An epidemic of car burglaries in San Francisco over the last few years has led a state legislator to propose plugging a loophole in state law that allows some break-ins to go unpunished, but the legislature has balked at prosecutors’ requests to make obtaining convictions easier, reports the Los Angeles Times. The proposal, which would eliminate a requirement that prosecutors prove a car’s doors were locked at the time of a break-in, has been shelved two years in a row in committees. Lawmakers struggling with prison crowding and public pressure to enact criminal justice reform have been reluctant to do anything to put more people behind bars. Local officials and the bill’s sponsor say the legislation is needed to help chip away at a statewide car burglary problem that they believe has reached crisis levels in some cities.
“It’s ridiculous that under current law you can have a video of someone bashing out a car window, but if you can’t prove that the door is locked you may not be able to get an auto burglary conviction,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, who introduced the legislation at the request of the San Francisco district attorney’s office. Across California, there were 243,000 thefts from automobiles last year. Though the number of car break-ins was higher during the peak year of 2017, last year’s total is well above the annual average of 223,000 for the eight previous years. San Francisco saw car burglaries spike by 24 percent from 2016 to 2017. In October, San Francisco interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus announced a car burglary strike team led by her office, the California Highway Patrol and San Francisco Police Department. Operation Tangled Web is using air support and patrols to focus on residential hot spots and small commercial corridors during the holiday season.