January tends to be a busy month for San Francisco murders. In just over half the month, The City has already tallied six fatal street shootings. It is somewhat of a slowdown from last January’s body count, when we saw 13 dead by month’s end —six during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.
Public opinion can become sadly numbed to street shootings when randomly flying bullets become commonplace. But there is no wake-up call like the shock of a person being pointlessly slaughtered in a supposedly safe environment, especially when the victim is known to have overcome early missteps and emerged as a community leader.
Terrell Rogers was just such a figure. And yet two gunmen targeted him for slaying on Saturday outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep gymnasium during halftime of a basketball game that starred his All-Examiner-player daughter, Tierra, on the No. 1 ranked U.S. team.
It would be truly shameful if San Francisco law enforcement cannot catch Terrell Rogers’ killers and convict them of first-degree murder. But that should be only the beginning. The most appropriate memorial for Terrell Rogers — and the 100-plus homicide victims since the beginning of 2007 — would be for City Hall leaders and Hall of Justice top brass to find solutions for San Francisco’s inexcusable homicide totals.
Since Mayor Gavin Newsom violated his own job-freeze order by hiring former Northern California U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan as director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Ryan’s prime mission should be to spearhead a workable program for drastically reducing homicides. We know the goal is feasible because it has already been accomplished in other American cities — most famously New York, which last year had less than one-fourth of the murders it suffered in 1990.
Last month’s Examiner editorial about San Francisco’s decade-high 97 homicides quoted a New York University expert in police tactics who attributed New York’s spectacular crime decrease to effective and realistic improvements in police practices. That is exactly what is needed here, and the whining of those who care more about gangbangers than their victims be damned.
If The City’s bloodbath does not significantly lessen under police Chief Heather Fong in 2008, she should go. To use a sports metaphor, Fong has had too many losing homicide seasons. And our next police chief must arrive with a proven record of reducing violent crime.
Terrell Rogers moved his family to Pacifica to keep them safe, and besides his star-athlete daughter he leaves a younger son that we don’t want to see meet the same tragic fate as his father. It is time for city officials to produce policies that will halt the bloodshed and make our streets safe for all San Franciscans again.