[sf-lug] OT: Car broken into on 7th and Howard, GPS and other items stolen -- is this common?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Oct 22 09:14:23 PDT 2007

Quoting Kristian Erik Hermansen (kristian.hermansen at gmail.com):

> People warned me about parking my car in San Francisco, especially
> with a GPS in sight.  I just put the GPS in my car yesterday, and this
> was the first night I parked it.  It sucks to have come back to broken
> glass and items gone tonight.

Condolences.  I lived for many years at the CoffeeNet building (744
Harrison near 3rd Street, a Linux-based Internet cafe I helped build),
and kept my car parked always on-street, so I'm familiar with your

> Does anyone have suggestions?  Should I just sell my car?  The police
> told me that this will happen again and there is no way to prevent it.
>  He said "we can't be everywhere, so how could we stop it?"

The guys who do this crime smash, enter, grab, and exit in just a few
seconds, and count on being too unobtrusive and quickly in & gone to be
very noticeable.   They're pretty much idiots; they don't know what's
valuable and what's not.  They frequently even fail to notice the fact
that a door's unlocked -- or worse:  I saw one inside my car just off
Army Street from half a block away, he noticed me running towards the
car, and he crawled out _through_ the broken glass window rather than
open the door.  (I was dumb enough to give chase, run after the gyy for
about a mile to the housing projects on the south slope of Potrero Hill,
wrestle the bastard to the ground, and hold him until the cops arrived.
That was stupid:  I could easily have gotten killed.)

Areas right near nightclubs are very at risk, e.g., my old address in
SOMA, because the thieves know that suburbanites drive in and leave
valuables inside their cars when they come clubbing.  So, theives walk
the sidewalks, peer into cars, and smash a sidewalk-facing window of any
car with visible clutter that seems worth rummaging through.

Here's what I did, to stop getting broken into:

1.  Park if possible under a street lamp and directly in front of a curb
cut / driveway.  This gives maximum visibility from behind, at night.
The bad guy is less likely to want to smash and enter if he/she is
highly visible, and on SOMA's one-way streets, that's mostly visibility
from behind, from patrol cars in traffic approaching the car.

2.  Park if possible on main streets rather than alleys.  Again, greater
visibility from approaching traffic (clearer sight lines, more traffic).

3.  (The vital part:)  Have _zero visible clutter_ inside the car.  I got
my window smashed one time by an idiot who rooted around among worthless
junk in the back seat and rear of my old Honda hatchback:  I lost
nothing of value, but had to deal with window replacement and broken
glass anyway.

4.  Do NOT be seen stowing valuables, e.g., in a trunk, just before
leaving the parked car.  The thief may very well be watching you as you
lock up and leave.  Therefore, if you're approaching your parking spot
and realise you have to stow some valuables out of sight in your trunk,
stop _short_ of your destination, first, transfer the valuables to
hidden storage, and only _then_ drive the remaining ~1 block to your
parking location.  This might save your next GPS unit.  ;->

I actually considered, during good weather, just leaving the windows
rolled down, to convey "Hey, fool.  There's no need to smash my window;
you can enter and see for yourself that there's nothing in here worth
stealing."  However, on reflection, I realised I really didn't want to
encounter used syringes, fecal matter, etc., if that could be avoided.

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