If you want to make my blood boil, just show me videos of thieves smashing car windows and grabbing travelers’ suitcases. Ever since the pandemic began, smash-and-grabs have become a norm in Northern California, especially in San Francisco and Oakland. It’s really a shame because it’s truly ruining what used to be one of the best cities in the world. RELATED: If You Visit California Don’t Make These Huge Mistakes, Otherwise the California Dream Will Become a Nightmare

If you don’t think it can happen to you, just watch the video below to see how quickly the bad guys can get your stuff. This incident occurred at In-N-Out Burger in Oakland California on August 28 at 7:25pm.

YouTube video

As I wrote in another post, these types of robberies can seriously ruin your trip on either end. The video below is video captures smash-and-grab thieves stealing the luggage of Hungarian tourists who apparently decided to stop at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco before getting on a plane home. If the criminals grabbed their passports, they wouldn’t be going home for at least a couple of days.


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A post shared by Arisley T Pacheco (@ppv_tahoe)

When my family and I were in the Bay Area in August, we stayed at the beautiful (and safe) Cavallo Point Lodge, just across from the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. It’s safe because there are only two roads leading in so thieves can’t easily escape. We were going to borrow one of the hotel’s complimentary Lexus cars to go into the city like we used to. However, we read warnings on multiple museum websites stating: “To avoid auto break-ins, please take all valuables with you and check that your vehicle’s doors and windows are locked.” We decided it wasn’t worth it. Who want to pay for a smashed window?

Unfortunately, it’s not just happening to parked cars. Some brazen thieves will even commit a smash-and-grab while you’re stuck in traffic in broad daylight. It’s insane. Just see the video below. This is one reason I always keep my computer bag next to me or buried under the not-so-important luggage. 

YouTube video

Other tips for keeping your luggage safe when parking are:

1. Never leave anything of value in your car. That’s the first and most important thing.
2. Don’t ever open your trunk to get something out when you arrive at your destination because people might be watching you. Always get what you need out of the trunk before you get where you’re going.
3. Some people leave their windows down and the glove box open just to show that there’s nothing of value inside the vehicle but that seems a little risky to me.

I realize that sometimes you have no choice and need to leave your bags or something of value in your car. That very situation is what inspired this story, particularly after I came across a genius tip for travelers. The video below shows how to somewhat secure your bags in your car. As the videographer shows, place your bags behind the driver and passenger seats, then push the seats back and recline them as far as they can go so they’re really wedged in there. The only way someone can get them out is by moving the seats up, which takes way more time than thieves want to take.


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A post shared by Mike Masilotti 🦑 (@mikemasilotti)

Someone commented what you may be thinking: “Thief tip: when some reclines both front seats all the way that means they are hiding something.” But someone replied with “not enough time to steal the bags tho.”

That’s exactly right. So if you have to leave your bags in the car while you quickly run into a store to buy something, use the loo or grab a burger from an In-N-Out without a drive-thru, then you should consider doing this.

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4 Comments On "Smash-and-Grabs Are Out of Control - Especially in California. Here's a New Trick to Keep Your Belongings Safe"
  1. ellen|

    Perhaps I’ll pull out my bike lock and cable next time I have luggage in the car and lock them together to a door handle or something so that the lock and cable are visible. Perhaps that will encourage them to bypass my car for another?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      That should work unless they have lock cutters

  2. Jody|

    I travel with a decent bike cable lock.
    It would take thieves way too much time and effort to cut it (and they’d need some big bolt cutters), all while the car alarm was going off. Not a crime of opportunity.

    I also pick up a cheap ($7) thin black furniture blanket from Harbor Freight and cover anything visible with it (especially in the rear of an SUV.) With slightly tinted windows it’s like a Romulan Cloaking Device…

    And be super careful to let NO ONE see you place ANYTHING in your trunk when you’re parking. They can break a door window, fold down the rear seat and take anything in the trunk. (And use that cable lock IN the trunk as well. Find something structural to run it through.)

  3. paula|

    Why don’t car rental places have privacy screens on SUV’s?

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