A new analysis of crime in San Francisco has found just a dozen groups of high-risk individuals are responsible for a majority of gun violence citywide.
The analysis, presented to the Police Commission by a nonprofit consultant Wednesday, shows that 12 groups or gangs in the Bayview and other police districts were involved in most of the gun homicides that occurred between 2017 and mid-2020 and non-fatal shootings from 2019.
At least 58 of the 162 homicides reported in San Francisco from January 2017 to June 2020 involved either a victim or suspect, or both, associated with a group or gang, according to the analysis. Of those group-involved homicides, 36 were motivated by an ongoing group conflict or a personal dispute.
The analysis honed in on all 110 gun violence incidents that occurred in 2019, both fatal and non-fatal, and found that about half to three quarters involved victims or suspects believed to be group or gang members. The individuals tended to be Black and Latino men between the ages of the 18 and 34.
The analysis was performed by the Oakland-based California Partnership for Safe Communities with the goal of reducing violence in San Francisco by identifying individuals and networks who are most at risk and developing strategies for violence reduction.
The consultant was careful not to describe every group as a gang since not all may meet the definition of a criminal street gang under California law and because labeling individuals as gang members can raise civil liberties issues. Instead, they referred to the groups or gangs as “high-risk social networks.”
The consultant also anonymized the names of the groups.
Vaughn Crandall, co-director of the nonprofit, said the “silver lining” of the group problem identified in the analysis is that an estimated 200 or less individuals are driving gun violence in San Francisco in any given year.
“We can make progress on this problem,” Crandall told the Police Commission. “The way to do that is by focusing together on a very small number of people who are extremely high-risk right now.”
Crandall said the challenge is that the individuals are facing extremely difficult situations that cannot be easily addressed either by justice system or community intervention.
“It is a heavy lift and that is part of why we need to put a lot of resources into it and we need to work together,” Crandall said.
Police Chief Bill Scott said incarceration is not the only way out of the problem. He said community services need to be focused on the “right people, at the right time” to address the root causes of crime.
“You can deal with an individual who has committed a violent act, but when you get to the roots of what’s driving that violence, even if that person is held accountable and ends up being incarcerated, that doesn’t stop the network dynamics that drive the violence,” Scott said.
The City currently has anti-violence workers with the Street Violence Intervention Team and other organizations who seek to resolve conflicts before violence happens. But Scott said more funding is needed to address this specific population of individuals at risk.
The analysis comes as San Francisco is facing an sharp uptick in gun violence with 54 individuals shot, including three homicide victims, as of Monday compared to 14 at the same time last year, according to police data.
The City has also seen a jump in homicides, with seven reported so far compared to four in 2020. Bayview Station has seen more of the gun violence than any other police district, with 14 shootings so far.
But police data shows crime is still down overall in 2021, and homicides are nowhere near the counts seen here in the late 2000s.