SAN FRANCISCO, CA – People who have opted to go to San Francisco for vacation are being told not to rent vehicles.
Why? Because of the extreme increase in vehicle burglaries in the city.
The reason behind the advice that is being given to tourists is easy – there are too many vehicle burglaries that are occurring in the city. Criminals are going through town and breaking into different vehicles looking for quick items they can take off with and later sell or trade.
Even with a police crackdown and rewards being offered the surge in San Francisco smash-and-grab vehicle burglaries continues with the videos being posted on social media nearly every day. https://t.co/i5umwSfmXg
— KPIX 5 (@KPIXtv) November 7, 2021
A reporter from KPIX 5, Betty Yu, spoke to a tourist that was in the area for a music festival on November 1st when she witnessed a vehicle burglary in broad daylight. The tourist, Sophia Massad, was able to video record two people as they smashed the back window of a vehicle and began removing the contents. Yu posted on Twitter:
“Sophia Massad, a musician from Oklahoma, shared this video w me of a smash-and-grab she witnessed in broad daylight on 11/2 at Hyde/North Point. She said she was in SF for Outside Lands, was shocked and frightened to see this brazen burglary.”
— ATX Patriot (@ATX_PATRIOT) November 9, 2021
Another tourist, Manny Pinillos, was in the city in October when he parked a car he had rented near the iconic Pier 39. He had hoped that the contents that he had secured in the vehicle would still be there when he returned.
They were not.
Pinillos told Yu that he lost several thousands of dollars worth of photography and sports equipment from the back of the rental car. His car was the fifth car rented from Hertz hit that day in the city.
Of course, the San Francisco Police Department and the city’s leadership have been trying to curb the vehicle burglaries, but much like their efforts at stopping retail theft crimes, they have been unsuccessful.
The latest attempt at deterring crime and identifying those responsible has been to offer a large reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Sure. Just dont rent a car. Or drive your own here. It will be vandalized,broken windows & your stuff gone in less time than you can say "I left my heart in San Francisco". Avoid downtown SF, most overpasses, the Tenderloin, Golden gate park, and Market Street. Caveat emptor
— Francisco Guerrero (@Guerrero_FJ) June 22, 2021
Democratic Mayor London Breed and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott conducted a press conference in which they announced the $100,000 privately-funded reward.
Those who contributed the money to have those responsible caught? The hospitality and tourism industry – which is seeing tourism coming to a quick halt after news of the ongoing crime in the city is making national news.
In response to the reward, Breed said:
“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.
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.”
Sharky Laguana, the President of the Small Business Commission chimed in on the concern that organized theft is having on the city and the business that calls it home.
“Organized crime has been driving a lot of the theft in this city. The people at the top have been raking in huge sums of money by paying street-level criminals to do all their stealing for them, making working families miserable in the process. This initiative [reward] is going to help take these rings apart.”
While Breed concedes that the city is the punch line of a very bad joke, she also attempts to suggest that the city is perfectly safe for tourists, she said:
“It is really embarrassing for our city and frustrating and it gives people the impression it’s not safe to come here.”
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Both were hit and the woman, Zoe Gisewhite, was struck multiple times – including once in the eye. That shot in the eye has left her partially blind.
Gisewhite and her boyfriend, Stephen McCollum, were waiting for a bus to pick them up on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Noriega Street after they left work at Outside Lands. As they sat there, minding their own business, a car drove by and Gisewhite instantly felt pain. She said:
“I felt my hand sting and I was peeling something off my face. And then my boyfriend looked at my face and said, ‘Oh my God.’”
When the person fired the paintball shots, McCollum was standing and facing away from traffic. Since he was standing with his back to traffic, he was shot at least six times in the back.
The shots to McCollum left welts and bruising, but nothing compared to what happened to Gisewhite.
The injury to Gisewhite’s face left a puncture wound on the lower part of her eyelid which instantly started bleeding. Gisewhite also noticed that she could not see out of the eye that was struck. She said:
“The second I came to, I said, ‘I am blind.’ I cannot see because everything was very dark at that point.”
Gisewhite was taken to the hospital for medical treatment, but as of now, her vision has still not returned to what it was before being shot with the paintball. She can see some colors out of the corner of her eye, but cannot see anything else clear.
Doctors are unsure if Gisewhite’s vision will ever return to normal. The doctors have told her that the lens of her eye has suffered significant damage and right now there is blood that is pooling inside of the eye.
Drive-by paintball attacks do not seem to happen often, but this is not the first incident.
In November of last year, the San Francisco Police Department reported an incident that happened in Bernal Heights. There, four people were struck which left them bleeding with welts where they were struck.
While there is no real explanation as to why someone thought it was a good idea to randomly fire paintball rounds at people, Gisewhite thinks that it could be something as simple as people thinking it would be a funny prank.
But Gisewhite wants everyone to know that being shot with a paintball, especially where she was hit, is not a joke. She said:
“Maybe being Halloween weekend, it’s like, it’s just kids, whatever. But I am potentially losing my eye and I don’t have vision and it’s very frustrating.”
McCollum also expressed frustration. Not only has Gisewhite in need of medical care, but the costs are adding up. McCullum, in a GoFundMe post, said:
“Since then [the incident] we have been with an ophthalmologist/specialist every single day. The co-pay alone is expensive just to be seen. This doesn’t include the cost of her medications, antibiotics, and treatments. Not to mention the initial ER visit…
“She is also now out of work indefinitely, until further notice…And has yet to regain her eyesight…Everything’s very uncertain…and extremely difficult, and very scary – especially for her.”
As of now, there do not appear to be any leads as to who is responsible for shooting the paintball rounds that caused the injuries.
For now, Gisewhite and McCollum are just appreciative of the outpouring of support they have been receiving since starting the GoFundMe page. They are asking anyone willing to donate to help cover her living costs and medical expenses.
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