Ryan Raper, 24. This photo is from September 2011 in a smash and grab on San Carlos.

Adam Sachs has seen it play out repeatedly: Someone walks up to a parked car on Mission Street, smashes a window and grabs what’s inside. Sometimes the thief will disappear into the crowd. Other times a getaway car is idling nearby.

“It’s pretty much a daily occurrence,” said Sachs, who works at Buy Sell Loan, Inc., a pawnshop on the busy stretch of Mission Street between 16th and 17th streets.

Throughout the Mission District, burglaries from vehicles are on the rise. As of Sept. 30, police have responded to 1,184 of these so-called “smash and grabs” so far this year, a 28 percent increase from the same time period in 2012, according to police CompStat data. One hundred and eighty of those occurred last month, 44 percent more than in September 2012.

The rise in crime isn’t limited to just the Mission. Citywide, burglaries from vehicles went up 34 percent from the same time last year, according to CompStat data.

“We’re actually trending lower than citywide,” noted Robert Moser, Mission District police captain.

To combat the increase, Mission police are distributing photos of known auto burglars around the community and working with the district attorney’s office to flag past offenders at risk for recidivism, said Moser.

Thieves generally target vehicles left unattended for long periods of time, such as outside parks, nightclubs or restaurants. Police encourage residents to leave their cars in well-lit areas, call the police non-emergency line (415-553-0123) if they see anything suspicious and be wary of what items they leave in plain view of anyone walking by.

“The key is to not leave valuables visible in your car, and remove yourself from being a victim,” Moser said.

But sometimes taking all the right precautions still isn’t enough. Sachs once witnessed a thief break a car window and steal a backpack full of gym clothes off the front seat, he said.

“There’s no distinction in what’s taken or what’s not,” Sachs said.

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Andy Mannix is a national-award-winning investigative reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he worked as in-depth projects desk editor for the Minnesota Daily, named the best college newspaper in the country by the Society of Professional Journalists during his senior year. After graduating in December 2009, Andy spent three and a half years as a staff writer for Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, writing long-form, in-depth stories on state politics, city government and the criminal justice system. He's now a freelance writer pursuing a master's degree at UC-Berkeley's graduate school of journalism.

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  1. My car has been broken into twice, for nothing. I never report it because it’s a pain in the ass. So I am quite certain the number is much much higher.

  2. Early this morning, was awoken by a car alarm which turned out to be my neighbors. When I looked out I seen a white woman wearing a black hat walking away from the vehicle. Watched her walk half way down the block and come up the other side of the block and look around before attempting to break into another car which coincidentally was mine. Came out the house and confronted her. She flat out denied it but she was caught… She got into a vehicle, the same one she has been sleeping in for months on our block, and drove off. Be on the look out for this woman!!! White woman, 5’5″, dressed in all black, wearing a black fisherman’a hat. She drives a black jetta with all tinted windows… Out of state license plate, ADP C07…

    1. ML Reader, if this is true, report it to the police! You have caught this bitch red handed. If you actually have a license plate number, they can arrest this person. We need people to report these folks to the police or else they will never stop.

      1. I did report it to the police, by the time they got here the woman was long gone. Next day the same car was back and again reported it. Police showed up, questioned her, searched her car and let her go. Doesn’t seem right.

  3. There is a car on my street that puts a sign in their window that says “nothing if value left in this car”. That car never seems to be broken into, so maybe it works. Either that or put a sign in the window that says “warning poisonous snakes” and have a fake realistic snake sitting on the passenger seat? 🙂

  4. This is what happens when cops allow open drug dealing on the streets. Those addicts need quick cash to get high, and this is how they do it.

  5. I don’t know that there’s a city anywhere in the world where a VW Jetta filled with stuff and sporting a rooftop cargo bin is going to be safe left alone on a street. Judging by the license plate (Wyoming?) Ryan Raper (what a name!) is learning about big city living the hard way.

    1. I love how people refer to SF as “the big city,” but folks get up in arms about a 10-story building possibly getting built in a major transit corridor.

        1. One Rincom Hill is a 50-story building in a 5-story neighborhood and the SOMA community love it so much that they approved the construction of Two Rincom Hill.

  6. Luxury sedans have no business in the mission. So when the homies spot one be certain that they will rack up and gaffle your stuff…

  7. I know three people who have had their car window smashed. Not luxury cars nor anything to steal. Many cars around Dolores Park and Mission High car windows have been broken just to break. I understand this is happening almost nightly for months. Reminds me of years back when tires were being sliced and windows broken. Turned out to be an employee trying to bring in business.

  8. The only way to protect your luxury sedan from these smash and grabs is to place lots of valuables in plain view on the front passenger seat.

    This tricks the thief into believing it’s a police “bait car”, and they will leave it alone.