How Perceptions of Crime Cause The System to Fail

A Walgreens store in San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2020.  Photo by Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images.

By Paige Laver


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Hundreds of San Franciscans have expressed their anxiety towards rising crime rates in the city, but these perceptions come at a cost to the criminal justice system and its leaders, such as District Attorney Chesa Boudin, according to experts.


Nicki Usher, who holds a PH. D at George Washington University, states that the media is reporting more crime more, and in different ways. Since social media has played a major role in our daily lives, it comes to no surprise that people will spread false beliefs about crime over social media platforms.


Usher had an interview with Robert Siegel in which she answered some questions regarding the perception of crime.


Siegel asked Usher if she thought the news media over-reported violent crime in the United States, and she said, “What we know is the news media has always over-reported violent crime. This has been something that’s been pervasive since the 70’s. If it bleeds it leads. And part of that is driven by the acceleration of the 24.7 news environment. So you have all news media competing for the same attention span at the same time.”


Here, Usher is bringing attention to the reality of the news industry and how predictive it can be when it comes to perceptions of crime.


Public perceptions of  the risk of crime are not driven so much by statistics, but by compelling stories and graphics, particularly through the use of social media platforms.


There are many caveats when it comes to reporting crime, such as the large geographic variations in crime rates. While crime trends have significantly declined since the 1990’s, murder rates in Baltimore have been relatively high since the early 1990’s, according to The Hill.


Another caveat is many crimes are not reported to the police – only 47 percent of violent crime is reported to the police and 35 percent of property crime is reported to the police in 2015 according to The Hill.


It is no secret that perceptions of crime, either good or bad, have direct consequences for our political system.


Gary Lafgree, chair of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, states “Hard facts about crime tirelessly distributed seem to be our only defense against the apparently natural predisposition to regard crime as more serious than it is, accelerated by the electronic media and harnessed by the politicians for their own purposes.”


When politicians and the media spread false statistics and information on crime, this creates a false narrative which gives the opportunity to spread it to friends and family, he said, adding these narratives have an impact on policies that are being made to help benefit people who have been impacted negatively by the criminal justice system.


Chesa Boudin has been making strides towards criminal justice reform since his first day in office, according to most objective analysis.


When negative perceptions of crime are being communicated and directed towards him and his office, this impacts the policies that are being implemented that will create a safer community in San Francisco, and throughout the state at large.


Almost everybody around San Francisco has a perception of Chesa Boudin.


There’s been negative perceptions that have been brought on from online figures in the tech scene where a tech entrepreneur name Florent Crivello states, “Chesa Boudin is an almost perfectly inversive batman; poor, weak, not very bright, taking his revenge on honest people because his parents were criminal.”


Boudin has been impacted by his parents’ history of incarceration, but he’s been actively making sure the city’s police force is being held accountable by finding solutions to theft crime and placing policies to make San Francisco more safe every day.


A District Attorney who asked to be anonymous for fear of retribution stated “They are getting closer to 200K a year for doing nothing but cheerleading for him. He hasn’t even kept his biggest campaign promise of holding bad cops accountable. He likes to say he prosecutes bad cops, but he hasn’t prosecuted a single one.”


It is clear that there are people who think Chesa Boudin is to blame for increased crime, and people who think that Chesa Boudin has not done enough and hasn’t kept his campaign promises.


Beginning to outshine the recent negativity, positive remarks are being shared about San Francisco’s DA as well.


Judge Tomar Mason, who has served 21 years in Criminal and Civil Divisions in San Francisco Superior Court, talked about how crime rates have decreased since Chesa Boudin has been appointed District Attorney.


Crimes such as assault, and robbery have gone down by double digits since DA Boudin was sworn in last year, he said. In fact, the conviction rates of Boudin and Predecessor George Gascon are almost identical with Boudin being more successful by five percent, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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