SACRAMENTO — An epidemic of car burglaries in San Francisco over the last few years has led one Democratic lawmaker to propose plugging a loophole in state law that allows some break-ins to go unpunished, but the Legislature has balked at prosecutors’ requests to make obtaining convictions easier.

The proposal, which would eliminate a requirement that prosecutors prove a car’s doors were locked at the time of a break-in, has been shelved two years in a row in legislative committees. Lawmakers struggling with prison crowding and public pressure to enact criminal justice reform have been reluctant to do anything to put more people behind bars.

But local officials and the legislator behind the bill say the legislation is needed to help chip away at a statewide car burglary problem that they believe has reached crisis levels in some cities.

“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,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who introduced the legislation at the request of the San Francisco district attorney’s office.

Across California, there were 243,000 thefts from automobiles last year. Though the number of car break-ins was higher during the peak year of 2017, last year’s statewide number is well above the annual average of 223,000 for the eight previous years. San Francisco saw car burglaries spike by 24% from 2016 to 2017. While they dropped 13% last year and 4% so far this year, the numbers remain on track to be higher than pre-2017 tallies unless more is done, officials say.

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