Still a month out from the end of 2020, San Francisco has already seen more deadly violence so far this year than in all of 2019.
Newly released data from the San Francisco Police Department shows there had been 45 killings reported as of Tuesday, compared to the 41 homicides recorded in the entirety of 2019.
The increase is being driven by factors including the pandemic, a rise in shootings and an uptick in gang-related homicides, according to police. The numbers also echo a rise in killings seen in major cities across the nation including New York and Los Angeles.
But authorities caution against drawing too many conclusions when comparing one year to the next, especially when homicides dipped to a more than five-decade low in 2019 as both violent and property crimes fell overall.
“Last year was an anomaly,” said Capt. James Aherne of the Major Crimes Unit.
The numbers also remain in the same ballpark as recent years. The most homicides San Francisco has had in a single year over the last decade was in 2012, when The City suffered 69 killings.
Still, authorities say even one homicide is one too many. And the numbers are up over 2019.
Police have attributed eight homicides so far to gang violence compared to three in all of 2019, according to Aherne. Gun violence homicides have also increased from 24 to 29 year-over-year.
“The good news is the numbers this year are still in keeping with the general low numbers over the last five or 10 years,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “The bad news is we have lost more lives than necessary.”
The numbers could get worse with more than a month left in the year. San Francisco had just 34 homicides as of the end of November last year, and then saw seven killings in the final month of the year alone.
The most recent killing of 2020 occurred Nov. 19 when a well-known high school sports coach, Lamar Williams, 38, was gunned down in the garage of his own home in Hunters Point alongside Demaree Hampton, 30.
Williams died at the hospital despite his wife, a San Francisco firefighter, attempting life-saving measures on him, according to police.
Supervisor Shamann Walton was at the hospital that night. He held a press conference Tuesday calling for increased resources to address violence in the Bayview area.
“I want to make sure that we don’t have to bury another person during this pandemic,” Walton said. “I just want to get through the end of the year without another homicide. I’m just tired of seeing people perish for no reason.”
Walton previously said the increase could be attributed in part to people being stuck at home without jobs during the pandemic.
Aherne also said COVID-19 is a factor.
“It’s affecting every part of our life,” Aherne said. “It affects our kids’ school. It restricts personal contact. It reduces the jail population because they push people out of the jail. Why wouldn’t it affect crime rates?”
The Bayview has seen more homicides than any other police district in San Francisco this year, with 13 killings compared to 10 in the Tenderloin and eight in the Ingleside.
Aherne attributed some of the killings in Bayview and Ingleside to gangs. He said the department has had more difficulties putting together gang cases under Boudin, who has a policy against filing gang enhancements except in extraordinary circumstances.
“We have to work harder on motive,” Aherne said. “If it’s a gang-related motive, we can’t bring that into a case.”
Boudin argues that gang enhancements have been disproportionately applied to people of color based simply on the neighborhood they live in or the fact that they have a relative who has been identified as a gang member.
He pledged to stop filing gang enhancements when he ran for top prosecutor last year.
“What we need from the police is proof as to who shot the gun,” Boudin said. “Is that too much to ask before we prosecute someone for murder?”
Aherne also argued that the shift away from “tough on crime” measures and toward bail reform could be playing a role in the increase.
Two of the suspects in the Mission District killing of Demondre Perkins in March were out of custody on ankle monitors, he said.
But Boudin, a staunch supporter of bail reform, argued that ending money bail only makes San Francisco safer.
“Some people commit homicides who have never been arrested, who have never had contact with law enforcement before,” Boudin said.
While money bail allows people with large sums of cash to bail out regardless of whether they are a potential threat to public safety, prosecutors seek to detain those who are considered a threat to under bail reform.
Aherne said the deadly violence has been further compounded by an increase in shootings and a number of cases involving high-capacity magazines or large amounts of rounds fired.
One such case was the Mission District killing of transit activist Courtney Brousseau, who died after being struck by a stray bullet when more than 50 shots rang out in May.
San Francisco has also not been without its share of unusual homicides this year that may not be linked to any trend.
In April, the remains of 41-year-old Catono Perez were found in an apartment along the Great Highway. Police reportedly found his severed head in the refrigerator. South San Francisco police later shot and killed a possible suspect in the homicide.
On Easter Sunday, a 56-year-old woman was found dead in a burning building in the Mission. Her son, 29-year-old Daniel Antonio Gudino, was naked and covered in blood when police arrested him on the porch. Her body may have been mutilated with a drill gun.
And in June, 79-year-old Yuqin Sun was killed while video chatting on Zoom when her roommate may have struck her with a baseball bat.
“This has been a strange year for homicides,” Aherne said. “Every one of those affects our stats.”
As for whether San Francisco will have another deadly December like last year, Aherne said he hoped not.
“If I could predict homicides I would be buying lottery tickets right now,” Aherne said. “I’m hoping we don’t have seven.”
By the numbers
2020 homicides by district as of Nov. 24
- Bayview – 13
- Tenderloin – 10
- Ingleside – 8
- Mission – 5
- Central – 4
- Southern – 2
- Northern – 1
- Richmond – 1
- Taraval – 1
2020 homicides by race as of Nov. 24
- Black – 22
- Asian – 7
- Latino – 7
- White – 6
- Other – 2
- Unknown – 1
2020 homicides by weapon type as of Nov. 24
- Firearm – 29
- Personal weapons (Hands, fist, feet) – 5
- Blunt object – 3
- Knife or other cutting/stabbing instrument – 2
- Person weapons – 1
- Strangulation or hanging – 1
- Other: Fall and hitting head – 1
- Other: Hatchet – 1
- Other: Vehicle – 1
- Unknown – 1
2020 homicides by month as of Nov. 24
- January – 3
- Febuary – 1
- March – 6
- April – 5
- May – 3
- June – 4
- July – 5
- August – 5
- September – 5
- October – 5
- November – 3
2019 homicides by month
- January – 4
- Febuary – 1
- March – 4
- April – 3
- May – 5
- June – 3
- July – 3
- August – 3
- September – 3
- October – 4
- November – 1
- December – 7
Source: San Francisco Police Department