California Law Protecting Car Thieves Leaves Tourists at Major Disadvantage


A loophole in a California state law that allows some car break-ins to go unpunished has created a car burglary crisis in the state.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, state law requires proof that a vehicle was locked for a break-in to count as felony burglary.

“It’s ridiculous that under current law you can have a video of someone bashing out a car window, but if you can’t prove that the door is locked you may not be able to get an auto burglary conviction,” state Sen. Scott Wiener told the Los Angeles Times.

Wiener introduced a proposal to eliminate the requirement that state prosecutors hope legislators will take up this month, but it has been put off for two years in a row.

In California, there were 243,000 automobile thefts last year, the Times reported.

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The number of break-ins peaked in 2017, but San Francisco police nonetheless tallied 60 break-ins per day in 2019.

“All of us are getting double-digit slams in auto (burglaries),” Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tourists are usually hit the hardest because they are more likely to leave valuable objects in their cars and can be easily identified by rental cars or out of state license plates.

“I think that’s the mind switch that we need to make — if you have your backpack, luggage, you’ve got to take it with you. You can’t put it in the glove box,” Oakland Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. “The days of ‘not-in-plain-view’ are over with.”

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The fact that tourists cannot easily return to testify whether they locked their car doors has made it hard for prosecutions to take place, according to Wiener.

But it’s not only tourists who are targeted. Even cops have felt the frustration of the situation caused by California’s current easy-on-criminals approach.

“Our car windows got busted,” San Francisco police Lt. Tracy McCray told Fox’s Tucker Carlson. “I didn’t bother making a report.”

Many of the car burglary suspects were largely Bay Area gang members who traveled in rental cars so they were hard to track, Fox News reported.

Wiener told the Times that although legislators have not explained why similar proposals have not been approved before, lawmakers are usually reluctant to approve bills that have the chance to put more people in already overcrowded prisons.

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“Bills that are perceived to expand criminal liability tend not to do well in the Legislature, although this bill closes a loophole — it’s not creating something new,” Weiner said.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron blamed Democratic lawmakers for hindering law enforcement efforts to stop criminals.

“We’ve got one more piece of evidence that for Democrats, victims come last,” she said. “There’s no reason for someone to enter a vehicle that doesn’t belong to them, whether the door is locked or not. This was a common-sense bill to close a major loophole in our city burglary law, but Democrats have proved yet again that in Sacramento, common sense isn’t common.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith