San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott speaks alongside Mayor London Breed at a news conference at SFPD headquarters on Tuesday.

From auto burglaries to homicides, crime fell in 2019

Yet S.F. police chief, mayor point to ‘more work ahead’

In the face of national scrutiny over street conditions in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott announced Tuesday that crime dropped nearly across the board last year in The City.

Breed joined the chief at police headquarters in Mission Bay to release year-end statistics for 2019 showing that reports of property and violent crimes fell by 4 percent and 6 percent respectively.

Police made gains in all but one area — a 1 percent increase in stolen vehicles, according to the numbers.

That includes a 2 percent decrease in car break-ins and a dip in homicides from 46 in 2018 to 41 in 2019 — the lowest number of killings recorded in San Francisco since 1961, police said.

“When we think about what used to happen in the 80s and early 90s, and how things escalated,” Breed told reporters. “The fact that we are at an all-time low in homicides in our city is absolutely incredible.”

The numbers come despite widespread concern over homelessness and street crime in The City.

In 2019, police investigated a number of high-profile robberies involving Chinese seniors in San Francisco.

Conservative commentators have also seized on The City’s poor street conditions to attack Democratic lawmakers.

Earlier this month, Fox News began airing an “American Dystopia” series that depicts San Francisco as a lawless city.

At the press conference, both Scott and the mayor admitted there is still progress to be made.

“We have a lot more work ahead,” Scott said. “We intend to work with the community, we intend to continue to reinvent ourselves to make the adjustments we need to make.”

Even though reports of car break-ins fell by 2 percent, there were still 25,677 auto burglaries recorded citywide in 2019 compared to 26,111 the year prior.

And Scott said the percentage of car break-in cases that resulted in an arrest remained at around 2 percent as in years past, meaning that auto burglaries largely remain unsolved.

Scott said police have focused their efforts on prolific auto burglars and car break-in crews that are believed to be responsible for a significant portion of the crimes.

He also said officers seek out suspects who are released from jail and reoffend.

“We have to be very strategic and focused on those people who are doing the most harm to our city,” Scott added.

Law enforcement regularly blames the staggering number of car break-ins in San Francisco on Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot measure that reclassified low-level offenses including certain thefts as misdemeanors.

The ballot measure, which was sponsored locally by former District Attorney George Gascon, was intended to reduce the state prison population.

“Ultimately, our leaders in our city and our state and our voters have decided how they want to see things play out in terms of incarceration,” Scott said. “The prison population was way too big. Everybody had been working to reduce that including our city leaders.”

Even if police made an arrest in every car break-in, Scott said “we don’t have the space in our jail for that type of population.”

“That is why prevention is so important,” Scott said. “That is why the backside of what happens when people do get arrested and what type of programs they get involved in is so important.”

In terms of deadly violence, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported that black people continue to be overly impacted by homicide.

And the latest numbers show that neighborhoods covered by the Tenderloin, Bayview and Northern police stations each experienced an uptick in killings.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

Citywide crimes reported in San Francisco

Homicide

2018: 46

2019: 41

Percent change: -11

Rape

2018: 435

2019: 371

Percent change: -15

Burglary

2018: 5,685

2019: 4,875

Percent change: -14

Auto burglary

2018: 26,111

2019: 25,677

Percent change: -2

Source: San Francisco Police Department Compstat report, December 2019

Editor’s Note: The numbers box attached to this story initially reversed the figures for 2018 and 2019 for homicide and auto burglary. The figures have been corrected.

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