Auto theft, a chronic problem in the Mission District, is up 64 percent this year, police Capt. Robert Moser told an audience of 40 or so community members at a Mission Station public meeting last month.

But during Tuesday night’s public forum at the station, Moser told the audience that car thefts had declined by a whopping 69 percent in September.

The whipsawing number of vehicle thefts reported shows why crime trends in San Francisco are sometimes difficult to follow: numbers go up and down in mysterious ways, leaving police and many citizens scratching their heads.

The graph above shows the number of cars stolen in each of San Francisco’s police districts, by month, during the period of March to August 2012. The numbers rise and fall from district to district and month to month without any apparent relationship.

Following the August district meeting with residents, Mission Local took a closer look at the car theft figures released.

Officers have been finding many stolen vehicles in upper Noe Valley, but do not know why, Moser said. Most of the cars had not been stripped, he said, meaning that the thieves could be taking them for joyrides.

But many of the suspects apprehended are adults with prior arrest records, suggesting that the cars are probably not being used for joyrides, a crime usually committed by teenagers, he said.

At last month’s community meeting at Mission Station, Moser reported that all of the vehicles stolen were made in the ’90s. He listed a variety of makes and models, including Honda Preludes, Toyota Camrys, Acura Integras and Nissan Altimas, which have lock systems that car thieves can easily bypass.

Moser advised vehicle owners to park on busy streets. After-market locking devices such as the Club steering wheel lock also help deter thieves because they are easily seen.

Most stolen vehicles, Moser said, are taken from Cesar Chavez Street, Dolores Street, Poplar Alley, Market Street, Potrero Avenue, 23rd Street, and from all over Noe Valley.

Note: Due to an editor’s error, theft data for Taraval Station was inadvertently left out of the chart in an earlier version of this article.

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  1. cool article — i wish i had a better sense of some of this data. for example, how many distinct thieves stole those 90 cars in the mission in august? presumably somewhere between 1 and 90 (discounting group efforts).

    knowing information like this could help explain why the number of auto thefts drops so radically in a month. like if three thieves were responsible for 90% of those stolen cars, and one of them was arrested, then suddenly your numbers drop dramatically. the very fact that the data fluctuates so munch might hint that the number of thieves are small.