Capitol Alert

Thieves found a way to beat auto break-in charges. This California bill could stop them.

Auburn dealership suffers 27-car burglary spree

The Auburn Toyota Dealership reportedly suffered break-ins to 27 brand-new cars last week, the Placer County Sheriff's Office reported on Facebook.
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The Auburn Toyota Dealership reportedly suffered break-ins to 27 brand-new cars last week, the Placer County Sheriff's Office reported on Facebook.

When is a vehicle break-in not a vehicle break-in? In California, it’s when the burglar smashes a window and then unlocks the door.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, announced Monday that he intends to introduce a bill to close what his office described as a loophole in state law when the California Legislature convenes Dec. 3.

Wiener introduced a similar bill, SB 916, in the last legislative session, but it died without a vote on the Senate floor.

If passed, the bill would eliminate the requirement of proof that a vehicle door was locked prior to the break-in.

“Instead, forcible entry will be sufficient to prove the crime,” according to a statement from Wiener’s office.

District attorneys have a hard time proving their case in situations where the offender breaks a vehicle window to complete the theft and then leaves the vehicle door open or unlocked. Also, the vehicle owner or renter cannot remember whether they locked their door or are unavailable to testify that the door was locked.

San Francisco “is in the midst of an auto break-in epidemic,” according to Wiener’s office, with the San Francisco Police Department reporting a 26 percent increase in thefts from vehicles in 2017 “and previous reports indicated that auto break-ins have tripled since 2010.

The break-in epidemic in San Francisco even attracted the attention of TV show “Inside Edition,” which sent a team to the city to try and catch a vehicle burglar in the act. In the process, their own vehicle was burglarized.

“The explosion in auto break-ins we’re experiencing is unacceptable, and we need to ensure our police and district attorneys have all the tools they need to address it,” Wiener said in the statement.

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


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