Family was in car with toddlers during San Francisco smash-and-grab at Lombard Street

Kimberly Balde of Chicago was sitting in a minivan, with her young nieces and an adult cousin, near San Francisco's Lombard Street on Monday afternoon when she heard a loud and startling smash.

Kimberly looked behind her, across the back seat, to check on the children, ages 2 and 4, who were sitting in the third row. She saw that the window was broken, as well as a male suspect, who was wearing a ski mask and black gloves. The suspect was in the midst of grabbing a bag containing a laptop, a passport, the children's birth certificates, headphones and more, she said. The strap of the bag was wrapped around the headrest where one of the girls was sitting.

The older child exclaimed, "A ninja took your bag," Kimberly said.

"I didn't really have time to react," Kimberly said. "When it happened, I heard the window smash. I looked back and I looked at the kids and they were surprised. I jumped out of the car. It was a five-second deal."

While Kimberly was rattled, she said that she's relieved no one was hurt.

The San Francisco Police Department said it responded to the incident in Russian Hill at Hyde and Lombard streets, the top of the famed curving road, just before 3 p.m.

"The suspect took the backpack and got into a waiting vehicle, which was being operated by a second unknown suspect," the department said in a statement. "The suspects then fled the scene."

Smash-and-grab car robberies, with a thief breaking a window to steal a suitcase or purse left in the vehicle, are common in San Francisco. It's not unusual to see the windows of multiple cars, parked in a row along an SF street, all broken.

Russian Hill falls under the jurisdiction of SFPD's Central Station, which reports more larceny theft from cars than any other station in the city, department data showed. The station has seen a 179% percent increase in reports of theft from vehicles, when comparing data from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31 of this year with the same time frame last year.

Kimberly's sister, Katherine, was using the restroom during the burglary and when she was returned to the car. When she saw the broken window, she was shocked.

"Throughout the whole vacation, we had been on guard with the smash and grabs," Katherine said. "We're aware it's an issue in San Francisco. In Chicago, it's armed robberies, carjackings. It's nothing new to us. But this did surprise us."

Kimberly had a tracking device on her computer, and she has been able to locate the laptop on GPS. The police department is investigating the incident.

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