Car thefts in San Francisco spike 10 percent, shattering last year's pace 

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Folks parking older-model Japanese cars on San Francisco streets, or leaving valuables inside their vehicles, take heed: Police say thieves are salivating more than usual.

To date, auto thefts have spiked 10 percent citywide, and burglary thefts from vehicles are up 22 percent, compared with the same time last year, police said Wednesday.

The numbers are part of an overall trend of increased property crimes this year, according to interim police Chief Jeff Godown.

“That’s what we’re really looking at, to try to figure out what strategies we can use,” Godown said following a public meeting on neighborhood crime trends. “Officers driving up and down in black-and-whites very seldom will catch somebody breaking into the car, so it’s community strategies, community enforcement, education, things like that.”

The biggest problem neighborhoods are, not surprisingly, downtown.

In the Central Police District — which includes the Financial District, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach — car thefts are up 125 percent and burglaries 49 percent, according to police. The Southern Police District south of Market Street leads The City in auto burglaries, with 514 so far this year.

In the Northern Police District — which encompasses Western Addition, Pacific Heights, Japantown and the Marina — auto burglaries have risen 47 percent. Auto thefts in the Bayview are up 54 percent.

Even the residential Richmond and Taraval districts have seen similar trends.

Godown said the reason for the uptick is uncertain.

“It could be a multitude of suspects, opportunists just walking down the street ... or it could be a couple groups. We just don’t know,” he said.

Police captains from the Richmond, Park and Ingleside stations said thieves are mainly targeting 1990s-model cars. Honda Accords and Civics and Toyota Camrys are among the favorites. Many of the thieves are believed to be using shaved keys to gain entry.

Auto burglars are smashing windows and grabbing laptops and other electronics left in vehicles, police said.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this, we’re just not,” Richmond station Capt. Rich Corriea said. “What people have to do is stop leaving stuff in their car.”

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