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Vandals tip over smart cars on San Francisco streets

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Vandals flipped over a handful of miniature Smart cars parked in two typically quiet San Francisco neighborhoods on Monday, authorities said.

San Francisco police officers responding to reports of a loud crash at about 1 a.m. found four of the tiny energy-efficient vehicles upside down, on their side or rear, Officer Gordon Shyy said.

Witnesses told police a group of six to eight people dressed in black hooded sweatshirts gathered around and tipped over at least one car in Bernal Heights, an upscale and family-oriented neighborhood, Shyy said.

So-called "Smart tipping" became an issue several years ago in Canada and Amsterdam, where pranksters would lift the two-seaters and plop them onto their sides or dump them into canals over a series of months in 2009, auto blogs and other media reported at the time.

Smart cars, made by a division of German auto manufacturer Daimler AG, are more than three feet (one meter) shorter than a Mini Cooper and almost five feet shorter than a Volkswagon Beetle with little cargo space.

"These cars are quite small," Shyy said. "If it was a full size vehicle, then it would be difficult (to tip) even with a (large) group."

In the Bay Area, a total of three flipped Smart cars were spotted on Monday within a few blocks of each other in Bernal Heights and a fourth was located in the nearby community of Portola, Shyy said. He said he was not aware of other similar car tipping incidents in San Francisco.

Police are investigating the episode as a felony vandalism case that could bring jail time as well as a fine, Shyy said. No arrests had been made.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio)

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