Chief Bill Scott and Mayor London Breed address crime trends in San Francisco.

During a Monday morning news conference, Mayor London Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott bucked the viral video-fueled argument that San Francisco crime is widespread and on the rise. The city, countered the mayor and police chief, is safe, and most crime is either down or comparable to past years. 

Larceny and theft, car break-ins, aggravated assaults, and robberies have all shown decreases over the past few years. Sexual assault cases have dropped sharply: At this point in 2019, there were more than double the current number for 2021. However, as the city reopens, Scott indicated that this number could increase. And as is to be expected, 2020 stood out with lower-than-usual crime rates in most of the data presented, which Scott referred to as an aberration caused by Covid-19 closures. 

“It’s personal for me when people look at our city and think that what they see on the video is what this city represents,” Scott said, adding that people should feel comfortable visiting San Francisco. “I don’t wanna be dismissive of the videos … However, we wanna keep perspective on the reality of what’s really happening.” 

Breed praised the SFPD’s “incredible” work and emphasized that “what’s not going viral … is the fact that, in almost every single instance, our police department have arrested many of the people in these particular crimes” — that is, the viral videos used to bolster the argument that San Francisco is awash in crime and lawlessness.  

The mayor referred to successful arrests in recent high profile cases — the shooting death of 6-year-old Jace Young, the incident of a man bicycling into Walgreens, and the owner of Franklin Street Market who was stabbed in the eye — and commended the police for investigating these incidents and making arrests. 

“When you come to San Francisco and commit a crime, you will be arrested by this police department,” Breed said. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office added that, in each of the cases mentioned by the mayor, a prosecution is pending and the offender is being held in jail.

Breed and Scott leaned on the SFPD’s own crime statistics to counter the narrative that crime is rising and out of control in San Francisco. But those same crime statistics do not back up Breed’s notion that those committing crimes will likely be arrested, let alone inevitably arrested. 

According to the SFPD Clearance Rates Dashboard, the large majority of crimes committed in San Francisco remain unresolved, as they always have. Typically, a case is “cleared” when an offender is arrested, charged, and sent to court, or when there is an “exceptional” circumstance that prevents the arrest of a known offender. 

Clearance rates for burglaries in calendar year 2021 register as 9.4 percent, and motor vehicle theft clearance rates are only 7.2 percent. What’s more, the data indicates that clearance rates are decreasing compared to prior years in most categories.  

Brown bars indicate SFPD clearance rates in 2021. Blue bars indicate clearance rates from last year. Typically, a case is “cleared” when an offender is arrested, charged, and sent to court, or when there is an “exceptional” circumstance that prevents the arrest of a known offender.

Further, certain types of crime have indeed worsened in the city, a fact Scott acknowledged needs to be addressed. There have been 119 instances of reported gun violence this year compared to 58 at this point in 2019, and there were consecutive decreases in the four years prior. There have been 26 homicides this year, the highest number since 2017.

The clearance rate for homicides is 92 percent as of July 5, much higher than other categories, a spokesperson for the SFPD confirmed.

According to Scott, the answer is more officers on the streets. “Robberies are one of the categories where cops in the street matter.” In 2017, one of the worst years for car break-ins, Scott said that a shift away from apprehending offenders and simply increasing police presence resulted in a dramatic turnaround. Currently, officers are being deployed in higher numbers in high-crime areas like the Tenderloin, mid-Market, and Bayview’s Third Street corridor. 

In the mayor’s proposed budget from last month, the SFPD would receive $423.6 million for salaries in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, an increase of nearly $1.5 million from the prior year, and then $447.3 million for the 2022-2023 fiscal year — an increase of nearly $24 million. 

Currently, Scott said the SFPD is operating with a shortage of about 400 officers, an issue he said goes as far back as the 2008 recession and was exacerbated by the past year, during which recruiting was difficult and prospective officers thought twice about joining the police force. 

The joint presentation also emphasized a need for accountability to ensure repeat offenders aren’t released and allowed the opportunity to commit crimes again. But both the mayor and police chief declined to place blame on the district attorney or the courts. The mayor’s proposed budget added 11 more positions to the DA’s office.

