SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — With the explosion of car burglaries in San Francisco in recent years, drivers don’t know where to park anymore. But a Bay Area parking app company recently compiled data on where not to park.
The City by the Bay is known for its beautiful scenery, fine dining and – more recently – an enormous spike in the number of car break-ins that happen ever day.
About one break-in is reported in San Francisco every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
It happened to Maria Llerena twice in three months after dining out at the Embarcadero and in the Mission District, two areas she thought were safe.
“Either way, I was shocked, because I was in neighborhoods you wouldn’t consider unsafe,” said Llerena.
She is not alone.
Police data show most auto burglaries happen in popular tourist areas from Lands End, the Palace of Fine Arts and Japan Town to Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square and City Hall.
But now, there’s a new way to pinpoint which blocks are hot spots.
Aboud Jardaneh, co-founder of the parking app SpotAngels, calculated the number of car burglaries per parking space using police crime stats and its own parking data.
The result provides a list of the worst blocks in San Francisco for car break-ins.
“I was surprised to see number one on our list was in Golden Gate Park,” Jardaneh said.
It’s the 500 block of John F. Kennedy Drive.
That busy stretch had nearly 300 car break-ins last year or a third of all of the auto burglaries in its neighborhood.
Tuesday afternoons are especially bad.
The area is outside the DeYoung Museum, where Ezra Iturribara is a security guard.
“I should be able to leave my lunchbox and not worry about that get broke into. It’s sad,” said Iturribara
She and colleagues like fellow guard William Brown even formed their version of a “neighborhood watch” group.
“On breaks and things like that, we sit in our cars,” Brown said. “We look out for one another. That helps.”
According to SpotAngels’ calculation, the second worst block for car burglaries is 1000 Point Lobos Avenue near the Lands End Lookout, especially on a Friday night.
Number three is the 800 block of Mission Street near the Westfield shopping center on Saturday nights, when many people park to dine, shop and go to the movies.
Authorities are looking for a solution to the problem. Increased police patrols haven’t worked so far. Smash-and-grab auto burglaries soared to nearly 27,000 in San Francisco last year, with an arrest rate of only two percent.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott recently announced a new plan of attack.
“All ten districts will have at least one dedicated person to focus on this issue” he said during a press conference detailing the new course of action.
As break-ins skyrocketed, police and the district attorney’s office have blamed each other for not doing enough.
But DA spokesman Max Szabo says his office is doing its part.
“So 80 percent of the arrests that come to us, there is some consequences for the defendant. But obviously, there can’t be consequences if we’re not making arrests to begin with,” Szabo said.
Szabo said the district attorney’s office is working with police to do more investigating at every smash and grab that could pay off in prosecuting the street gangs suspected in many of the crimes.
“Maybe we don’t make an arrest of that individual this time, but ten auto burglaries later, we have this person tied to previous incidents,” explained Szabo. “And when we do that, that person is going to face more severe consequences.”
For now, warning signs in the hot spots advise drivers to not leave anything out in plain view.
But it’s no guarantee.
“My number could come up any day,” Brown said.
It could be a matter of when – not if – his car becomes the next shattered window of opportunity.