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San Francisco DA Says Few Auto Smash-and-Grab Burglaries End With An Arrest

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Car break-ins have gotten so out of hand in San Francisco that tourists are being warned not to rent cars.

Even with a police crackdown and rewards being offered the surge in smash-and-grab vehicle burglaries continues to rise, especially in city's favorite tourist destinations.

"We're visiting from Tampa, Florida, and we were told it would be best not to rent a car, because there was a lot of break-ins," said Ben Mead, referring to his Amtrak travel agent. "If they see a purse, something small, anything, they will break the window, and grab it and go."

Businesses in Fisherman's Wharf told KPIX 5's Betty Yu they see break-ins in broad daylight everyday.

Witnesses shared cellphone video of a smash-and-grab involving a black Mercedes near Pier 39 on October 21st. The victim, Manny Pinillos, who was visiting from Miami said he and his friend lost $8,000 worth of photography and hiking gear.

More than a week later, on November 1st, Oklahoma tourist and musician Sophia Massad saw two burglars in a black Mercedes pulling off a smash-and-grab in Fisherman's Wharf. The victim said her family stopped to ride the cable car.

A worker is seen watching the crime in progress, while eating, on cellphone video.

"I'm so glad that we were advised not to - or warned about that," said Diane Algarin of Tampa.

Algarin said she and her husband are relying on walking and rideshares to see San Francisco for the first time.

"The hotel manager had talked to us and asked us where we're from and do we have a rental vehicle and when we answered some of those questions and said 'no,' he said 'okay that's good' and explained that there's a lot of thievery, especially with car break-ins in the area," she added.

"Tampa Bay has seen its fair share, but not like this," said Mead.

When asked why he thought that was the case:

"I think it's because people here are easier on the rules and regulations here," responded Mead.

KPIX 5 asked San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin's office about the rash of break-ins. In a statement assistant DA and Deputy Director of Communications Sara Yousuf said:

Car burglaries cost victims time, money, and their sense of security, and the DA's Office takes these crimes seriously. They often happen fast, making it hard to catch those who commit these crimes. Currently only about 2% of auto burglaries in San Francisco result in an arrest, and we have prosecuted the overwhelming majority of those auto burglary cases (we have filed new charges in approximately 77% of them and have taken action in 87% (that includes filing charges as well as other actions like violating someone's probation).

Auto burglaries are profitable because of the networks that fence stolen goods, which we are working to deter, disrupt, and dismantle. In addition to prosecuting individual cases, our efforts include working with state, federal and local law enforcement agencies to target upstream and take down high level participants. We are currently working on more than half-a-dozen additional confidential operations and will continue our work to ensure that everyone in San Francisco feels safe.

The San Francisco Police Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Department clearance rates show that this year, it cleared 3.5% of larceny cases, which includes car burglaries, in the Central District, one of the city's hottest tourist spots.

Prior to Boudin taking office, the SFPD cleared 9%, during the same time period.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Department of Elections on Tuesday certified a petition seeking the recall of Boudin and confirmed the special election would be part of the June 2022 statewide primary.

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