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Violent crimes up in S.F. last year

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While the number of homicides dropped in 2006 compared to 2005, other violent crimes increased, according to statistics released Monday by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

As 2006 drew to a close, Mayor Gavin Newsom and police Chief Heather Fong highlighted the fact that San Francisco had made progress in reducing the homicide rate — with 85 homicides last year and 96 in 2005 — as cities nationwide experienced spikes in homicides.

Some violent crimes decreased last year with a 4 percent decrease in rapes, a 1 percent fall-off in burglaries and a 19 percent drop in car thefts, according to the statistics.

However, overall, The City saw a 2 percent increase in violent crimes, bringing the total to 48,011 last year compared to 47,012 in 2005, according to the statistics.

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In 2006, there were 4,129 robberies, a 16 percent increase; 2,456 aggravated assaults, a 7 percent increase; 223 arsons, a 5 percent increase; and 26,892 larcenies, an 8 percentincrease, according to the statistics.

San Francisco police spokesman Sgt. Steven Mannina blamed the increase in robberies and thefts on “the popularity of the expensive electronic devices like cell phones, iPods and laptops.” The increase in aggravated assaults is due to “spontaneous violence — a surge of that, fueled by substance abuse and alcohol issues,” Mannina said.

He pointed to The City’s success at reducing homicides last year, crediting the department for its “target-specific strategy of going after the most violent offenders.” He also said San Francisco has seen a decrease in “black-on-black gang violence.” However, with 24 homicides this year, The City has surpassed the number of homicides at the same time in each of the previous three years.

Less serious offenses decreased by 2 percent last year compared to 2005, according to the statistics. The biggest increase last year in less serious offenses was for prostitution, which increased by 15 percent.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, chairman of the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee, said the most violent crimes, the ones that “just paralyze our neighborhoods,” continue to challenge law enforcement.

“Clearly the stats are showing that the crime trend on that level of violent crime remains unabated,” Mirkarimi said.

Mirkarimi added that The City is “finally going in the direction we’re hoping for to address” the high rates of violent crimes, a reference to beefed-up patrols at public housing sites, concentration of officers in crime-plagued areas and a requirement of regular foot patrols, which was the result of legislation Mirkarimi drafted last year.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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