San Francisco may establish a reward fund for unsolved murders under a proposal announced Tuesday by Board of Supervisors President London Breed.
The proposal comes as a group of people have regularly attended Board of Supervisors meetings and most recently have rallied outside of City Hall calling for increased attention of unsolved murders.
Among them is Paulette Brown. Before she spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, she played a video of her failed efforts to speak
to Mayor Ed Lee while walking through City Hall. “Mayor Lee don’t ignore us. Please talk to us. We lost our children to homicide,” Brown said in the video.
She was also critical of Lee supporting a memorial for the July shooting death of Kate Steinle by an undocumented immigrant at Pier 14 — a murder that ignited a national debate over sanctuary city policy — suggesting other homicide victims deserve similar attention.
“I fight for other mothers and fathers,” Brown told the board. “They also come out and we stand outside of City Hall. I’ve been doing this for nine years.” Nine years ago, Brown’s son, 17-year-old son, Aubrey Abrakasa, was gunned down near the intersection of Baker and Grove streets. The homicide remains unsolved. There is a reward established for information in the case.
Breed said that The City has offered rewards in the past but “it does so on an ad hoc [basis] and there is no established fund or consistent process.”
“This could lead to the perception that some lives are more important to others and that is not the case,” Breed added.
Paul Henderson, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said he meets regularly with Brown and the mayor “does feel her pain.” “[Mayor Ed Lee] through me has met with her many times,” Henderson said. “We have always had an open door policy to talk with victims and victims groups.”
As for Breed’s proposal, Henderson questioned the need. “There has never been a problem with paying rewards out or with issuing rewards in the past.”
Under the proposal, which Breed requested the City Attorney draft, those providing information leading to an arrest and conviction of an unsolved murder case would
be entitled to rewards of up to $250,000.
There would be certain criteria for the fund. It could only be used once the police have exhausted all the investigative leads and the police chief have determined public assistance was appropriate. The fund would be part of the city’s annual budget process and any money left over each year would be carried over into the next year.
Breed noted there is a similar fund established for information about people pulling false fire alarms. “If we can do it for fire alarms surely we should do it for unsolved murders,” Breed said.
In the past six years, San Francisco has averaged about 50 homicides annually. “All this will require a small amount of taxpayer money,” Breed said. “Thankfully, we are talking about a small number cases.”
The proposal was introduced with the support of Supervisor Malia Cohen, who called the fund a “meaningful gesture” by the board that would “send a powerful message not only to the public but to the
mothers in particular who have suffered a great loss and continue to suffer.”