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Pacific Beach – car thief's paradise

Take photos of your automobile and license plate

Larkin paid about $700 to get his Jeep running again.
Larkin paid about $700 to get his Jeep running again.

Ben Larkin was careful when he parked his 2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon on the street overnight outside his Pacific Beach condo. No key or fob inside. Doors locked. Windows too. So it was a shock when one morning in late January he discovered his vehicle badly damaged by a foiled car thief.

The first thing he noticed was broken window glass. “I opened up the front door to find the steering wheel completely taken apart,” says Larkin, a tech industry customer success manager. “I had never had anything like this happen before. It made me feel kind of defenseless. My girlfriend and I immediately bought things like pepper spray and … different deterrents.”

“I opened up the front door to find the steering wheel completely taken apart."


Larkin fared better than many PB residents. The seaside community ranked third in vehicle thefts out of 125 neighborhoods and geographic areas in San Diego in 2023, according to city crime data. PB’s 224 car thefts occurred in a community with a Neighborhood Watch and other groups dedicated to crime and quality of life issues.

Pacific Beach shares its 92109 zip code with Mission Beach along with Mission Bay sites such as Fiesta Island and Sea World. Combined, those areas reported 283 vehicular thefts last year, second only to San Ysidro’s 450, but more than the 260 in East Village.

There were almost 6,700 vehicle thefts citywide last year, according to the data. (Statewide, in just the first half of 2023, nearly 100,000 vehicles were reported stolen, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau).

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Larkin called a non-emergency police number to report the attempted theft of his Jeep. “When I did, they said all you can do is file a case online for insurance reasons because this happens all the time.”

 If the thief had succeeded, police would have responded in person, says Lt. Matthew Botkin of SDPD’s Northern Division, which includes Pacific Beach. And if he left behind evidence such as a tool – “they’re not the smartest people sometimes”—then an officer would have been dispatched to take a report for the failed theft attempt.

Botkin cannot say definitively why PB is popular with car thieves other than it is densely populated and has lots of vehicles. He suggests residents proactively take photos of their automobile and license plate, as well as items typically stored inside so that the car or its contents can be more easily identified if they are recovered.

“Have them saved on your phone. Have them saved on the cloud … or a thumb drive.” A photo “makes it markedly easier for [police] to find what they’re looking for,” Botkin says.

When thieves aren’t stealing cars in PB, they might be pilfering what’s inside them. Some 145 incidents were recorded in 2023, fifth highest throughout the city. When Mission Beach and Mission Bay are included, the total jumps to 223, surpassed only by the 236 in University City.

Larkin paid about $700 to get his Jeep running again. “If I would have had it completely fixed, it would have been close to $3,000,” plus the cost of replacing the window glass, he says. Larkin had insurance but not comprehensive coverage which includes theft and vandalism. He would have to pay for repairs out of pocket.

Instead, he sold the Jeep to CarMax. He’s waiting until he moves to Colorado in May before buying another car.

Meanwhile, Pacific Beach auto thefts continue. There were more than three dozen reported in the first two months of this year.

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Larkin paid about $700 to get his Jeep running again.
Larkin paid about $700 to get his Jeep running again.

Ben Larkin was careful when he parked his 2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon on the street overnight outside his Pacific Beach condo. No key or fob inside. Doors locked. Windows too. So it was a shock when one morning in late January he discovered his vehicle badly damaged by a foiled car thief.

The first thing he noticed was broken window glass. “I opened up the front door to find the steering wheel completely taken apart,” says Larkin, a tech industry customer success manager. “I had never had anything like this happen before. It made me feel kind of defenseless. My girlfriend and I immediately bought things like pepper spray and … different deterrents.”

“I opened up the front door to find the steering wheel completely taken apart."


Larkin fared better than many PB residents. The seaside community ranked third in vehicle thefts out of 125 neighborhoods and geographic areas in San Diego in 2023, according to city crime data. PB’s 224 car thefts occurred in a community with a Neighborhood Watch and other groups dedicated to crime and quality of life issues.

Pacific Beach shares its 92109 zip code with Mission Beach along with Mission Bay sites such as Fiesta Island and Sea World. Combined, those areas reported 283 vehicular thefts last year, second only to San Ysidro’s 450, but more than the 260 in East Village.

There were almost 6,700 vehicle thefts citywide last year, according to the data. (Statewide, in just the first half of 2023, nearly 100,000 vehicles were reported stolen, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau).

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Larkin called a non-emergency police number to report the attempted theft of his Jeep. “When I did, they said all you can do is file a case online for insurance reasons because this happens all the time.”

 If the thief had succeeded, police would have responded in person, says Lt. Matthew Botkin of SDPD’s Northern Division, which includes Pacific Beach. And if he left behind evidence such as a tool – “they’re not the smartest people sometimes”—then an officer would have been dispatched to take a report for the failed theft attempt.

Botkin cannot say definitively why PB is popular with car thieves other than it is densely populated and has lots of vehicles. He suggests residents proactively take photos of their automobile and license plate, as well as items typically stored inside so that the car or its contents can be more easily identified if they are recovered.

“Have them saved on your phone. Have them saved on the cloud … or a thumb drive.” A photo “makes it markedly easier for [police] to find what they’re looking for,” Botkin says.

When thieves aren’t stealing cars in PB, they might be pilfering what’s inside them. Some 145 incidents were recorded in 2023, fifth highest throughout the city. When Mission Beach and Mission Bay are included, the total jumps to 223, surpassed only by the 236 in University City.

Larkin paid about $700 to get his Jeep running again. “If I would have had it completely fixed, it would have been close to $3,000,” plus the cost of replacing the window glass, he says. Larkin had insurance but not comprehensive coverage which includes theft and vandalism. He would have to pay for repairs out of pocket.

Instead, he sold the Jeep to CarMax. He’s waiting until he moves to Colorado in May before buying another car.

Meanwhile, Pacific Beach auto thefts continue. There were more than three dozen reported in the first two months of this year.

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The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

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Submit a free classified
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