Ninety-six people were killed in San Francisco last year, the highest figure in 10 years and the culmination of a steady five-year rise in local homicides.
Proposition A, a charter amendment on the June 6 ballot that would establish a violence-prevention board and increase anti-violence funding by $10 million a year for three years, among other changes, is the first electoral attempt to address the rising homicide rate. While it is a well-intentioned effort, it offers few specifics for how taxpayers’ money would be spent and doesn’t persuade us that the spending would result in a reduction in homicides.
The measure, placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, mainly consists of three parts. It would create a Homicide Prevention Planning Council made up of 11 voting members, six appointed by the board and five by the mayor, as well as 19 nonvoting members from various city departments. The council would then draft a Homicide Prevention Plan, which would include subjects such as job creation and training, conflict resolution, mental health services, and family and witness relocation services.
Lastly, the measure would increase The City’s spending on
violence-prevention programs by $10 million a year for three years.
There is a wide range of complex issues contributing to homicides, including gang warfare, impoverished communities, historically low crime-solving and prosecution rates in San Francisco, and the difficulty in getting witnesses to come forward (or for The City to adequately protect them when they do).
Despite the real need for solutions, however, Prop. A falls short in effectively addressing this complex issue, and instead asks voters to approve more funding to unnamed social programs whose link to reducing crime is unclear.
While many of the programs that would receive extra funding under Prop. A are undoubtedly worthwhile, the extra $10 million a year that would be set aside under the measure would be an unfunded mandate, and would result in money being taken away from other programs. Such a policy decision could well be advisable, but absent more information on where the money is going and how it would help reduce the violence, voters are left to take it on blind faith that their funding is going toward its intended purpose.
Prop. A’s supporters, which include many organizations in the Bayview, Western Addition and Mission neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by violent crime, are genuinely committed to finding solutions, and they are correct in urging that something be done about it.
But before something can be done, it is imperative that voters know what that "something" is. Prop. A is a well-meaning but vague proposal that doesn’t provide the cohesive, strategic approach needed to reduce the killing in our streets.