$30K in Gear Stolen from Filmmaker’s Car in SF, Theft Caught on Camera

Eli Steele Theft

Documentary filmmaker Eli Steele says that about $30,000 of gear was stolen out of his rental car in San Francisco this week, and adds that the local police were not able to help as they had been “defanged.”

In a string of tweets published yesterday, Steele explains that he was in San Francisco working on a new documentary with his father, conservative author Shelby Steele. He says that he and his father parked their rental car, which was filled with filmmaking equipment, near Lombard Street in San Francisco and left it for “ten minutes” while they filmed a scene. When they returned, the windows had been smashed out and equipment was missing.

Initially, Steele estimated about $15,000 worth of gear had been stolen, but later amended that estimation when he realized more equipment had been taken than he realized and that the total loss was closer to $30,000.

“You hear about how bad San Francisco is. I was filming a shot of my father, Shelby Steele, and in the ten minutes we were gone our SUV was broken into and nearly $15k of cameras stolen. Called 911 & they hung up twice,” he writes.

Steele has shared multiple photos and videos of the incident, including a long take of his father peering into the car through the broken windows.

“People asking where this was. On top of famous Lombard Street. One of richest neighborhoods in SF and America. I’ve worked dangerous neighborhoods for years and nothing like this,” Steele says.

Over the course of the next several hours, Steele posted multiple updates and included is a video of surveillance of the break-in. Steele tells PetaPixel that the footage came from the residence that the SUV was parked in front of.

“The security guy allowed us to record his footage with our iPhone,” Steele says.

Later, when they arrived at the police station to file a report, Steele claims the room was filled with people who all had similar experiences.

“While dealing with our situation we see more robbers pulling up in a Mercedes and looking into cars. We yelled at them. They pulled a gun on my friend. He’s filing his report now. Not one police officer showed up.”

Later, Steele adds that a “Hertz guy” told him that in San Francisco, the rental car agency averages 30 cars a day that have been broken into.

Steele’s tweets were noticed by Twitter’s owner Elon Musk, who did not seem surprised by Steele’s experience.

“Many Twitter employees feel unsafe coming to work in downtown SF and have had their car windows smashed,” Musk says.

“They also got such a null response from the police that they rarely even bother reporting crimes anymore, because nothing happens.”

After they finished filing a police report, Steele claims the officer that assisted them at the station said that it was unlikely anything would come of it, as “the police have been defanged.”

San Francisco’s Problems

San Francisco has been a hotbed for break-ins and thefts related to photographers and filmmakers for some time now. Last year, PetaPixel spoke with the Mayor’s office about its plans to address the problem.

“The Mayor appreciates the role that photography plays in highlighting the beauty of the City and documenting the very important events, celebrations, and milestones of our visitors and residents and remains focused on ensuring San Francisco is a place where people want to live, visit, do business and work,” the Mayor’s office said.

“Addressing public safety is our top priority and a vital part of the City’s economic recovery and vibrancy. She understands people are fed up and shares their frustrations, which is why the City’s new budget increased public safety investments to fill 200 vacant police officer positions, passed and implemented new laws to address unpermitted street vending to break up markets for stolen goods, and passed a new camera ordinance that allows the Police Department temporary access live camera footage as part of criminal investigations.”

The city’s new district attorney Brooke Jenkins added that law enforcement needs to do more.

“What I feel is that we got to as a law enforcement agency, do more. We have to not only step up our presence — and I’m speaking for the police in this regard and I’m not in a position to govern them — but we have to step up their presence in high-profile locations and where photographers go to take photos. We have to build accountability and consequences for this type of action,” Jenkins says.

But according to Steele’s experience, law enforcement isn’t doing nearly anything to help fight the problem.