Car break-ins at all-time high in 2017; SFPD plans to increase patrols to deter thieves

“San Francisco has a lot of car break-ins?” asked no one who lives in the Richmond District.

It’s not uncommon for us to walk the streets of the neighborhood and see broken glass on the sidewalk curbs, leftovers from car break-ins. Busy streets like Geary and Fulton, as well as parks, are particularly attractive to thieves.

The break-in epidemic is no unique to the Richmond District. Stats on what the SFPD refers to as “property crimes” were up all over the city in 2017. According to the department, there were 30,000 car break-ins in 2017 (and keep in mind those are the reported ones).

Compare that to 13,000 in 2012 and you can see how common these break-ins have become. As KTVU recently reported, it’s a break in every 17 minutes. Compare the stats to 2016, and it’s a 25% increase year over year.

This week two supervisors announced that they are working with SFPD Chief Bill Scott to address the issue. The department plans to assign a plainclothes team to every district to conduct their own operations. They are also ramping up a program to educate drivers on how to park safely.

And before you scream “just make sure all your valuables are hidden!” in the comments, know that according to police statistics, only 70% of the car break-ins in 2017 were due to items being visible in the vehicles. That means 3 in 10 cars actually did have everything hidden or out of the car – but they were still broken into.

Let’s hope these actions by the department will make an impact. In the meantime, don’t leave anything visible in your car, or even hidden in your car. And if you are the unlucky victim of a car break-in, remember to report it (it’s easy to do online).

Sarah B.


  1. While I’m hoping the extra officers will help, I have my doubts being that the DA has no interest in prosecuting for these types of crimes, which in turn is an open invitation to all car thieves to join the free for all in SF.

  2. Does anyone think forming Neighborhood Watch groups help?

  3. My car was broken into this past weekend with no valuables visible or even in the car. Nothing was taken, just the glass broken. All while parked in my building’s parking spot on Clement 🙁

  4. Hopefully we can solve the problem. It’s really sad to see tourists / locals lose their gear. All four sides of Alamo Square are littered with glass. Same for Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf… any tourist attraction really. Do we know the punishment for when a robber is caught?

  5. Keith, I am the co-chair of the SFPD Richmond District Community Police Advisory Board. Based on conversations with the Captain of our station and with the Assistant District Attorney responsible for our station, I can assure you that this issue is top of mind for both of them. I can also assure you that they and those they work with are extremely serious about seeing that criminals–especially repeat offenders–are brought to justice. Because of the speed of the crime and the fact that the criminals are very well organized with lookouts and modern communications tools, they are very hard to catch. But please rest assured that both the police and the DAs are doing their best to deal with this problem.

  6. Thank you for the information Barry. I 100% believe the SFPD is doing what they can, and sympathize with how frustrating this may be to them. The lack of prosecution is a big issue from the DA side of things, leading to more warnings than arrest.

    While not tied specifically to a car break-in, I witnessed a homeless man yelling belligerently the other night on 9th Ave/Anza. Officers responded, tried talking to him for 10 minutes, gave him a warning, then left. Once they left, the individual immediately dumped a neighbors full blue recycling bin on the sidewalk, loaded his belongings into it, then left with his “new” bin. Warnings and catch/release do not work.

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