Earlier this month the San Francisco Chronicle had a story about two burglars who were caught after a recent break in to someone’s garage. Both had been arrested multiple times for similar crimes and now face serious prison time if they are finally convicted. But the gist of the story was that the city of San Francisco was struggling between putting repeat criminals in prison and wanting to have a progressive approach to mass incarceration. This line from the story was striking to a lot of people, myself included.
Residents and city leaders are searching for answers: Should they tolerate a high level of burglaries as a downside of city living, and focus on barricading their homes? Should people who are repeatedly accused of stealing be targeted with rehabilitation services, or incarcerated so they can’t commit more crimes?
Last Friday the Chronicle published another story that reads like a follow-up on the subject of burglaries in the city. It focuses on one woman’s garage which was broken into nine times in two days. The owner of the garage is Jenna Smith. Smith had traveled to Chicago for her grandmother’s funeral when she started getting security video from the garage back home showing a man breaking in and taking her belongings.
Smith watched the burglar flicker to life on her own phone screen, through an app linked to the garage’s security cameras. A man wandered into the frame, cased the floor and left with suitcases full of items. He would be back.
Smith called police at Mission Station and officers came to her home three times, always arriving minutes after the thief left. They declined to pursue a suspect without a police report, frustrating Smith’s boyfriend so much that he caught a flight to San Francisco in the middle of the night and drove directly to the police station — only to be told the police had to take the report at his home.
In all, the burglar got away with about $4,000 were of her belongings. Police finally showed up five days after she got home to take a report but the story notes that clearance rates for these crimes is barely over 10 percent. So the chances of a conviction in this case or any similar case is very low. Smith claims the officer who took her report blamed the problem on San Francisco’s progressive approach to crime:
“The officer said, ‘This is happening to you guys because San Francisco is too progressive,’” Smith, who works as a nurse, recalled. “It’s as if I approached someone who came into intensive care, and started lecturing them on how unhealthy habits got them there.”
She may not like hearing it but the fact is that the spike in burglaries in San Francisco isn’t happening everywhere. Something about how the city is approaching the problem is behind this. The fact that car owners have been basically begging thieves not to target their cars since at least 2018 and that drug stores are closing up permanently thanks to organized shoplifting crews suggests the home burglaries are just one aspect of a wider problem.
Ultimately it goes back to that quote above from the previous story. Residents have to decide if they want to tolerate this for the sake of a progressive approach to crime or not. If not, then they should probably stop electing people like Chesa Boudin.