San Francisco police are having trouble keeping up with a roughly 46 percent surge in home and commercial burglaries this year that authorities suspect is being driven in part by chronic offenders.
Officers have cleared less than 12 percent of burglary cases this year as of Sunday compared to about 16 percent at this time last year, with reports of burglaries swelling from 4,715 to 6,895 during the same time frame, according to data released by the San Francisco Police Department.
While FBI crime data from 2019 shows the 12 percent clearance rate is still in line with other U.S. cities of comparable size, Police Chief Bill Scott addressed several issues facing the department during a virtual discussion Wednesday with District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Part of the problem is officers being overwhelmed by the sudden uptick in burglaries that began around the time San Francisco ordered residents to shelter in place in mid-March, Scott said. Another is serial burglars continuing to offend after being arrested and released from custody.
The department has compiled a list of 30 such offenders, Scott said. Some are believed to be responsible for as many as 30 known burglaries, and may also be connected to larger enterprises and even international fencing operations.
“We have identified some individuals who are prolific and we have to deal with that,” Scott said. “We have just got to figure out a solution.”
Holding those serial burglars “accountable” could have a positive impact on the rising burglary rate, Scott said.
While the District Attorney’s Office is often blamed for the prevalence of crime, Boudin said his office can only take action on the fraction of burglary cases presented by police.
Prosecutors have filed charges in nearly 66 percent of cases presented to them so far this year, according to a spokesperson for Boudin. More broadly, the office took actions such as filing motions to revoke probation in roughly 82 percent of the cases.
When it comes to repeat offenders, the problem for Boudin is a lack of social services. He said the criminal justice system needs a “richer, more complex array of options to intervene in some of those difficult cases.”
“If my office is able to work with the courts and probation and other agencies downstream to do a more effective job with some of the more prolific folks, then you are going to see your clearance rates go up and we are going to see crime trends go down,” Boudin told Scott.
Every police district in San Francisco except Bayview has seen a rise in reported burglaries so far in 2020, according to the SFPD data.
Park Station, which includes areas like the Haight, has experienced the sharpest increase with a more than 113 percent jump from 266 to 569 cases.
But the station most impacted by burglary is Northern, which includes neighborhoods from Pacific Heights to the Western Addition.
Northern Station has recorded a nearly 70 percent spike in burglaries from 836 to 1,420.