SF Has 30K Auto Burglaries in 1 Year And This Is The Solution

San Francisco is facing an auto burglary epidemic. More than 30,000 incidents were reported to police in 2017, and arrests were made in less than 2% of cases.

That staggering total also contributes to an overall property crime rate that is the highest of all major American cities. So what is city government doing about it?

In February, according to emails obtained through a public records request with the Police Department, the Mayor’s Office convened a meeting between representatives from the Public Works Department, SFMTA, SFPD, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Rec and Park, and Public Utilities Commission, along with a marketing firm, to find “creative and innovative” ways to address auto burglaries through an existing program called Park Smart. After 90 minutes, they decided to go with stickers.

The Police Department started sharing this message with the public in late February.

Stickers? The “creative and innovative” solution that these seven city departments landed on to combat auto burglaries was to put Park Smart stickers on 28,000 parking meters around the city instructing drivers not to leave any valuables in their vehicles. The stickers would be supplemented with messaging on buses and new signs in public places, in addition to these online video ads.

These videos debuted on SFPD’s Vimeo channel in February.

There’s no doubt the ads and stickers are well-intentioned, and I certainly believe that the city can do more to inform residents and tourists about the break-in epidemic and how to stay safe.

But 28,000 stickers on parking meters is not the “creative and innovative” solution that we’re looking for to massively drive down the number of auto burglaries.

It’s just more of the same from a City Hall bureaucracy that doesn’t have the perspective to know that what it’s doing just isn’t working. Instead, our government should be looking around the country at all the other cities that have managed to keep auto burglaries under control and adopt their best practices.

For instance, we are one of the only major police departments in California that doesn’t use electronic stakeout devices, or ESOs, to combat auto burglaries. ESOs are tiny GPS transponders that can be placed on, say, a laptop or a phone and used in a sting operation. But unlike a traditional sting, police don’t have to sit and wait for criminals to come to them. The moment one of these ESO devices starts to move, officers and dispatchers are notified and can start tracking where it goes.

ESO devices, not stickers, are the type of cost-effective, modern technology that, as Supervisor, I will ensure are deployed to make our Police Department work faster and smarter.

UP NEXT: We take a deep dive into ESO technology and how successful it’s been in other jurisdictions.

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 that 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.


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.