Breed said a comprehensive approach is needed to provide social services and rehabilitation, not only jail time to people involved in crime.

“It’s not just lock ’em up, throw away the key,” Breed said. “We realize the significance of the work that needs to be done, and I’m hoping to see some results, as a result of the work that we’ve been doing.”

Update: This story was updated to include a comment from the District Attorney’s office and the SFPD.

Eleni Balakrishnan

Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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22 Comments

  1. Nope.

    This is kind of like when unemployment numbers seem to be down, when everybody knows they’ve been up for a long time. The reason the stats are skewed is because jobseekers have become so demoralized that they’ve stopped looking for employment. They aren’t counted as unemployed because their benefits have run out.

    Similarly, crime is way up but SF residents have stopped reporting it because they know the SFPD will do exactly nothing with their report.

    Also – when you call to report a crime, they actively try to dissuade you from filing a report. Try it. You’ll see.

    Eventually, crime victims quit reporting – then the SFPD and the Mayor proclaim that crime is down.

    1. Exactly.

      So many crimes go unreported, even after calling the police. So many AAPI-identifying friends and family members have had this experience in the past 18 months.

      Have got to wonder the motivation. High office vacancies? Tourism? Not wanting to truly invest in supporting the unhoused?

  2. Campers,

    Cops here have more people toting guns and riding desks by double the percentage they do in LA.

    They keep hundreds of vacancies so that their members can safely figure guaranteed overtime into their personal budgets.

    For a few years there they had 30 year vets making full retirement invested and guaranteed for them …

    Plus …

    Their regular salary …

    Which, for a sergeant was 185k.

    So, these clowns are ricing desks and making $310,000 a year!!!

    The Mayor’s techie investors, Uber and AirBnB?

    They made their fortunes using illegal business models designed to take millions of jobs away from working class cabbies and hotel workers.

    Save Chesa!

    h.

    1. There’s plenty of waste I’m sure but to have anyone do the job in san fran you will have to pay a premium so they can afford to live anywhere near where they work, while dealing with a culture of lawlessness and knowing they’ll be thrown under the bus at a moments notice and so they’ll have to pretend not to believe their eyes. Basically police selection in blue cities is for the cynical, stupid, and morally corrupt.

      Simply the joke of hiring women on the police force alone would account for most of the waste as they are at best half the strength of a man making them twice as expensive by default. We all saw the homeless guy bully that lone asian female officer, it was a joke. Furthermore when you realize in the name of “equality” they are hiring people who have little physical recourse other than their gun.

      Anyways, after a year of getting used to “lockdown” I’m sure people reconsidered the wisdom of wasting time traveling to a city that offers them nothing but trouble.

  3. The mayor, the DA, and the police chief ought to step down for their completely failure in fighting the crime and protecting the city’s law biding citizens! Shame on you all!

  4. Murders, shootings, burglaries and auto thefts are up. Regular theft is coming back up. Other than that, crime is down and The City is safe.

  5. I do not believe the police chief and mayor are really seeing what is really happening. Statistics are seldom accurate because they can be manipulated to your own narrative. Crime statistics could also be down if you decriminalize things such as drug abuse. And then is the District Attorney prosecuting everything he should be? I really don’t know. I do know the District Attorney in Los Angeles is giving California a black eye for the things he feels are important to prosecute; or not prosecute.

    Yes. I saw the videos on television where the bicycle rider stole property in the store without being stopped and the group of individuals snatch and run to waiting vehicles. I did not see the arrest of these individuals; something I would be more interested in having the media report.

    My family and I were visiting San Francisco today (07/12/2021) and what we did see was TWO smash and grab vehicle burglaries. One at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury and one outside Japantown shopping mall. (Two miles away). Coincidentally it was the same group of suspects in the same suspect vehicle. This is the same day the Police Chief and Mayor report that the City is safe. And this was my first day in San Francisco.

    I have a different opinion of a safe city. Brazen vehicle burglaries during the daylight, Transients yelling at themselves and others, open drug abuse, people “falling out”, and transients that defecate in front of you on the sidewalk are things I consider unsafe activities.

