With bait cars and glitter bombs, YouTuber goes after San Francisco car burglars

ByDan Noyes KGO logo
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Bait cars, glitter bombs. ABC7 helps YouTuber investigate SF break-ins
Popular YouTube star Mark Rober releases video pranking those who break into cars in San Francisco with backpacks that shoot glitter.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Popular YouTube star Mark Rober just released a new video pranking those who break into cars in San Francisco.

The former NASA engineer built backpacks that shoot glitter and release a very foul odor at the thieves and recorded their reactions with hidden cameras.

This year, Rober enlisted the help of I-Team reporter Dan Noyes at our sister station KGO, who said, "It was really interesting to see how Mark Rober's mind works. The pranks are entertaining, but they also provide some valuable information about who's breaking into cars, and where the loot is going."

Rober hadn't planned on making another glitterbomb video. Then, his car got broken into in San Francisco this year.

"I'm missing a window. Not cool, San Francisco, not cool," Rober said.

So he launched his biggest effort yet -- setting up bait cars with hidden cameras and placing backpacks inside with a newly-engineered special surprise.

The contraption shoots glitter, emits a foul odor, and plays a countdown that invariably makes the thieves ditch the backpack.

Over the past eight months, Rober and his team recorded 25 car break-ins, but something surprised him. Most weren't those groups of apparently organized thieves we often see on cell phone videos.

"Something like 80% of our break-ins were just individuals," Rober said. "So not groups coming around in cars. And honestly, it felt like a lot of them could have been their first break-in almost, right? Like, they weren't very good at it, they couldn't break the window, or they got scared off really easily."

Noyes was also able to track license plates used in the crimes; they often turned out to be from stolen cars, to make the criminals harder to catch.

One of those whose plates was on a car used in a break-in was Gerald Eisman, who told KGO: "I went over to my car and my license plates were gone."

The retired San Francisco State professor had plates stolen twice from his car parked in front of his Oakland home. We showed him the video of his plates being used in a break-in.

DAN NOYES: "What do you think about seeing your plate used in a crime like this?"

GERALD EISMAN: "Well, I'm grateful that I reported it so that the trouble wouldn't come back toward me."

Rober also rigged a laptop with a tracking device. "We took an actual gaming laptop, remove the extra fan and in its place added a GPS tracker that will continuously stay charged by using the laptop battery."

He got it stolen, and tracked it -- to the same location noted in a KGO investigation earlier this year that pointed out a known fencing operation.

"That was bonkers to me," Rober said. "Like you publicly outed this as a fencing operation a month and a half ago. And it's still being used as a fencing operation."