SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Officials in one South Bay city said Friday car break-ins and smash-and-grab robberies have escalated so much, it’s at epidemic proportions. One state lawmaker secured funding to fight this type of crime of opportunity.
The stories are numerous, as are the victims. A vehicle left unattended for minutes — enough time for thieves to commit a smash and grab break-in.
“I left my guitar in the car. it was an obvious target. So the guy just smashed the window. Actually took my corporate laptop,” said Joe, whose last name is withheld for security concerns, after his Volkswagen was broken into in the Spring of 2019.
Friday, Assemblymember Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, announced a state grant of $3.75 million to help combat car break-ins.
“I’m very, very, happy this that I’ve been able to get some additional funding to address I believe a very, this is a quality of life issue,” said Chu.
The funds will be dispensed equally across five police departments— Milpitas, Fremont, Newark, Santa Clara, and San Jose. Multiple police chiefs say car break-in rates have exploded across the Bay Area, in some cases rising 125 percent year-to-date.
“We see victims that are losing property that is irreplaceable,” said Milpitas Police Chief Armando Corpuz.
Officials say the increase in numbers is tied directly to the growing South Bay economy. Crews of thieves are coming from as far away as San Francisco, the East Bay, and San Joaquin County, traveling the major freeways down to the South Bay where they come and find parking lots filled with vehicles and potential victims.
“This money and effort that you put forth for us is invaluable. It’s gonna hopefully change the dynamic of what we’re seeing,” said Newark Police Chief Mike Carroll.
Law enforcement officers say the money will be used for more staffing, equipment such as surveillance cameras, and more public education outreach about the dangers of leaving items in vehicles. But vigilant prosecution is also important.
“We need to identify who the people are that are funding the continued criminal activity and the continued break-ins. And we need to take those people down as part of this operation,” said Erica Cordero, a member of the Santa Clara County district attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit.
Assemblyman Chu promises more funding if the millions presented produce success stories. Law officials say the best tool they have is an educated public.
“Don’t leave valuables in your car. not even in your trunk. Just take it with you,” said Joe.