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.