Police warn about spike in San Francisco car break-ins

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- Police Chief Greg Suhr said Thursday the number of automobile break-ins in San Francisco has gotten so high, he planning to form a special unit devoted to stopping the problem.

Throughout San Francisco there is broken car window glass on curbs. There are also warning signs near sidewalks.

Police say auto break-ins are a problem in San Francisco and that tourists are frequently the targets.

"No bags. No luggage in the cars. It's too attractive for a lot of these opportunistic thieves to resist," said Suhr.

Visitor Maria Wiesel from Hamburg, Germany says her guide book has advice to prevent car break-ins.

"We read in our book we should open everything so you can see from the curbside that nothing is in the car. We open everything," said Wiesel as she and her husband parked near Lombard Street.

Police records show auto burglaries are up 47 percent the first six months of this year compared to the same time last year.

Police say in many cases auto burglary has replaced drug dealing as a way to make quick cash.

"A lot of these electronic devices are so easily portable, easily taken and easily traded. We really don't have the narcotics market we used to have. And thankfully so," said Suhr.

Suhr says he'd like car rental companies to warn tourists not to leave anything in the car,

Police are out undercover looking for thieves, but he plans to establish a special auto burglary unit.

"It involves a lot of surveillance, a lot of patience, a lot of expertise," said Suhr.

SF resident Donald Sperling, who was victimized near his home on Hyde Street, is unsure how to prevent it from happening again.

"It's terrible. But as a citizen, what can we do? Publicize it and get more plain clothes guys here, I guess," Sperling told KTVU.

Suhr said he hopes to get the special unit up and running no later than the end of the year.

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