State Sen. Scott Wiener will try again to pass a bill to help close a loophole in  state law that requires prosecutors to prove that a vehicle’s door was locked in an auto burglary in order to get a conviction.

Auto burglaries have been a common occurrence citywide and The City has implemented a number of remedies to curb the auto break-ins, including having the Police Department assigning officer liaison to focus on property crimes at each police station, having rental vehicle companies remove decals and, making security improvements inside city-owned parking garages.

Police Chief Bill Scott said auto burglaries are down by 16 percent year-to-date citywide.

Wiener said at a press conference on Monday at Alamo Square Park — a tourist attraction and hotspot for car burglaries — that while The City has made progress in reducing auto break-ins, prosecutors need help to convict those who break into vehicles:

“This bill will close an odd loophole that exists in the California vehicle code where even if the district attorney can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone bashed in the window of car to get into that car, the district attorney also needs to prove that the car door was locked.”

Wiener added that tourists who come to visit San Francisco and have their vehicles broken into are most likely not going to come back to The City to testify in court to say they locked the vehicle.

District Attorney George Gascon, who supports Wiener’s proposal, said the consequences are much different for a person who is just convicted of auto theft than convicted of an auto break-in:

“We know we are dealing with supplicated people who understand the law. They know they can break-in through a window. They can smash a windshield and go very quickly and grab the property and they know that the exposure to that will have if they get caught is auto theft as opposed to that of an auto break-in.”

Auto break-ins have an impact to tourists and residents, said Supervisor Vallie Brown, who presents District 5.

Brown said she is not able to walk around The City or her district without seeing broken glass:

“I had one single mother email me that her car brown was into and could not afford to replace the window.”

Brown said she plans to introduce a resolution at the Board of Supervisors to support Wiener’s proposal.

Wiener earlier this year attempted to get a similar bill passed earlier this year, Senate Bill 916, but the bill failed at the appropriations committee.

He plans to reintroduce the bill on Dec. 3 when the state legislature reconvenes.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to jerold@sfbay.ca.

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