One San Francisco neighborhood saw 300% increase in car break-ins

Hundreds of people concerned about crime packed a Monday night meeting in the Diamond Heights neighborhood in San Francisco, following a dramatic increase in car break-ins.

Police say there was a 300% increase in auto break-ins in the Diamond Heights neighborhood in one year: There were a total of 19 in 2018 compared to 77 in 2019.

Police say the majority of the break-ins happened in the parking lot of the Diamond Heights Shopping Center. 

Many took place in October, November and December of last year.

There was one particularly brazen incident, where the thief broke in when people were still in the car, that in large part, led to the town hall meeting.

"I was really quick.  It was maybe three seconds, 'Boom!,' " said Rod Suzuki who comes to this shopping center regularly.

He said his wife and child were with him in their vehicle after coming out of a supermarket.

"Just as I was ready to back out my car, the car next to me  pulled out right in back of me. They smashed the window while I was in the process of getting out and they took the materials in the back of the van."

Suzuki said there were two thieves, "Their faces were hidden. It was very dark. It was very difficult to see.  I was shocked. I was in the car with my family."

Another shopper said he witnessed an unrelated break-in at this same parking lot.

"Guy bashes the window, takes a bag. I mean they put a phone to the window, to see if there's anything in it," said Romil Elguinaldo, a shopper. 

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman called for the town hall meeting.

"There's a lot of concerns I have heard from folks:  how police and district attorney da are responding to these kinds of crimes," said  Mandelman, who represents District 8.

Henry Avila, owner of the Diamond Heights Shopping Center, said there will be new, improved LED lighting and cameras to improve public safety in 60 to 90 days

Some in the audience say they were victimized at their homes.

"I could tell somebody had been in my car and rifled through it. I  happened to have left my wallet in the car and they stole my wallet," said Paula Pagano.

 The homeowner said she had accidentally left her garage door open when a thief broke into her car.  She said she's been in the neighborhood 30 years and never had anything stolen before.

Newly elected District Attorney Chesa Boudin said he will be cracking down on the crime networks that he says are responsible for many of these  crimes.

As for the case of the brazen break-in involving the family in the car, they say they're working with police but so far, no one's been arrested.