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my car before being stolen

My 1998 Honda Civic, just after I first got it, and before it was stolen (and recovered) and later broken into twice. 

Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle

If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, I recommend you leave your car at home.

Auto break-ins across San Francisco have become such a problem that the word “epidemic” is often used to describe it.

The sight of tiny greenish shards littering sidewalks and streets — from the thousands of smashed cars windows — have become so ubiquitous that some residents now refer to San Francisco as the City of Broken Glass.

I can personally attest to this problem of auto thievery, which has produced its own bounty of statistical and anecdotal information to demonstrate just how bad it has gotten.

Last weekend, my car was broken into — again — while visiting my girlfriend, Shelly, who has had her own car broken into more than once.

Over the course of a year and a half, I’ve had my car stolen (and recovered, thankfully) and burglarized twice in San Francisco.

My three break-ins occurred in three different neighborhoods: South of Market, Lower Nob Hill, and Potrero Hill.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in September that auto break-ins were up 28 percent during the first six months of last year, compared to the first six months of 2016.

An average of 85 cars a day were broken into during this span.

Police received 17,970 vehicle break-in reports across San Francisco from January through July of last year.

But the actual number of break-ins was even higher because not everyone who had their car burglarized went on to file a police report, according to Matier & Ross, the Chronicle’s longtime reporting duo.

Matier & Ross obtained statistics from the city’s 911 call center showing it received 25,031 calls about auto break-ins during the first six months of 2017 — 7,061 more than the 17,970 reported by police.

If those numbers aren’t draw-dropping enough, the stats for car break-ins for some neighborhoods were even higher than the citywide average of 28 percent.

In the Mission District, it was up 182 percent.

In the Marina, Pacific Heights and Western Addition, it was up 40 percent.

San Francisco Police responded to this crisis first by forming an auto burglary task force, then disbanding it in favor assigning more officers to walk neighborhood streets.

The result?

By the end of 2017, auto break-ins were up 26 percent compared to 2016.

The problem has continued into this year, and not just for me.

I’ve been relatively fortunate. Because my car is a late ‘90s Honda, which are very easy to get into, nobody has broken my windows — they just jimmy the door lock to break in.

I hope I didn’t just jinx myself by saying I’ve avoided shattered glass.

My break-in last weekend was mostly an annoyance. Nothing was broken, and the only thing they managed to steal was a micro USB cable I use to charge my cell phone in my car, and my SF Giants cap I had left in the trunk.

At least I didn’t have my dog thrown to its death.

On Sunday, the Chronicle reported that a man — well known to police because of his long rap sheet — broke into a car sitting in a parking garage near Union Square.

The culprit found a four-year-old Chihuahua, Dunky, inside the vehicle.

He responded by grabbing the dog and hurling it over the ledge of the parking structure, seven stories up.

Police apprehended the guy, Wakeen Best, who was already on probation. He faces multiple charges of felony burglary, animal cruelty, grand theft, possession of stolen property, carrying a concealed weapon, vandalism and probation violation.

The probation part sounded more than a little familiar to me. When my car was stolen in August 2016, police caught my culprit, Dorian Cabrera, who was driving around town for three days in my Honda.

Cabrera, too, was out on probation at the time she stole my car. She had previously made off with at least three other vehicles before mine.

She pleaded guilty to stealing my Honda, and wound up serving only 39 days in jail before being put back on probation.

I’m not the only person in San Francisco who thinks something is seriously wrong with how the city is dealing with the problem.

San Francisco is still in many ways a wonderful city. You just don’t want to have a car with you when you’re there.


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.