Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Crime & Emergencies
Published on February 16, 2021
Richmond District sees huge uptick in burglaries during first weeks of 2021Photo: Matthew Feeney/Unsplash

There's been a massive jump in burglaries in the Richmond District, year over year, according to new data from the SFPD's Richmond Station. And while burglaries are reportedly up in multiple neighborhoods, we're only hearing a definitive report on the first five weeks of 2021 from the Richmond.

Burglaries are up 307% in the Richmond through February 7, compared to the same period last year, as the Chronicle reports via the station newsletter. There have been over 20 burglaries reported per week in the new year, in fact, with 108 in total so far this year — compared to just 23 reported in the same period in 2020.

Of those, there were 56 reports of forcible-entry crimes, up from 12 during the same period last year. And there were 26 attempted forcible entries, up from just one last year.

Back in December, SFPD statistics showed that the Richmond and the Marina had seen the biggest spikes in burglaries of any neighborhoods, while the city had seen a 47% year-over-year jump in burglaries overall. A total of 7,084 burglary reports were made in 2020, up from 4,827 reported incidents in 2019. Richmond resident Mark Dietrich told the Chronicle, "It’s just heartbreaking — every single day, there’s probably two to four break-ins a night."

Dietrich was leading a campaign to raise awareness about the spike in break-ins, trying to make sure that older residents especially are doing what they can to secure their garages, which have been popular break-in targets all over town — with expensive bikes being prime loot for thieves.

Acting Capt. William Conley from Richmond Station offered residents little comfort in December when he explained that these burglaries are likely being committed by the same thieves who used to target unsuspecting tourists' cars, and have apparently shifted to targeting homes as tourism has plummeted during the pandemic. And he said that these crimes are particularly difficult to solve and prosecute.

"You’re dependent on physical evidence — fingerprints or DNA or video," Conley said, speaking to the Chronicle. "Absent of a witness or a combination of the other things, [these burglaries are] very difficult to solve."

Such petty crimes are more than a nuisance, though, and can make entire swaths of city residents no longer feel safe in their homes, or in their city.

Responding to residents of Bernal Heights last week, where there has been a similarly noted uptick in break-ins, District Attorney Chesa Boudin offered his own theory about why these crimes are occurring: economic desperation. As the Chronicle reported, he spoke during a virtual neighborhood safety forum about how there had been a shift from auto burglaries to home burglaries all across town, and how this did make the crimes more serious.

"It’s one thing to have someone break a car window and steal a backpack. That’s a crime. We prosecute it as a felony,” Boudin said, per the Chronicle. “It’s another thing to have someone break into your garage or your home — that’s your castle."

Supervisor Hillary Ronen told the Chronicle, "We know that that is one of the root causes of property crimes specifically," noting especially the income disparities in San Francisco and the food insecurity many people are facing, that drives them to petty crime.

"The devastation of the pandemic is hard to overstate, especially for people who were already struggling to begin with, who were already living paycheck to paycheck, or struggling to find a place to sleep every night," Boudin said. "If you used to live from couch to couch at friend’s houses, they don’t want you on their couch in the context of a contagious virus pandemic. So, that’s definitely part of the picture."

He said he hoped that police would have fewer of these crimes to deal with in the near future.

"Hopefully, as we begin to go back to a normal post-pandemic life, we’ll see residential burglaries go down, and we’ll be able to focus on really problematic — but far less serious crimes — like auto burglaries instead of residential burglaries," Boudin said.