A new privately funded program in San Francisco will provide cash rewards for tipsters who give police information about car burglaries leading to an arrest and conviction, city officials said Tuesday.
The new program hopes to deter vehicle smash and grab burglaries, which have become a common occurrence for residents and tourists in the city in recent years.
The cash rewards will be funded by private donors in the hospitality and tourism industry, city officials said.
Tipsters who provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of someone involved in a criminal fencing operation could be paid up to $100,000, according to city officials.
Investigators working with San Francisco police and other law enforcement agencies in the region believe that less than a dozen criminal organizations are responsible for a large majority of auto burglaries happening in the Bay Area. The new initiative hopes to stop those organizations in their tracks.
"The frequent auto burglaries in San Francisco are not victimless crimes, they have real financial and emotional consequences for the victims and we're continuing to work to hold people who commit these crimes accountable," Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
"These break-ins hurt our residents, especially working families who do not have the time or money to deal with the effects, as well as visitors to our city whose experiences are too often tarnished after an otherwise positive experience," Breed said. "I want to thank our partners in the private sector who understand the urgency of this issue, and we want to be very clear to the organized groups who are responsible for the vast majority of these crimes that we are committing the resources and the manpower to hold you accountable."
The cash reward initiative is the most recent tool employed by city officials to curb vehicle burglaries. Earlier this year, Breed expanded the city's community ambassador program, which provides community members to patrol commercial corridors, and also expanded police foot and bike patrols in tourist hot spots.
Since July, city officials said there has been a 37 percent drop in auto burglaries throughout the city. On July 4, police reported 566 auto burglaries citywide during that week, while just last week there were only 358 auto burglaries, city officials said.
"We know the profit motives of a few upstream fencing operations are fueling thousands of auto burglaries and other kinds of thefts. This generously funded cash reward enables us to flip the script on profit motives -- creating an incentive that can help us bring these criminal enterprises to justice," Police Chief Bill Scott said. "We're very hopeful that this new initiative will help make San Francisco's so-far successful efforts on auto burglaries even more successful moving forward."
City officials added that the Police Department is well equipped for the expanded foot and bike patrols to deter auto burglars despite a minor reduction in force due to officers who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before the city's deadline last week.
So far, just 76 officers, or 3.5 percent of the department's sworn staff, reported being unvaccinated and therefore have been suspended.