Community Voices

Call for Submissions! Ingleside-Excelsior Light Holding Car Break-in Sign Design Challenge

Ingleside-Excelsior Light Illustrator submitted the above signage as part of the Car Break-in Sign Design Challenge.

Design Competition Calls for Signs Instructing Drivers on Stowing Belongings to Prevent Break-ins

Every day in The City’s Ingleside neighborhood, drivers leave their vehicles in parking garages to attend 24 Hour Fitness and shop at Target or Whole Foods Market. And every day some of these San Franciscans — not tourists — find their car windows shattered and their belongings gone.

Like clockwork, a crack team of car burglars targets the parking garages along Ocean Avenue and they have got their game down pat, according to police. Often equipped with a stolen or untraceable vehicle, the getaway driver backs their car into position so they can leave in a hurry. The burglars smash and grab with speed and alacrity while their lookout keeps watch to warn of police and, of course, the unsuspecting victims returning to their vehicles.

These individuals peer into car windows before shattering them to make sure they can see bags and items. A round of break-ins takes minutes — and it must.

The truth is that the car break-in racket is a numbers game. Getting enough items to fence — sell on the black market usually nearby but also offshore — takes many, many break-ins to be profitable for a crew. And parking garages provide great odds for these crews to get a good take.

Yet San Francisco’s parking garages are not equipped with simple signs instructing drivers to stow their belongings in the trunk or take their belongings with them.

As law enforcement brass often say, there are three E’s to crime-fighting: enforcement, engineering and education.

A car break-in predicament is not something that a metropolitan police force can arrest its way out of — nor should it want to or try to. So enforcement is not a real option for stopping break-ins, and neither is engineering. That leaves education. It’s time San Francisco got serious about education. Eye-catching multi-lingual or pictographic signs would be a smart first step. That’s why The Light is calling for sign designs. We need universally understood signs that remind drivers about the unnecessary risk they take in leaving items visible in their vehicles.

Merchants groups are doing their part, placing flyers on vehicles. It’s high time The City, which owns multiple huge parking garages, pilots new signs immediately. The Light will take the best signs it receives to the Office of the Mayor as well as the Chief of Police.

To submit a design, email it to Include a description and any other information.

Alexander Mullaney is an investigative journalist and publisher of the Ingleside-Excelsior Light neighborhood newspaper.

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