Car thefts are skyrocketing in Oakland, which has seen a more than 50% increase in stolen vehicles so far this year versus 2022, according to police data.
Across the bay in San Francisco, which has become known as “Bip City” in recent years as the number of auto break-ins continues to dominate headlines, there has been a much less dramatic—but still notable—rise in vehicle thefts, with a 12% increase over the first eight months of the year compared with the previous year.
If you do the math on vehicle thefts per capita in Oakland this year, there have been about 2,513 cars stolen for every 100,000 residents compared with 566 per every 100,000 San Francisco residents. For Oakland, that’s akin to one car stolen for every 39 residents.
The rise in car thefts comes at a time of widespread worries about increased property crime and lawlessness on the streets of both cities since Covid lockdowns. Theft from vehicles, known as bipping, has garnered outsized attention in Oakland and San Francisco compared with stolen autos, despite the fact that bipping has remained relatively flat over the past eight years.
Oakland recorded 10,823 car thefts between Jan. 1 and Sept. 24, representing a 51% increase this year compared with the same period in 2022, according to police department data.
Oakland also reported 504 carjackings so far this year—a 20% increase compared with the same period last year. Over this past weekend alone, the city documented four carjackings, police data shows.
“The department is closely tracking this current crime trend,” the Oakland Police Department said in a written statement. “OPD Commanders are deploying officers in the parts of Oakland where the increase is occurring. The department urges all residents to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious activity immediately.”
The latest data shows that the number of cars stolen so far this year in Oakland is the highest the city has recorded in each of the past eight years. In 2022—which saw the second-highest number of annual car thefts in that eight-year period—Oakland recorded 9,672 car thefts.
Oakland Police District 5, which encompasses part of deep East Oakland, reported the most car thefts this year of any other part of the city at 2,076.
The other five police districts each had roughly the same amount of car thefts, ranging from 1,607 in the Rockridge and Montclair area to 1,777 in District 4, which encompasses East Oakland along High Street.
San Francisco, by comparison, recorded 4,577 car thefts through the end of August 2023—a 12% increase from the same period last year.
The recent peak in San Francisco car thefts came in 2015, when the city reported 6,915 such crimes. But last year’s total was not too far off that peak, with 6,281 reported car thefts.
San Francisco Police Department Lt. Anthony Holder, who works in the Traffic Unit, said that while the number of car thefts in San Francisco has remained much the same, many recent break-ins stem from people leaving their cars double-parked with the engine running.
“We’ve been getting a lot of those lately,” he said, surmising that such incidents are crimes of opportunity in a city filled with app-driven delivery drivers.
In a high-profile 2021 case, much like the one Holder described, a DoorDash driver’s car was stolen after he left it running with his child inside. The car and child were safely located, and the alleged thief was arrested.
Holder said the department's burglary unit is tasked with solving such crimes, and it has used tactics such as license plate readers to find stolen cars. But since it also focuses on car break-ins and other crimes, car theft is not always the priority.
The department did not respond to a request for comment other than to say its efforts to combat car theft are in line with its efforts to stamp out car break-ins through bait cars and plainclothes units.
The San Francisco police district hit hardest by auto theft so far this year is Ingleside Station, which covers the Outer Mission, Ingleside and Excelsior and recorded 780 stolen cars from the beginning of the year through the end of August.
The second-highest number of cars stolen in a police district was 511 from Taraval, which patrols the Sunset.
The two police districts with the lowest reported number of stolen cars are the Bayview, with 33, and the Tenderloin, with 169.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at email@example.com