By Alex Jimenez
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Several small business owners and residents have launched San Francisco for Police Action, aimed at raising awareness around police slowdowns driving issues on the streets.
The city has been under fire for not prosecuting cases or giving out lighter sentencing, but according to the Department of Justice, “the perception that you’re going to get caught is what deters crime–not the length of sentence.” San Francisco police arrest rates are the lowest in California despite having the most officers per resident in the state.
“I personally had to stop a man trying to take over $700 in merchandise, and I had to use the threat of a baseball bat to get him out of my store,” said Cara, who owns a wine bar in SOMA.
Cara added, “The shoplifter threatened me with violence, promised to come back and ‘smash everything up,’ and even threatened to call the police on me because I had a bat. I told him, ‘Go ahead, call the police! Maybe they’ll actually show up.’
“After he left I called the cops, twice, but they never came, even though I knew his name and had him on video. This isn’t Gotham City, I don’t want to rely on a caped crusader to come to our rescue because citizens can’t rely on police,” Cara said.
The video details how a crime like burglary often goes unsolved by police where 99 percent of auto burglaries go unsolved and they make only two arrests per day related to drug dealing.
The video also notes that arrests are not the only tool at the police’s disposal, with drug treatment and psychiatric treatment programs available when appropriate. San Francisco in particular has implemented programs aimed at diverting people from jail to alternative treatment.
SF police, they claim, divert less than one person per day directly to services.
“Crime is deterred when criminals think they’re going to be caught, not because of how long they’ll be in jail,” said Harriet Beinfield, owner of a Chinese Medicine Shop in Noe Valley.
She added, “People assume lenient sentences are responsible for crime, but that’s not how it works. When police don’t provide evidence and make arrests, crimes can’t be prosecuted. The public is rightly outraged, but that anger needs to be directed where it belongs.”
“We waste a ton of time and resources sending people through the criminal justice system when we can divert them immediately, cutting out a wasteful and winding process that often results in judges ordering treatment anyway,” said Ken, who owns a barber shop in NOPA.
Ken added, “Police need to make the right arrests, but they also need to divert those with addiction or mental illness to services too. They can’t just kick their heels up because they want people jailed instead of treated.”
“It’s important that San Franciscans understand the numbers and the way that crime deterrence works so they can be effective advocates for change,” said Josh Kalven, who lives in the Upper Haight and who created the video.
He added, “There’s no doubt change is needed, but what needs to change should be examined critically and with an eye towards the numbers.”
With a lot of the blame being placed on the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, this organization looks to police for accountability, not the DA.