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San Francisco car window repair shop gets 25 calls a day for break-ins

Express Service Auto Glass owner Morena Mendez stands outside her car window repair shop in San Francisco on March 1, 2023. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

First it was Audis, now it’s Hyundais and Kias. 

Window repair shop owner Morena Mendez can barely keep up with demand for new car windows—thanks to window-smashing thieves.

“Right now, [I have] no glass in stock for Kias,” Mendez said. “For a while, we were out of stock [for Audis].”

A shattered passenger-side window awaits repairs at Express Service Auto Glass in San Francisco on March 1, 2023. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard | Source: | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Tucked away in the Bayview near the Interstate 280 and U.S. Highway 101 interchange, Mendez said her shop, Express Service Auto Glass, has been very busy. Many of the calls are from customers who have had their cars broken into and often it's a customer she’s seen before.

“I get between 20 and 25 calls a day,” Mendez said. “I’d say 70% are for a break-in, or vandalism, where they don’t steal anything but just break [the window].”

‘This Was the Fourth Time’

Several of Mendez’s customers are no strangers to car break-ins. 

“This was the fourth time. Same window,” Kelly Jensen said. 

Jensen, who drives a white Audi Q5 SUV, said she saw that her car window had been smashed and the glove box opened while she was walking her dog early Tuesday. 

Kelly Jensen waits for her Audi Q5 window to be repaired at Express Service Auto Glass. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Jensen didn’t lose anything—she knows better than to keep valuables in her car now that the passenger side window of her car has been smashed in three different neighborhoods: Yerba Buena, Haight-Ashbury and the Lower Haight, where she lives.

“It was on the same block that the mayor lives on, actually,” said Jensen, who lives on Page Street. “But it’s happened in other places too, so I know it’s happening all over the city.”

Shattered glass is scattered on the floor of a vehicle at Express Service Auto Glass in San Francisco on March 1, 2023. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Hunter Rich is also a repeat customer. Tuesday night was the third time his Volkswagen Golf had been broken into. Rich was walking back to his car just before midnight on Tuesday, which he had left in a parking garage near Fifth and Mission streets, when he saw the damage.

“I went to get in my car, and there was glass everywhere,” Rich said. 

READ MORE: These Are Oakland’s Worst Areas for Catalytic Converter Theft. One Mechanic Gets 25 Calls a Day

Rich said he’s grown numb to the reality that car break-ins are commonplace.

“I put the blame on myself at this point, it’s common knowledge in the Bay Area that you can’t leave stuff in your car to tempt people,” Rich said.

Hunter Rich waits for his Volkswagen Golf window to be repaired. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Of the four customers The Standard spoke with Tuesday, only one was there for their first break-in experience. All of the customers were there because someone had smashed their car windows.

Audi, Kia, Hyundai

Mendez said that many of the cars she sees are certain models of Audis, Kias and Hyundais. Some Audis come with a spare key in the glove box, and some Kias and Hyundais can be more easily stolen. 

In February, Mendez said she had 50 calls about broken windows for Audis, 30 calls for Hyundais and 25 calls for Kias. 

The window glass is shattered on the passenger side of a vehicle in San Francisco. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Berkeley police say that the increased thefts of Kias and Hyundais may be due to a social media challenge encouraging the thefts, and some older models with less anti-theft tech can make for easier targets.

“They take the steering wheel apart, and it’s easier to steal,” Mendez said.

READ MORE: 130,000 San Franciscans Protected by Just 4 Cops Every Night, Supervisor Says

San Francisco police data shows a sharp uptick in Kia and Hyundai thefts, spiking from 39 in November to 82 in January 2023 citywide. Police data also shows that car theft in the city has jumped in recent years from 4,442 in 2019 to 6,281 in 2022.

Audis are also a popular target, with some makes and models coming equipped with a spare key in the glove box, which is supposed to be used by valet parking, but also makes it that much easier for a thief to steal, according to multiple car repair businesses interviewed by The Standard.

Of the customers The Standard spoke with Tuesday, two of them drove Audis. Mendez had gotten four Audi calls that day.

Despite dealing with break-ins, customers said they are willing to accept it as a risk that comes with living in San Francisco.

“It’s easy to hate on SF, but I love it here,” Rich said.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at