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San Francisco Sees 3,000 Car Break-Ins in 1 Month; 'It's Out of Control' 

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A recent video of an auto-burglary on a busy San Francisco street shows just how commonplace it is and how residents have become inured to the situation.

Tourist hot spots are popular places for car burglars. A recent smash-and-grab on Grant Avenue near Jackson Street in Chinatown took place within feet of bystanders. A driver gets into his car across the street, as the thief peers into the victim's car. Security video shows a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk and a woman trying to get inside a building, as the burglar looks around.

The thief smashes the back window, steals two bags and then goes back for more - all while people nearby carry on.

"It's out of control. We have people that are doing this - are breaking into cars in Nob Hill, then they go down to Fisherman's Wharf, then they come out here. Then they go to another part of the city and the police can't chase the cars, it's considered a misdemeanor," said Alan Byard, a San Francisco Patrol Special Police Officer.

As a patrol special officer, Byard is part of a neighborhood police force authorized in San Francisco's city charter. He patrols the Marina, where he has 172 residential clients. He added 20 just in the last month. He said the number one problem is car burglaries.

"I come out here every night and I see new piles of glass," said Byard.

In the month of November, city data shows there were 3,375 reports of larceny theft in San Francisco - the overwhelming majority of those were car break-ins.

SFPD's Central District, home to tourist hot spots including Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown, sees the highest number of smash-and-grabs.

In fact, last month alone, there were 876 reports - that's almost 30 a day - compared with 442 last November.

It's still up from the year before, when there 734 cases pre-pandemic.

"I've always seen a lot of glass here so it's no surprise it's been going on for years. I've lived here in the 90s and my car has been broken into actually, not as of late, it was probably in the last 20 years, broken into twice," said Aileen McAllister, who lives in the Marina.

Officer Byard said what has increased is perhaps fear and indifference when it comes to getting involved in stopping smash-and-grabs.

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