SF closing out decade with decline in homicides

With hours left in the year, 2019 numbers at low not seen ‘since the 1960s’

San Francisco is on track to end the year with its lowest homicide count of the decade, with 41 killings reported as of New Year’s Eve afternoon, according to police.

The City has seen an 11 percent decrease in homicides so far this year compared to 2018, as well as a 6 percent drop in shootings and 8 percent decline in overall violent crime, said Deputy Chief David Lazar.

“This 41 number, we haven’t had those numbers since the 1960s,” Lazar told the San Francisco Examiner. “One homicide is too many, but the fact that we have had less rather than more is good.”

Homicides in San Francisco dropped to a low of 39 back in 1961.

In more recent years, San Francisco reported a low of 45 homicides to the California Department of Justice in both 2014 and 2009, while the count hovered just below 100 in 2008.

Lazar attributed the decline to a series of factors including a focus on community policing, anti-violence prevention groups and the centralization of burglary and robbery investigations.

The investigations were moved from individual district stations to the Hall of Justice earlier this year.

“There is a synergy happening now where they are able to make more arrests and better cases,” Lazar said. “Suspects that are involved in violent crime that could lead to homicides are now being apprehended.”

But disparities still exist within communities of color, and areas including the historically black Bayview have actually seen an uptick in deadly violence, according to District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton.

Walton said there have been 12 homicides reported in District 10 this year compared to nine in all of 2018. The area includes Bayview as well as neighborhoods like Potrero Hill.

“A lot of times we have murders in our community and these things aren’t publicized,” Walton said.

“We hear about mass shootings,” he said. “But when young black males, young Latino males are killed in our inner cities we don’t get enough attention and we need to stop it.”

Earlier this year, Walton championed legislation calling on San Francisco to create a plan and designate resources for reducing the homicide count to zero.

The resolution, which was unanimously supported by the Board of Supervisors, mirrored the Vision Zero program that San Francisco has for ending traffic fatalities.

“I would like for it to happen today but after budget season you will actually see strategies” to end homicides and violent crime, Walton said.

In a statement to the Examiner, Mayor London Breed said any violence is unacceptable but called the numbers “encouraging to see and a continued step in the right direction.”

Breed gave credit to police officers and the Street Violence Intervention Program for reducing homicides by building relationships with the community and working together.

“This hands on approach has led to fewer retaliations between rival groups, criminals being held accountable and families of victims of violence receiving the closure they deserve,” Breed said.

The mayor also said SFPD and SVIP are “helping deescalate situations between young people, before they turn violent.”

“That’s the work we don’t see day in and day out, but that is reflected in these numbers,” Breed said. “I’m proud of the work being done by everyone involved and we will continue to make San Francisco a safer city.”

In an interview with the Examiner, Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus said shootings and homicides going down “shows there are a number of approaches that have made the city less violent.”

But Loftus said the continued violence in Bayview is a problem.

“The fact that one area of our city continues to bear the brunt and the disproportionate impact of violence, is something that we as a city have to come together to recognize that that is not okay,” Loftus said.

Loftus said the Bayview numbers should make San Francisco reconsider whether it is taking “an effective public health approach” to preventing homicides and violence.

“Since I’ve been here we have had one mother who has lost two sons to homicides and she has grandchildren,” Loftus said. “Does the teacher at school know that dad was murdered?”

The 41 homicides so far this year include three domestic violence killings and six by sharp object, according to Lazar, the deputy chief. The majority of homicides — 25 — have been shootings, while one was by dismemberment.

Most of the homicides this year have been reported by the media, but a few have gone unnoticed.

On the morning of Dec. 7, a 78-year-old female client at a senior center in the Western Addition was pushed to the ground after grabbing the collar of a 75-year-old female volunteer, police said.

The elderly woman apparently hit her head during the altercation at the center on Turk Street between Webster and Fillmore streets at around 11:51 a.m.

She was taken to the hospital with head trauma and died on Christmas Eve, according to police. Her death was later ruled a homicide and remains under investigation.

As of Tuesday morning, the Medical Examiner’s Office had not released her identity.

At around 6:55 a.m. on Dec. 10, a 30-year-old man was found unconscious and not breathing at a home on the unit block of Cashmere Street in Bayview, according to police.

The man, later identified by the Medical Examiner’s Office as San Francisco resident Shedrick Millton, had been shot at least once and died at the scene.

His death is being investigated as a homicide, police said.

Back on Aug. 17, a 60-year-old man was struck with a stick at around 12:43 a.m. near Union Square.

The man was taken to the hospital from Eddy Street between Cyril Magnin and Mason streets and died months later on Nov. 29.

The Medical Examiner’s Office has identified him as Kevin Hill of San Francisco.

San Francisco homicides by the numbers:

  • 2018: 47
  • 2017: 56
  • 2016: 58
  • 2015: 53
  • 2014: 45
  • 2013: 48
  • 2012: 69
  • 2011: 50
  • 2010: 48
  • 2009: 45

Source: California Department of Justice

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