  6. Just recently:
    A homeless individual we randomly met and befriended worked his ass off and saved up enough to buy a cheap car.
    Loaded up all his worldly belongings and began living in the vehicle.
    It was promptly stolen – along with all his stuff.
    Reported it to the police – nothing.

    Picked himself up.

    Worked to buy a motorcycle for the purpose of getting to jobs on time.
    Had the misfortune of being pulled over – the motorcycle was reported stolen.
    Spent a couple of days in the county jail while his story of unknowingly purchasing a stolen bike was confirmed.

    Picked himself up yet again (I’d be wallowing in self pity).

    Worked his ass off to finally move into a cheap roommate situation.

    Just one anecdotal story and only one data point but potentially illustrative of how the proliferation of these types of crimes are not just a nuisance thing the elite and privileged have to endure.

  7. These comments could have been written 20 years ago also. Or 30 years ago. The urban environment does not change. Stay aware and keep your eyes open. Same complaints and same troublemakers in the 1990s.
    Senior Mama

    1. exactly, Anne Smith. anyone who lived in the Mission pre-gentrification knows crime is nothing new there. also, Asian-Americans have been attacked and bullied for decades in SF. It’s just that before – no one had a cell phone with which to take pictures/video, there was no social media to post stuff on. Everything was word of mouth and believe me, I heard some horror stories. Police didn’t care. We were on our own. Do I think crime is bad now? Sure – in certain areas for sure. Worse than a few years ago? maybe. Worse that 20-30 year ago? debatable.

  8. Why did Breed omit the FBI indictments, pleas and investigations in her assessment of crime in San Francisco?

    I do not feel safe in San Francisco with a municipal corruption crime spree continuing under the dome with the principals doubling down on suspicious activities.

    1. The rot starts at the top. To attempt to minimize the daily experiences of the people who’ve lived here for decades and know better is breathtaking. And desperate. We’re paying these supposed leaders too much for them not to own and address these problems.

  9. You could literally walk around one block in the tenderloin and probably find 100 crimes being committed at any given moment.

    Drug sales, concealed weapon, burglary, larceny, possession of stolen property, indecency, criminal threatening, public intoxication, disorderly conduct.

    And exactly none of those crimes will show up in these ‘statistics’ that the ‘leaders’ of the city parade around to tell us that crime is down, despite what our eyes and ears tell us.

    It hasn’t worked and it won’t work to deceive, because we SEE these crimes, even if “they” choose to ignore them.

  10. This is an absolute lie. I’ve lived in San Francisco my whole life. I grew up in Bayview Hunter’s Point, have lived in the Sunset, Mission and I’m currently in the Excelsior. Crime is up in all these places, even in the Sunset which traditionally has low crime. When I’ve been a crime victim, I tried to go to the police and they refused to do anything or make a report. Our elected officials can manipulate numbers and statistics to fit their narrative but the residents of this city see how things really are. Criminals are only getting more brazen because they know they can get away with victimizing people. They’re not even trying to hide anymore. Having grown up in this city, I have a high tolerance for a lot of “petty” crime but the crime we’re experiencing now is anything but petty. They’re getting more and more violent and we’re going to see the social and economic consequences. The crime is a surge and I don’t see it getting any better unless we do something. I urge all of you to start by trying to recall Chesa Boudin, the man in charge of letting repeat offenders go free to reoffend. There are two grassroots efforts to recall him, one is Republican led and the other is led by Democrats. Make sure to sign BOTH petitions. No matter your political affiliation, I hope we can all agree that this current crime wave is unacceptable and I hope we can cross party lines to make the effort to make this city as great as it once was. My heart aches knowing how great this city once was and seeing what it has become.

    1. Shar,

      You’ve obviously accepted the system that made us the country with more of their people imprisoned by the government than any other.

      I worked in it for decades and it is a massive failure.

      Making special laws to add years to sentences does not work.

      What it does is cost billions of dollars more than necessary.

      And, it produces thousands of years of unnecessary suffering in prisons.

      The leader of the crew who want to get rid of Chesa also want to get rid of all Progressive Justice reformers.

      Because, this guy (David Sacks) is a criminal and does not want to go to prison.

