By Linh Nguyen
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott this week appeared together at a press conference to assure the public that most crime in the city is down or comparable to past years, despite the argument that crime in the city is widespread and on the rise.
Statistics found that larceny and theft, car break-ins, aggravated assaults and robberies have decreased over the past few years, they said. Sexual assault cases have dropped. In fact, there were double the number of sexual assault cases in 2019 than there are in 2021 so far. The drop in crime could be linked to COVID-19 closures, it’s noted.
Mayor Breed also commended law enforcement for helping police the city to bring crime rates down, calling the San Francisco Police Department’s work “incredible” and stating “what’s not going viral… is the fact that, in almost every single instance, our police department have arrested many of the people in these particular crimes.”
This includes the arrests in recent high profile cases like the shooting death of six-year-old Jace Young, the man bicycling into Walgreens and the owner of Franklin Street Market who was stabbed in the eye.
“When you come to San Francisco and commit a crime, you will be arrested by this police department,” Breed said.
A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said that each of the above cases is pending prosecution and the offender is being held in jail.
Chief Scott said that the reason for decreased crime is because of having more officers patrolling the streets. A higher number of officers are currently deployed in high-crime areas like the Tenderloin, mid-Market and Bayview’s Third Street corridor.
Last month, Breed proposed in the city budget that SFPD would receive $423.6 million for salaries in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which is an increase of nearly $1.5 million from the last fiscal year. Breed also proposed that SFPD should receive $447.3 million for salaries for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which is an increase of nearly $24 million.
These salary increases for the police department counter the “defund the police” movement of last year. The proposed budget also adds 11 more positions to the DA’s office.
While Breed and Scott heavily rely on the SFPD’s crime statistics to support their argument, the statistics do not fully articulate their argument.
The statistics do not show that those committing crimes will be arrested. The SFPD Clearance Rates Dashboard also shows that the large majority of crimes remain unsolved. The definition of “cleared” is when an offender is arrested, charged and sent to court or when there is an “exceptional” circumstance that prevents the arrest of a known offender.
The clearance rate for burglaries in 2021 is 9.4 percent, and motor vehicle theft clearance rates are 7.2 percent. The clearance rate for homicides is 92 percent. The data also indicates that clearance rates are decreasing compared to past years in most categories.
This means that while crime rates are allegedly decreasing, the percent of cleared crimes of the current crime rate is also low compared to past years, which underscores another fault in the city’s policing, charge critics.
Certain categories of crime have worsened in the city, like gun violence. In July 2019, there were 58 reported instances of gun violence compared to 119 instances of crime violence reported as of July 2021. There have also been 26 homicides so far this year, which is the highest number since 2017.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin took to Twitter to respond to these numbers.
Regarding gun violence, he said, “While San Francisco has not seen the sharp spike that some cities have experienced, that doesn’t mean we aren’t working to prevent these needless tragedies. My office recently began an initiative to build on a statewide gun violence restraining order to remove firearms from those who pose a risk to themselves and others.”
Regarding homicide rates, Boudin tweeted, “Homicide cases are my top prosecution priority. Every life lost is a tragedy. I am grateful to [Police Chief] Scott and SFPD for prioritizing homicides and for clearing homicides in SF at much higher rates than elsewhere.”
Breed and Scott also emphasized a need for accountability to ensure repeat offenders do not get released to commit crimes again. Furthermore, Breed said that a comprehensive approach is needed to provide social services and rehabilitation.
“It’s not just lock ‘em up, throw away the key,” Breed said. “We realize the significance of the work that needs to be done, and I’m hoping to see some results, as a result of the work that we’ve been doing.”
Scott said that crime rates could increase as the city reopens.