Are San Diego Police Powerless Against Car Break-Ins? - NBC 7 San Diego
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Are San Diego Police Powerless Against Car Break-Ins?

On average, more than 7,200 vehicles are broken into in the city of San Diego each year. Of those, 97 percent are never solved.



    Are San Diego Police Powerless Against Car Break-Ins?

    NBC 7 Investigates looked at vehicle break-in related crimes investigated by the San Diego Police Department from January 1, 2014, to July 1, 2019. Mari Payton explains what the team found. (Published Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019)

    Peter Kang was working out in his Carmel Valley gym when his car was broken into while parked in the underground garage. “You know that these things happen, but when it happens to you it's not a good feeling for sure,” he said. 

    Someone stole Kang’s debit and credit cards, cash and watch. Kang decided to act quickly. 

    “In fact what I first tried to do was go to the police station just down the street on El Camino Real. But it turns out that you can't speak to them in person, they just give you a number to call.” 

    So, Kang took it upon himself to do some investigating. He said he tracked the fraudulent purchases that the thief or thieves were making on his credit cards and went to gas stations and stores at the UTC mall, hoping to see surveillance video of the potential criminals. 

    When Peter Kang's car was broken into, he got to work investigating the crime. But when he shared the evidence he gathered with police, he was surprised by their response.

    Kang was able to confirm some details about the suspects, so when police followed-up by phone, he thought his newfound information might be useful. But when police called, Kang was left surprised. 

    “From my sense, the call was that they weren't super receptive. It was more like they were just kind of go going through the motions,” Kang said. 

    Car break-ins are on the rise every year in San Diego. According to an NBC7 Investigates analysis of San Diego Police Department crime data from 2014 until the present, 97 percent of reported car break-ins remain unsolved, classified by police as "open investigations." That means no arrests. 

    Data from the San Diego Police Department show the area hardest hit is the parking lot of the San Diego Zoo. Since 2014, 142 break-ins have been reported there, though there has been a decline year to year. 

    The second most targeted area is the Mission Valley Mall with 139 incidents, followed by the Fashion Valley Mall with 110 break-ins. The Cowles Mountain Parking Lot had 91 break-ins since 2014 and the Alvarado Hospital parking lot had 85 break-ins. 


    San Diego Police Department spokesperson Lieutenant Shawn Takeuchi said car break-ins are some of the most difficult crimes to solve. 

    “Fingerprints aren't left behind. DNA isn't left behind, tools to the crime aren’t left behind. And in some cases even if we have video surveillance identifying individuals using video surveillance is very very difficult,” Takeuchi said. 

    Takeuchi said if you're a victim of a break-in, you shouldn't call 911. What you should do is fill out an online form and wait to be contacted by an officer. (You can find that online form by clicking here.) 

    “We don't have a unit of officers assigned for break-ins,” Takeuchi said. “The reason why is because it wouldn't be an effective use of resources.” 

    Takeuchi said if there is a rash of break-ins, or if a pattern is established the will assign a detective to the series. 


    Car insurance does not cover theft of your personal items from your vehicle. But, the personal property coverage in a homeowners, renters or condo insurance policy helps cover your belongings, even when they're away from your place. 

    As for Kang, his case remains one of the thousands listed as an “open investigation.” 

    “I felt pretty helpless, pretty frustrated. There wasn’t really anything I could have done. It wasn’t like any of my items were out there for anyone to see. I felt like I was in a pretty secure area.”

    Thousands of Car Break-Ins Unsolved in San DiegoThousands of Car Break-Ins Unsolved in San Diego

    Thousands of vehicles are broken into in the city of San Diego each year. NBC 7 Investigates Mari Payton shares data on which neighborhoods are being hit the hardest and why many are never solved. 

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019)