      He made his money investing in criminal enterprises like Pay Pal who began without permission, so to speak.
      ou
      That means that despite their Ivy League training they claimed to not know that you need licenses and permits to move money.

      When they got enough seed money they bribed politicians and their staff.

      Forget the guy’s name but Airbnb hired a top Obama official to lobby for them as they illegally violated laws regulating hotels.

      Same with Uber who said right out in their business model description that their goal was to destroy every cab driving job by live operators on Earth.

      How many millions of working class jobs has David Sacks cost already?

      He and his entire poker crew are afraid that someone like Chesa who is not afraid to arrest cops will not be afraid to arrest white collar criminals like Sacks and Thiel.

      That’s why they’re after Boudin.

      Carried my new ‘Save Chesa’ sign on trial run for couple miles yesterday.

      Go Giants!

      h.

      1. Its just an accepted reality, diversity is difference defined.

        That persistent disparities persist when the left controls all levels of culture and government in places like San Francisco should wake people up to the fact that the basis of their ideology is wrong, but sadly it doesn’t because its closer to a religious faith than anything else at this point.

        Why more incarcerated? Look at the demographics before comparing. We now have a homicide rate somewhere between Cuba and Kenya, that is what you’ve chosen.

        Unfortunately progressives can only farm dysfunction, single motherhood and dysgenics. Saint Floyd has 5 kids, gorilla glue girl has 6, the average San Fran progressive has none, so the progressive keeps asking questions as if they don’t have answers, like the “lies” in that Chernobyl story, truth would undermine their entire belief system.

      2. So you are the reason why I was recently sized up to be mugged in daylight for the first time in almost 25 years. In fact the first time since just before Three Strikes was passed in 1994. Its you fault. And people just like you.

        You care so much about criminals but dont give a damn about all their victims. Why do you love criminals so much?

        Unlike you I remember exactly just how dangerous SF was before Three Strikes. Back in the 1980s’ and 1990’s. And just how quickly Prop 47 and 57 filled up our streets with criminals again. Before Three Strikes California had the highest crime rate per 100K pop in almost all crime categories. After Three Strikes crime in California fell quickly to around average.

        Because warehousing chronic reoffending criminals in prison works. When they are in prison they are not robbing, mugging, assaulting ordinary law abiding citizens. The longer they are in prison the lower the crime rate. If you have lived in SF for the last four decades you would know this. Lots of street crims, high crime rate. Few street crims, low crime rate.

        Why do you not give a damn about crime victims?

        And do give me that root causes crap. Its nothing but a patronizing insult to the vast majority of people who live in crappy neighborhoods or who had terrible family situations who do not become petty criminal preying on their neighbors. The sort of people who keep committing crimes are almost always nasty scumbags, sociopaths or psychopaths of some form or other. Who makes everyone’s elses life a misery and blame everyone else for their pathological behavior.

        So why do love these criminals so much and hate their victims?

        Warehouse them all. Every last repeat offending criminal. Its not until they reach their 40’s that the brighter ones actually stop re offending and rehabilitation has any chance of being successful. Just look at the recidivism stats.

        Three Strike worked really well. It made SF fairly safe for almost two decades. Bring it back. Lock up the repeat offenders, for a long time. So the rest of us can have safe streets and safe homes.

  11. In order for San Francisco to be deemed safe, must we actually cater to the all of the conceits nurtured by right wing propaganda?

    That’s never going to happen. These conservatives equate their sense of safety with the imposition of suffocating order on everything around them and see the denial of gratifying their desires of the moment, their disempowerment, as an immediate consequential threat to their safety.

    Any disorder, the presence of any threatening “yang” within their “yin” dominated field of view is deemed a potential threat. Imagine going through life a permanent prisoner of one’s fears.

    1. Thanks I’ll take suffocating order over a gun to my head any day. I’ll even provide a firearm to counter the gun to my head. But that’s just me. Ah freedom.

  12. If you believe that malarkey, then I have some land for sale in the Florida Everglades.

  13. We need leaders that can admit the problems we are facing and do something about it. Not leaders who pretend everything is fine.

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