James Collins, a 53-year-old San Francisco resident, was gunned down by an unknown assailant with an AK-47 assault rifle this weekend. Not only was Collins’ death the 23rd homicide of the year, according to San Francisco police, but he’s the 12th black man to die violently in The City in 2015.
The dozen black people slain — more than any other race in San Francisco in 2015 — are part of the disproportionate number of blacks who have died violently in San Francisco’s recent history. From 2001 to 2009, according to the California Department of Public Health, black people were victims of homicide more than people of any other race.
Amos Brown, president of San Francisco’s NAACP chapter, said the high homicide rate among black people is an outgrowth of a racialized society where they’re at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
“At various levels black lives don’t matter in this town,” Brown said. “Until there’s equal opportunities, until there’s justice in the criminal justice system, until black people feel they have a special place in San Francisco, unfortunately this violence will happen in the black community.”
In 2001, black people made up 40 percent of homicide victims — the lowest point in the eight year period from 2001 to 2009. In 2004, the year with the greatest percentage of black slayings, they made up 59 percent of homicide victims.
So far this year, the trend has continued. With 12 of the 23 homicides this year involving black victims, 52 percent of people killed in San Francisco were black.
That’s in a city experiencing a decline in its population of black residents, with 2013 census data showing they make up roughly 6 percent of the population.
Further analysis of police data by The San Francisco Examiner revealed two Hispanic people, two white people, two people classified as other, one Asian person and three people of unknown race were killed in The City this year.
The Examiner’s count of this year’s homicides only adds up to 22 — one less than the San Francisco Police Department’s numbers. The SFPD didn’t provide a list of homicides when asked.
Four other suspicious deaths are still under investigation. Police have killed three people in The City this year. Two of them were white, while one of them was a Hispanic man.
While police officials wouldn’t speak directly as to why so many black people are killed in violent crimes in The City, police Chief Greg Suhr did comment recently on the disproportionate number of blacks arrested in The City. In a police union journal commentary, Suhr said more crime occurs in the black community because of poverty and lack of opportunity.
Officer Carlos Manfredi, SFPD’s spokesman, said people need to “work together for the same common goal so that way everyone is safe.” “If there is any discrimination then we need to bring that to light so that way we can fix this problem,” Manfredi said. “It’s not about the race its about the common good of people.”