A downtown business owner said he is frustrated and ready to relocate after the fourth time his car was broken into in the same downtown parking lot. The city's refusal to ramp up crime enforcement is part of the problem, he claimed.
Tim Campos, the CEO of a small tech company on Castro Street, said thieves have targeted his car four times since October 2017, each time in the same city-owned lot near Hope and Dana streets. The latest incident last week was the last straw -- his Tesla was being repaired from the last break-in when someone broke into his rental car.
"I'm not just a disgruntled citizen," Campos said. "I'm not the type of person who is just seeking attention for themselves. I am angry that our elected officials and law enforcement teams are not doing anything about this."
Reported car break-ins in Mountain View are not only on the rise, they're increasingly concentrated in certain areas. The Mountain View Police Department's tally shows 622 auto burglaries occurred in the city in 2018, up 12 percent from the prior year and the highest in at least a decade. Perhaps the most striking change between 2018 and prior years was the number of auto burglaries reported in the downtown area, specifically the two blocks closest to Castro Street. The number of burglaries more than doubled from 60 in 2017 to 147 in 2018, according to the crime-tracking website CrimeReports.
Some of the worst months in years were in December and January, when the department received 103 and 105 reports of auto burglaries, respectively. There was a noticeable dip in February back down to 83 cases, which is still high compared to past months.
Campos said he knows he's not alone, and that he's aware of at least two smash-and-grab sprees that occurred in the same downtown lot. Although the problem isn't limited to Tesla owners, he said employees at the service center he goes to are getting between five and seven cars with broken windows each week.
"They have had enough of these that they have fully outsourced the repairs to subcontractors," he said.
When his car was broken into the second time -- in April 2018 -- Campos said a police officer told him there was no point in filing a police report because there was nothing the department could do.
Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson told the Voice that the department would never tell someone not to file a police report, and that the department works around the clock to identify and arrest burglary suspects. Investigations may take a while to complete and feel frustrating, she said, but giving police information on each incident is important and is taken seriously.
"You never know what report might help advance, or even break, a case," she said.
Acknowledging that auto burglaries are a growing problem in the Bay Area, the police department launched a new campaign called Park Smart last week, aimed at informing residents how to prevent auto burglaries. Flyers advise residents that thieves tend to target vehicles parked at shopping centers, restaurants, parking garages and movie theaters, and that electronics, purses and shopping bags should be either out of sight or taken out of the vehicle.
Campos said he didn't have anything valuable in his vehicle during the four occasions his vehicle was burglarized. He said he inquired city leaders about the possibility of surveillance cameras but never heard back, and that it feels like law enforcement and city officials alike are not taking the spike in crime seriously.
"As a business owner in downtown I can assure you I have every intention of re-evaluating the location of my business when my lease comes due in six months," he said. "It would be very helpful if the city showed an interest in actually getting help as opposed to ignoring the problem."