When it comes to dealing with crime, police work is never done. Following the announcement of a 20 percent drop in crime citywide, officials put pressure on the San Francisco Police Department to deal with a backlog of unsolved murders.

That was part of the discussion during Monday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

Although District 9 Supervisor David Campos wanted statistics broken down by district, Captain David Lazar brought only citywide data. For future meetings, he said, totals would be available by district.

Comparing the first three months of this year to the same in 2008, Lazar said crime was down by 20 percent overall. The most dramatic drop was in homicides, which have decreased 61 percent, from 28 in the first quarter of 2008 to 11 this year. The full statistical breakdown is posted on the Mayor’s Office Public Safety Blog.

Supe Ross Mirkarimi saw opportunity in the declining incidence.

“I’m wondering if we can actually get a handle around the resolution of unresolved cases,” he said.

Lazar assured Mirkarimi that the homicide detail is working hard on it. He told the Public Safety Committee about two newly implemented policies: a nighttime homicide shift to enable inspectors to be on the case right away and a roundtable discussion between the police and the district attorney’s office within 72 hours of a homicide.

Mirkarimi insisted on knowing more about progress on unresolved homicides.

“I think we’d like to be clued in on that,” he said.

Mirkarimi referred to C.W. Nevius’ recent column about the 2006 murder of teenager Aubrey Alaska. Even with a quarter of a million dollars in reward money, authorities can’t find a witness. Nevius attributes this silence to fear.

Supe. Campos speaks to Capt. Lazar. Supe. Mirkarimi sits beside him.
Campos speaks to Capt. Lazar; Mirkarimi sits beside him.

“There’s something more than just fear that’s holding [them] back,” Mirkarimi said.

An earlier report in Mission Loc@l on rewards showed that the city’s offers for a reward had consistently failed to lure witnesses forward.

Moving on, Campos asked how the declining economy could impact crime. Lazar said police are looking closely at property crimes as well as the possibility of workplace violence.

Saying that gang-related crimes are a “very pressing issue in my district,” Campos asked Lazar if he had seen any trends in that area.

While gun violence is down and gun seizures remain constant, Lazar, who oversees the Gang Task Force, said, gang-related activity continues.

In response to a question from Campos on the impact of cuts to violence prevention and drug treatment programs, Lazar said the loss of these programs might very well cause crime to increase.

Mirkarimi called attention to the advocacy organizations that are “the boots on the ground” in the fight against crime. They are working with the police and “actually gaining the inroads where we’re seeing some of the reduction in crime.”

He cautioned that with these nonprofits threatened by the economy and their ability to function compromised, the decline in crime could reverse.

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  1. it’s stories like this that make me super-heart mission local! wow! real meat and potatoes city journalism! what a breath of fresh air! thank you!

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