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San Francisco Police with my car

San Francisco police officers found my stolen car on Saturday, June 16 with the culprit inside.  

San Francisco police reported last month that auto break-ins — a problem that has reached epidemic proportions in the city — were down so far this year.

My own auto break-in statistics show a different trend — and an upward one at that — from those released by the San Francisco Police Department.

Over the last two years, I’ve had my car stolen twice (and recovered both times), and had it broken into five other times in three different neighborhoods of San Francisco.

The incidents occurred once in South of Market (or SOMA), Lower Nob Hill (3 times) and Potrero Hill (3 times).

That’s a total of seven criminal violations involving my 1998 Honda Civic since August 2016.

But of those seven crimes, five of them have taken place in 2018 alone.

Allow me to repeat for emphasis: my car has been vandalized or stolen five times in just nine months this year.

The latest break-in occurred Sunday. I went to my car and found the driver’s door ajar. Nothing was stolen because I learned after my first vehicle theft in 2016 to never leave anything of value in my car.

I knew someone had been in my car. Things were out of place or tossed around, as has happened in previous incidents.

The other four times my car was victimized this year were in February, twice in June — and only six days apart — and in October.

The break-in on Oct. 1 was unique from all the others because it appeared to have been an aborted attempt to steal my car for the third time.

I had parked my Honda on Wisconsin Street, where vehicles must park perpendicular to the curb, not parallel. When I went to get it Monday morning, my Civic wasn’t where I left it.

Instead, it was sitting on the other side of Wisconsin. It was also sticking out in the street and parked at an odd angle.

Someone had managed to jimmy the lock on the driver’s door, get in and start my car, most likely with the aid of a shaved or plastic key commonly used by car thieves.

But the tool they were using couldn’t unlock The Club I had placed on my steering wheel. With The Club still in place, the thief was unable to turn my wheel enough to drive down the street and take off. They apparently backed up my Honda straight across the street and then gave up.

By the way, having The Club on your steering wheel doesn’t always prevent auto theft. More on that in a moment.

During the bungled auto theft on Oct. 1, the culprit damaged my ignition cylinder while starting the car, and drained my car battery by leaving the ignition in the start position.

As for June, the incidents that month were special in their own way, and by special I don’t mean delightful.

On June 14, I went to get my car after parking it on Sacramento Street — with The Club in place on my steering wheel. But when I got to the spot, my Civic was nowhere in sight.

I filed a police report, and the cops found it two days later on June 16 with a drug addict sitting behind the wheel. My Club sitting in the back seat. The shaved key used to enter and start my car was also used to unlock The Club, a police officer demonstrated for me.

I should also note that when my car was stolen on June 14, I had a sign produced by SFPD sitting on my dashboard that said nothing of value was in my car.

The sign didn’t stop the perpetrator from breaking into my car, and evidently throwing it away because it was nowhere to be found when my Civic was recovered.

The June 14 theft (see “A moose stole my car“) was eerily similar to the first time my car was stolen in 2016 (See “Gone in 60 seconds, back in 72 hours“).

Three days after I got my car back on June 19, I found my right rear window smashed and broken glass littering my back seat. Nothing was stolen because there was nothing worth heisting.

In February, my car was ransacked in Potrero Hill. That incident prompted me to write another column (“City of broken glass“) about San Francisco’s soaring crime statistics for auto thefts and vandalism.

Surprisingly, eight months later, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Oct. 24 that auto burglaries were down 14 percent this year.

Now, I would like to believe that these crimes are actually dropping, particularly since police have been trying new tactics, like forming a special task force, to get a handle on this problem.

But I couldn’t help but think: Are the numbers really down? Or are some people experiencing auto vandalism not bothering to file police reports?

This real possibility was raised by the Chronicle’s Matier & Ross in September 2017 when they compared 911 calls for auto break-ins with official police stats for the same period. The comparison indicated thousands of victims had skipped telling police about their vehicular-related crimes.

When you consider how little punishment is being doled out for grand theft auto (see “My day in court: Justice served?”), it isn’t hard to imagine many victims foregoing a police report.

I know that’s what I did, or didn’t do after my third, fourth, fifth and sixth cases of car vandalism. I became despondent and didn’t see the point in notifying police.

However, on Monday, I filed a police report for Sunday’s incident. I also retroactively filed reports for the other incidents this year that had previously gone unreported.

I don’t expect police to find those responsible for burglarizing my car. But at least I’ve done my part to add to the police stats for 2018 for whatever it that’s worth.

I just hope I don’t find myself having to file a report for an eighth incident involving my car.

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American Canyon Eagle editor

Noel Brinkerhoff has been editor of the American Canyon Eagle since 2014. Prior to that he covered state politics in Sacramento for the California Journal.