Report: Spike in vehicle break-ins in Southern California linked to Bay Area gangs

Bay Area gang members have been linked to a surge of vehicle break-ins at tourist locations in Los Angeles.

The Bay Area thieves use rental cars to travel to Southern California, where they target tourists' cars at shopping centers, museums and other spots frequented by visitors to L.A.'s west side, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times reported Monday that the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are working to crack down on these criminals that come in from the Bay Area. 

Investigators said the burglars seek out tourists and target out-of-state license plates. In many instances, they look for bar codes on vehicles to determine if they are rental cars.  

The burglary crews primarily come from San Francisco, Oakland and Contra Costa County cities including Antioch and Pittsburg, according to police. 

Investigators said traditionally automobile smash-and-grabs are a problem that local police departments deal with, seeking suspects that live in their own area. But in these cases, detectives said thieves from the Bay Area appear to use the “time and distance” from their crime scene as a buffer, making it more difficult for police to catch up with the suspects.

In recent years, many Bay Area cities have been dealing with their own surge in vehicle break-ins. As a results, neighborhood watch groups, local businesses and homeowners have taken preventive measures to combat the crime. 

Richmond Police Lt. Matt Stonebraker said police are familiar with many repeat offenders. “This has also caused them to hit the road to locations where they can have anonymity in other jurisdictions,” Stonebraker said.

In the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, investigators said an Oakland gang was responsible for 40 auto thefts back in an April. The LA Times report said that the stolen items were then sold in Oakland. Five people were later arrested.

Police in Beverly Hills said their department is aggressively pursuing suspects, and even traveling to Oakland to make arrests. 

The latest crime wave is prompting tighter, more coordinated efforts between law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area and their Southern California counterparts. Detectives are sharing surveillance images, license plates and other leads in an effort to crack down on the crimes. 


Information from: Los Angeles Times,