We All Lament Auto Burglaries But Are We Ready To Do Something About Them?

Our city has the worst property crime rate in the nation, but it doesn’t have to be this way

My wife and I feel blessed to be raising our twin boys in San Francisco. Ours is a beautiful, dynamic, and compassionate city. But it’s also become a city of shattered glass.

San Francisco has the highest property crime rate of all major American cities at 3,174 incidents per 100,000 residents, and last year set a record for auto break-ins with 30,652. This reality is a threat to the safety of our neighborhoods, a drain on our economy, and a hit to the reputation of our city. It’s a symbol of the inability of our city government to do its job, and just one more thing that makes it so expensive to live here.

Car break-ins reached epidemic proportions in 2017. Of the 30,652 reported to the Police Department, only 243 arrests were made. Compare that to seven years ago when there were less than 10,000 such incidents and you start to get an idea of breadth of the issue. In District 2, the numbers are equally grim: 3,871 reported auto break-ins in 2017 and just 25 arrests.

In District 2, there were 3,871 reported auto break-ins in 2017 and just 25 arrests.

City Hall’s Auto Burglary Excuses

If you ask the leadership at the Police Department, they’re just as frustrated with the problem as anyone else. But the Police Department, rather than looking at what it should be doing better, tries to blame the District Attorney’s Office for not prosecuting these cases. Meanwhile, arrest rates for auto burglaries have declined fairly steadily since 2003.

The District Attorney’s Office, on the other hand, claims they’re charging as many auto burglaries as possible, blaming the Police Department for not making more arrests and the courts for being too lenient on sentencing. While the District Attorney’s Office charged 69–70% of auto burglary arrests in 2016 and 2017, it publishes no data on San Francisco’s Open Data portal and has not responded to requests for how aggressively these auto burglaries were charged. Indeed, the Police Department and District Attorney’s Office even disagree on the number of auto burglary arrests that were made in 2017.

The Police Department and District Attorney’s Office disagree on the number of auto burglary arrests that were made in 2017.

Furthermore, when we asked the courts what was the average sentence for an auto burglar, we were given a printout of more than 1,000 pages that we were told we could only view at the courthouse between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Fridays. That printout was merely a list of all the criminal cases heard by the Superior Court in 2017, with little information beyond the name of the defendant, the court dates, and a broad category of crime involved in the case (i.e., theft).

No More Excuses

I’m speaking for the thousands upon thousands of San Francisco victims of this crime when I say enough is enough — no more excuses. We don’t want another community meeting or another hearing at the Board of Supervisors. We don’t need another task force. City leadership and our criminal justice bureaucracies have failed us, and it’s time we do something about it.

Leif Dautch is a prosecutor who lives in District 2 in San Francisco, and he knows all too well what it’s like to be an auto burglary victim.

As your Supervisor, I will help the Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, and courts do their jobs by providing them with sufficient resources, modern technology, and best practices from around the country. I will also aggressively hold them accountable on behalf of our neighborhoods, and bring a new data-driven culture to our criminal justice system.

You can join me immediately by visiting the No More Excuses website and signing our petition to hold city officials accountable for the auto burglary epidemic. You can also share you own personal experience of crime on the website, to raise awareness of its impact on regular San Franciscans.

Share you own personal experience of crime here, to raise awareness of its impact on regular San Franciscans.

Over the coming months leading up to the November election, I will be sharing stories and data about auto burglaries and property crime. I’ll explore tactics used in other cities and whether they helped solve the problem. I’ll present datasets that offer meaningful insights into what can be done differently by our city government. And I’ll share the stories of the victims of property crime and the neighborhoods who have been most afflicted.

If you are one of those victims, please speak up and tell your story here. If we raise our voices together we will finally be heard. And if we do speak as one, we can put an end to our property crime epidemic together.


UP NEXT: Find out City Hall’s latest idea about how to combat auto burglaries. It involves stickers.

NOTE: Statistics on property crime come from San Francisco’s open data portal at DataSF. The Police Department is supposed to update it regularly with the most accurate information, although the numbers skew from CompStat reports.

Paid for by Nick Josefowitz for Supervisor 2018. Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.

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