2023 WE San Francisco Auto Theft Report

Ben Kaplan
SFPD Incident Reports
2023 (Jan. 1 to Sept. 30)

The car break-in crisis in San Francisco paints a concerning picture of the city's safety, with both statistical data and community-driven initiatives shedding light on the severity of issues impacting the area. 

The rising concern among current and prospective residents about the city's safety has prompted WE to take a closer look at the factors contributing to this crisis. In 2023 to date, auto theft surged by 12% year over year — and 76% over 5 years — resulting in an estimated loss of a staggering $63 million for San Francisco residents, according to FBI data.

This initiative delves into San Francisco Police Department Incident Reports for 2023 — from January 1 through September 30. The data set includes reported auto theft and does not included unreported incidents (although that particular crime type has a high police reporting rate). The calculate per capita figures, we use a data set of neighborhood population counts for the year 2021. The goal is not only to break down the figures, but also to empower the community with a comprehensive understanding of the situation, ultimately aiming to get San Francisco back on track.

What is the worst neighborhood to park your car?

Five areas stand out for having the highest number of auto theft-related crimes. These neighborhoods include Bayview Hunters Point, the Mission, SoMa, the Tenderloin, and Sunset/Parkside. Why is it, though, that some of these neighborhoods have seen a surge in auto theft-related crimes? For one thing, consider their positioning and density.

Bayview, for example, has blocks of industrial buildings and businesses, all of which need parking lots. It's a quick drive from one of these areas to the highway, making it easier for someone to commit a car theft and get out of the area unseen. The scene is similar in Mission with warehouses, business high-rises, and a quick route to the open road.

These neighborhoods bear the brunt of the crisis, experiencing a surge in incidents that not only raises safety concerns but also leads to substantial financial losses.

What is the financial impact of San Francisco auto theft?

To estimate the overall financial impact from auto theft, we can use the average financial loss nationwide calculated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the 2021 calendar year (the most recent year that findings are available.)

Bayview Hunters Point emerges as the neighborhood with the biggest financial loss due to car theft, reaching an estimated $7,690,274 from year to date, underscoring the economic consequences of the crisis. 

These are the neighborhoods who have been hit the hardest financially due to car theft.

Which neighborhoods have seen the most increase and decrease in auto theft?

Outside of the stark statistics, there are neighborhoods that have seen a positive shift. Russian Hill and Seacliff, for instance, have experienced significant decreases in auto crime—27% and 8%, respectively. Analyzing these cases of improvement offers valuable insights into potential strategies for curbing the crisis and fostering safer communities. 

Others, such as Presidio, Treasure Island, Japantown, and Chinatown, have been less impacted by the car break-in crisis in San Francisco's neighborhoods. One explanation for this is the density of neighborhoods and their distance away from a "getaway route". The San Francisco Police Department data showcases the trend that neighborhoods with closer housing and a longer route to the highway tend to experience less car-related crime.

On the other hand, there are some cities that have had quite an increase in crime from year to date. Visitacion Valley and Lakeshore saw more than a 60% increase in auto theft, while Mission Bay, Excelsior, and Inner Sunset have all seen a near 40% increase.

Taking a look at these cases of improvement offers valuable insights into potential strategies for curbing the crisis and fostering a safer community.

How can San Francisco move forward?

Safety and improving San Francisco is a multifaceted challenge, marked by rising incidents, substantial financial losses, and varying impacts across neighborhoods. Our analysis demonstrates a detailed view of the economic consequences of auto theft, highlighting disparities across different areas and emphasizing the importance of community-driven efforts to address the crisis and find effective solutions.

The collaborative efforts of initiatives like WE San Francisco, coupled with a nuanced analysis of the data, offer a new perspective for addressing the crime crisis and working towards a safer and more secure city for all SF residents.