Editorial: A hell of a Halloween in The City

It looked for those final hours leading up to the horror (to be sure, before our newsroom’s Tuesday night deadline) that this year’s revelry would turn out tame, a model of how to celebrate a macabre tradition in a civilized way. But nine people cruelly shot, at party’s end, makes this the worst Halloween ever in the Castro.

The City, especially Supervisor Bevan Dufty, tried commendably enough to prevent the kind of violence that has visited the district in recent years. A curfew was established and a beefed-up police presence introduced; warnings to outside troublemakers were issued and alcohol consumption forcibly curbed.

Now the heartbreak. And the lesson: Prevention and thoughtful warnings, though necessary, inadequately address those diabolical souls determined to do evil.

It’s a fair guess that the supervisors, tempted after the last several Castro Halloweens, will simply ban the event next year. Regrettable as such a decision might be, it at least would show our political leaders learning — as exasperated citizens have long known — that serious anti-criminal measures must top the agenda.

Even Mayor Gavin Newsom’s “State of the City” speech last week, though praiseworthy for its many practical “quality of life” innovations, now seems a little too polite in its references to crime.

He did vow to step up arrests for various infractions committed on the streets, a policy that telegraphs to violent lawbreakers that their assaults on the peace won’t be tolerated. Maybe, looking back, he should have made a comprehensive anti-crime package his centerpiece, dwarfing even the recent debate over foot patrols and surveillance cameras.

The package should emphasize tough prosecutions and less lenient sentences. The hardened message needs to be embraced and trumpeted by the district attorney, the city attorney, the police chief and the sheriff. Judges, too, must be brought on board.

This urgency is why City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s effort to bring a civil injunction against the Oakdale Mob was so necessary, and why Superior Court Judge Peter Busch shouldn’t stop with a temporary restraining order. The self-identified Mob is is a gang, not a social club, and it is organized to live outside the law and do harm to its own neighborhood.

The people of Bayview and the Castro, indeed all San Franciscans, should expect to live in safety. It’s the first function of government, legitimizing the collection of taxes, and it comes well before effecting climate change, universalizing health care and other “progressive” fancies.

We can conduct interesting discussions over whether crime’s root causes are deprivation or depravity. But that philosophical clash, especially to Tuesday night’s nine gunshot victims, has the ring of ancient history, the luxurious study of which must be supplanted by action.

And isn’t it telling that, as we go to another deadline, no arrests have been reported?