SAN FRANCISCO - Tourists in San Francisco found out the hard way about the city's epidemic of auto burglaries after their rental car was ransacked by thieves near the Palace of Fine Arts, not far from where officials were set to lay out new strategies to mitigate car-break-ins.
Lindsey Dobbelare and her family were visiting from Missouri and planned to go over the Golden Gate Bridge, but put that off to explore the renowned San Francisco landmark. They were at the park for five minutes when their rental car was burglarized.
"When we got here, we thought this is a great place to park. These are like $30 million homes. It's a beautiful area, and it's 8 a.m.," Dobbelare said. "We pulled over, parked, got out, did a little sightseeing and when we came back we had our back glass shattered out."
The thieves made off with the family's backpacks, passports, electronics and $1,000 worth of jewelry.
Despite that, the family said they aren't letting the incident ruin their trip and are happy no one was injured. Dobbelare said she would visit the city again and said she was aware of how rampant car break-ins are in San Francisco.
Coincidentally, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins were holding a press conference in the area on new tactics the city is rolling out to address car burglaries.
Scott said his department is going to use bait cars, in hopes of catching repeat offenders. He also said since the city's new budget allows for more police overtime, which will increase officer patrols in tourist areas like the Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard Street, and Fisherman's Wharf.
"We have gotten to a point in San Francisco where people didn't even fear being arrested. They didn't think anything would happen once the DA's office took over the case. They didn't think there was going to be any meaningful consequence. They have to learn" Jenkins said. "We're trying to reinstall in San Francisco, not only will you be caught, but when you’re prosecuted. There will be a consequence for that behavior."
Jenkins admits that there will be more brazen crime before that culture shifts.
San Francisco police said there have been 13,000 car break-ins to date. The highest number of break-ins was in 2017 when there were over 31,000 car burglaries.