SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – While tourism is beginning to make a comeback in San Francisco, another unfortunate trend is rising along with it: vehicle break-ins.
Business owners in the Fisherman’s Wharf area have a nickname for the shards of auto glass littering the street, “San Francisco Snow.”READ MORE: Wild Fan Celebration Erupts Following San Francisco 49ers Last-Second Playoff Win
According to the San Francisco Police Department, car burglaries are up 138 percent in the Central District from this time last year.
KPIX 5 cameras were rolling when Chicago mother-daughter duo Marni and Kylie came back to their rental car parked on Beach Street after a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The back and side windows of the rental were smashed in and purse stolen.
“We’re going to a funeral tomorrow. We flew in from Chicago this morning. We have one day in San Francisco and this is it,” said Marni.
Ken Heinz, visiting from Virginia tried to scare the burglars away from the car mid-break in. But, the thieves who are frequently armed these days — weren’t bothered and kept smashing.READ MORE: San Francisco 49ers Special Teams Spark 13-10 Upset Of Green Bay Packers To Advance To NFC Championship Game
“It makes the city look bad, I think. It’s important to take care of your people,” said Heinz.
The spike in car burglaries is so extreme that the owners of Blazing Saddles are now handing out signs for tourists to tape in their windows that read ‘Please do not break in! You are on camera!! No valuables inside’.
“We see visitors coming to San Francisco that are away from their cars just momentarily and they’re broken into and all of their valuables are stolen – their luggage, their computers, their cameras and it’s just devastating,” said Blazing Saddles owner Jeff Sears.
The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District has put up signs on every other parking meter warning of the danger. They are also working with rental car companies to put signs in the trunks of rental cars – a method that has had some success in Hawaii.
“We don’t want to scare tourists, but I mean what’s worse, ‘Oh, I didn’t like the sign in my trunk’ or ‘I just lost my purse and I’m never coming back,'” said Randall Scott, the group’s executive director.
Business owners worry scenes of shattered glass and stolen goods will scare tourists like Marni and Kylie away permanently – and that the message will spread.
“When our visitors have this terrible experience and go home, they tell their friends and family – that snowballs and just has a continual negative impact,” said Sears.MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Wind-Whipped Wildfire Near Big Sur Forces Evacuations; 'Some Pretty Surreal Fire Behavior'
“It is viewed by the law as a property crime. It’s not against people. It’s not considered a violent crime. However, how do the victims feel? They feel violated. It’s a crime,” said Scott told KPIX 5.