Wednesday, September 7, 2016

[San Francisco County] Scourge of car burglaries leveling out, but still an issue in SF

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
He broke into cars from the Marina to the Mission. In one case, he stole a visiting New Zealand couple’s passports from their car.
Twenty-three-year-old Eric Jones is one of the serial car burglars in San Francisco who, authorities say, are responsible for much of what a recent Civil Grand Jury report called the “scourge” of car break-ins that has plagued The City for the past several years.
Jones’ arrest and conviction is part of a coordinated strategy that is reportedly slowing down the trend.
“Our focus on serial offenders coupled with the SFPD’s increased enforcement effort is continuing to yield measurable results,” said District Attorney George Gascon after Jones was recently convicted of seven felonies and four misdemeanors for his crimes. And if the numbers are any indication, their efforts may be working.
Car burglaries citywide were down 18 percent year to date at the end of July, according to Cmdr. Greg McEachern, who oversees the San Francisco Police Department’s investigation bureau. By the end of July 2015, there had been 16,588 car burglaries across The City. This year, there had only been 13,640 by the end of July.
Last week, McEachern was one of a handful of department officers reporting to a Board of Supervisors committee in response to the Civil Grand Jury’s report on the problem.
“This has been a tough nut to crack,” admitted Acting Chief Toney Chaplin at the Government Oversight and Audit Committee hearing on Thursday.
The largest effort has been the eight-officer Patrol Bureau Task Force, which has been focusing surveillance efforts in districts most plagued by car break-ins like the Central and the Northern. Station captains have also focused on property crimes such as car break-ins.
These efforts have been coupled with renewed tactics and techniques that not only help catch criminals but also convict them, according to the DA’s Office. For instance, the collection of video surveillance and the use of fingerprints on cars have aided investigative efforts.
Because victims of break-ins are often tourists who leave town by the time a case reaches a courtroom, it has been hard to use testimony to convict car burglars, the DA’s office said. But simple reminders to officers, such as checking to see if the doors of the car were locked, which indicates forced entry, can make all the difference.
“Our numbers have gotten a lot better this year,” said McEachern, who noted that 10 people have been charged with 92 offenses in recent cases.
But Public Defender Jeff Adachi warned against connecting a drop in crime with any specific efforts.
“While it’s great auto burglaries are down, trying to answer the question of why is about as productive as gazing into a crystal ball. That’s because crime trends tend to defy simple cause-and-effect explanations,” Adachi said. “However, this certainly pokes a big hole in the argument of Prop. 47 opponents who claimed that the law reducing felony thefts to misdemeanors was the culprit.”
But car break-ins have yet to drop back to the lower levels of recent years, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin said as much at the hearing.
Peskin’s district, which encompasses the heavily touristed Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods, has been one of the centers of the car break-in wave. And while the numbers have been in decline, they haven’t dropped far enough.
“We still have a long way to go,” Peskin said.
September 7, 2016
San Francisco Examiner
By Jonah Owen Lamb

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