SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A bill being introduced into the Legislature by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, may help deter vehicle break-ins where in San Francisco they have become an epidemic, Wiener’s office said Tuesday.
Senate Bill 916 would allow prosecutors to prove that a defendant committed an auto burglary if the burglar broke a window in the vehicle, which to date has been deemed insufficient to get a conviction.
Under current law, one of the elements prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is whether the vehicle was locked, according to Wiener’s office.
But there are situations that make that hard to do. An offender could break a window and then open the door and leave it open after a break-in. An offender could also break a window and the victim could forget whether they locked the door.
“Common sense would tell you that, if you have broken glass, obviously someone broke into the vehicle,” said SF District Attorney George Gascon. “This is a crime of opportunity, but a crime for organized gangs that has very little consequences.”
A disproportionate number of break-ins are occurring among tourists driving rental cars, according to Wiener’s office.
In those cases, a victim may be unavailable to testify whether the door was locked.
“We want to really clarify, that if the prosecution proves you bashed in the window to a car to get in, you’re guilty,” said Wiener.
In San Francisco, 28,395 vehicle break-ins occurred between January and the end of November of last year.
Only 481 of those reports resulted in arrest and the DA’s office took action on only 391 of those cases.
That was up 26 percent over the same period in 2016, according to police data. Wiener’s office said auto break-ins have tripled since 2010.
Prosecutors take action in 80 percent of break-in cases and Wiener and Gascon, who is co-sponsoring the bill with state Assemblymen David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, want to increase that percentage.
In addition to people being attentive with their belongings, Gascon said it would help if police did more in their investigations.
“If we begin to take fingerprints, if we begin perhaps to, dare I say, like in similar jurisdictions where we actually do DNA work around property crimes, so we can tie the person into being in the car,” said Gascon.
“The explosion in auto break-ins we’re experiencing is unacceptable, and we need to ensure our police and district attorney have all the tools they need to address it,” Wiener said in a statement.
Gascon, in a statement, said, “The community’s skyrocketing number of auto break-ins is a stain on our quality of life. For visitors it can ruin a vacation to our amazing city.”
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