In San Francisco, car owners now begging 'smash and grab' thieves to find another target

In addition to the street people leaving poop on the sidewalk, San Francisco has another serious crime problem that authorities have failed to address. Last week ABC 7 News reported that some city residents have had their cars broken into so many times they are now placing notes in the windows begging the thieves to move on to another car.


Fed up with having his vehicle broken into four times over a year and a half, Felix Kubin decided to express his frustration, writing on the rear windshield, “Thank you for letting this glass remain unbroken. We are a poor family with two kids. No values inside except diapers.”…

Kubin and his wife learned what would work the hard way. First break in, they lost $1,500 worth of sporting goods.

“I think maybe it’s my fault I left the car in such a place,” said Kubin.

Second break-in, they lost just a bag, but in a third break in at Golden Gate Park, much more.

“That time we was really upset because it was all my official papers,” said Kubin.

“My passport, social security, working permit, everything, it was my wallet, it was two phones,” he continued.

On the fourth break-in, the thieves realized there was only baby formula inside and didn’t take anything. That gave Kubin the idea to start writing the notes on his own car. And he’s not alone. Reporter Melanie Woodrow collected these images online:


One reason the break-ins have become so common is that almost no one is ever arrested in these cases. Back in January, the San Francisco Chronicle reported there had been 81,000 reported break-ins over a period of seven years, but only 13 cases resulted in arrests:

Of the more than 81,000 online reports of auto break-ins that victims filed in San Francisco over the past seven years, a mere 13 cases resulted in arrests…

At an average of 85 auto break-ins a day in San Francisco, Police Chief Bill Scott has said it’s not practical for officers to show up and investigate every case, and there is often little evidence left at the scene to collect. Therefore, most incidents — 62 percent from 2011 to 2017 — were filed online. But just 13 of the 81,511 cases filed that way led to arrests, according to data provided by the San Francisco district attorney’s office.

Police still arrested 446 people for auto burglary from January to November of 2017, but only one suspect was linked to an online report, according to the D.A.’s data.

“It’s astonishing,” Kirk Schwyn said Thursday afternoon upon learning about the clearance rate while his truck’s window was repaired at Auto Glass Now on Bryant Street. “They sound overwhelmed. Either that or somebody has just given up.”


So, of course, if no one is being caught, the thieves are going to keep doing what they are doing. The Chronicle had another report in February of this year in which a brick mason described seeing over 100 break-ins while working on Lombard street. In fact, while he was telling the reporter his story, he and the reporter witnessed another break-in:

Just then, we saw a white Volkswagen sedan with a paper license plate drive by and turn south onto Hyde Street. It circled and drove by again. And then again…

As we talked, the Volkswagen drove by again and again, circling seven or eight times. Finally, it came to a stop next to a white Dodge Grand Caravan.

A man in a gray sweatshirt jumped out, quickly shattered the middle of three windows on the driver’s side, and reached in so far his waist was balanced on the door and his legs and feet were in the air. He emerged with a backpack and dashed back into the VW. It took just a few seconds.

The car sped off, again turning south on Hyde Street. This time it didn’t circle back around.

Plain-clothes officers, who’d been called by a neighbor, were too far away to do anything. The thieves got away, though a Chronicle photographer got photos of the thief in the act. The victim turned out to be a Chinese tourist who had lost $400 and his passport.


It turns out KPIX, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco ran a similar story earlier this month. Here’s their take on it:

Finally, Inside Edition did a sting just last week by placing bait items with GPS trackers in a car parked in San Francisco and then waiting for someone to steal them. It didn’t take long. And thanks to the GPS, the pair of thieves are confronted on camera. But stick around for the surprise ending. Things don’t quite work out as planned for the reporters.

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David Strom 6:00 PM | February 27, 2024