A California state senator is introducing a bill that would make it easier to prosecute thieves that are breaking into cars in San Francisco and stealing people’s belongings. The city has reported an alarming number of break-ins lately, due, in part, to a rule that requires people to prove their car doors were locked in order to prosecute thieves, even in cases of forcible entry.
State Senator Scott Wiener introduced the bill, saying it’ll eliminate a rule currently preventing prosecutors from punishing thieves, as NBC reports. The rule amounts to a loophole that stops such cases from proceeding when there’s no proof that a vehicle was locked. Senator Wiener calls the rule nonsensical, arguing that there’s more than enough evidence in many cases. Per NBC:
Unless victims of break-ins can prove vehicles were locked at the time of the thefts, city officials and police can’t go after burglars, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Proof may come simply in the form of testimony by victims, but many of those affected are tourists visiting San Francisco briefly.
Most tourists and out-of-towners are unable to return to the city just to testify, and the charges end up getting dropped — thereby enabling thieves to avoid punishment. Criminals are allegedly exploiting this loophole by targeting cars that are likely to belong to tourists, such as rental vehicles parked in areas that attract crowds of visitors. The SF Chronicle says thieves are known to target cars whose drivers forgot to curb their wheels — a tell tale sign of a tourist.
The new bill would allow city officials to work such cases using eyewitness testimony and video evidence, as well as the physical evidence of a break-in. Senator Wiener is proposing the latest bill after having done so on two previous occasions.
The bill had failed to pass for “procedural reasons,” according to the SF Chronicle, but the state senator is hopeful it’ll pass this time. And it may be overdue since there were 11,000 car break-ins in the city by September and just 45 convictions due to the loophole, as the San Francisco Standard reports.
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