. And now that things are reopening and somewhat more normal, there's been an uptick again," said Kristine Boncato, of Tesla Owners of East Bay.

Charles, co-owner of Primer Auto Glass, told KPIX 5 that they have been very busy. Primer is one of Tesla's authorized repair businesses, and has completed upwards 50,000 repairs on the electric cars, many for the left and right quarter glass panels on the Model 3.

"This is the most common repair on a Model 3 right now," said Charles.

Tesla Break-In
A broken window on a Tesla Model 3. (CBS)

Thieves smash the small, triangular window, reach in to unlatch and open the back seat, giving the thieves a view into the trunk.

"They look, they see a laptop, they see anything. Boom!" said Charles.

Rick Reid, a Model 3 owner, said he returned to his car in December 2018, to find the left quarter glass panel smashed. The backseat was down, and nothing was stolen, but the repair cost several hundred dollars.

"Very annoying. It was frustrating, violated obviously. All those kind of things that happen when somebody takes something from you," said Reid.

John, a co-founder of Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley, said the break-ins seemed to have peaked when the Model 3 was first released.

"2018, 2019, it was really bad," said John.

Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley rallied together and tweeted multiple times at CEO Elon Musk, requesting "Sentry Mode" a feature that allows the vehicle's cameras to record surveillance video.

The feature was rolled out shortly after in February 2019, and the club credited Sentry Mode with a downward trend in reported break-ins among their 3,000 members in the South Bay.

"Because of Sentry Mode, I think a lot of people that were breaking into the cars have kind of gotten wind that this car is doing a live feed all the time. It probably still happens, but Sentry Mode has been such a big deterrent because it's a feed that you can essentially hand to the cops," said John.

In addition to activating Sentry Mode, the owners' clubs say stickers warning would-be thieves of the high-tech feature could help. A polyester film is also available to apply to the window, to add additional impact protection.

Another seemingly effective prevention tactic: leave the backseats dropped down, showing the empty trunk.

"But you can deter as much as possible. It's just a wide issue in the Bay Area, and not just Teslas, too," said Boncato.

Tesla did not respond to KPIX 5's request for comment Monday.

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