Thieves cause crime wave at San Francisco beaches 

click to enlarge San Mateo County law enforcement officials and local workers said crooks often case beach parking lots, watching to see where surfers hide car keys. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The SF Examiner
  • San Mateo County law enforcement officials and local workers said crooks often case beach parking lots, watching to see where surfers hide car keys.

Crooks are riding a crime wave at Bay Area beaches, smashing car windows while their owners are out shredding the water.

Law enforcement agencies monitoring coastal areas say break-ins are commonplace. Car owners are simply not aware, or don’t take the time, to prevent thefts, said San Mateo County sheriff’s Sgt. John Gonzales, who monitors the coastline between Devil’s Slide and the Santa Cruz County line.

Last month, three preoccupied beachgoers suffered break-ins within a two-hour period on the Peninsula.

A surfer was robbed of his keys and pants while riding waves at Año Nuevo State Beach, which is about halfway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Earlier, someone lost an estimated $685 worth of loot near the Cowell-Purisima Trail in Half Moon Bay. Another person had a purse stolen in a separate burglary in the same area.

Surf shop workers and regular beach bums say they often hear burglary stories.

“It happens all the time,” one employee at a Half Moon Bay surf shop said.

The worker, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said drug addicts at Montara State Beach prey on cars in the parking lots. The crooks will case the lot, watching where surfers hide their keys. After stealing loot, some will lock the keys inside the car, allowing the crooks enough time to charge their credit cards, the employee said.

Gonzales said unwitting tourists are often targeted along the coastline. They are often so excited by beautiful views, they are unaware that crooks are watching, he said.

“They’ll leave everything on the seat,” Gonzales said. “Then their suitcase is gone with their identification. Then we hope the [Transportation Security Administration] and ticket agents accept our police report as their proof of ID.”

Crooks are known to watch where surfers and swimmers hide their keys, Gonzales said. To prevent theft, ocean enthusiasts should keep their keys with them, possibly by stashing them in their wetsuits, among other methods, he said.

San Francisco police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said beachgoers need to lock their stuff in the trunk before arriving at the beach, Andraychak said. If a crook knows there’s something valuable in there, they can simply smash the window and pop the truck, he said.

“Ninety-percent of the time the people being robbed are not aware of their surroundings,” Gonzales said. “They leave their purses in plain view, their laptop sitting on the seat. The vast majority of all these break-ins are crimes of opportunity.”

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