San Francisco mayor vows to crack down on violence and crime that 'destroyed our city'
- San Francisco's mayor announced a crackdown on violence and crime in the city.
- Criminal justice advocates worry the problem can't be solved with increased policing and incarceration.
San Francisco's mayor announced Tuesday even more initiatives aimed at curbing open drug use, brazen home break-ins and other criminal behavior that she says have made a mockery of the city's famed tolerance and compassion.
Mayor London Breed said at a news conference attended by her police chief and other public safety personnel that she would introduce legislation to allow law enforcement real-time access to surveillance video in certain situations and to make it harder for people to sell stolen goods.
She said the efforts would help address "all the bullshit that has destroyed our city."
She also announced the use of emergency powers to improve safety in the Tenderloin, one of the poorest and most drug-infested neighborhoods in San Francisco, where parents have pleaded for protection from drug dealers and violent street behavior. The neighborhood contains several government buildings, including City Hall.
"What I'm proposing today, and what I will be proposing in the future will make a lot of people uncomfortable, and I don't care," said Breed, a Democrat. "We are past the point where what we see is even remotely acceptable."
The announcement follows a meeting the mayor had last week with Tenderloin families, as well as a report by The Associated Press describing the . They said despite San Francisco's wealth, city officials are not doing enough to keep streets cleared of human feces and trash, provide housing to people experiencing homelessness, and deter drug dealers.
They are also upset that San Francisco public schools spent much of last year teaching remotely while neighboring districts and private schools within the city provided in-class instruction.
Criminal justice advocates in favor of less incarceration say the media has been drumming up fear in a city where overall crime rates have declined in recent years. Increased enforcement, they say, only ends up harming the most vulnerable without improving public safety.
Some on social media were critical of the mayor's words.
"London Breed interrupts the opening of a community market to announce that we are going to 'make life hell' for drug users in San Francisco," one Twitter user said.
—AntiDisplacementCoup (@AsterZephyrIsis) December 15, 2021
"What happened? 'Defunding the police' was literally your policy 10 minutes ago," another user tweeted. "Must be an election coming up."
—Dave Price (@daveprice) December 15, 2021
Similar debates are taking place across the country in liberal cities where the murder of George Floyd led to a surge of progressive activism that included calls to rethink the way cities deal with crime. Some cities where there were calls to defund the police, , have moved in recent months to bolster police budgets.
John Hamasaki, a San Francisco police commissioner and defense lawyer who is highly critical of extra policing and surveillance, said Tuesday that taxpayer money is better spent on services, treatment and housing.
He said the city should open a supervised drug consumption site and act to treat addiction rather than using methods that will shove dealing into other neighborhoods.
"The situation in the Tenderloin isn't ultimately going to be solved through more policing," he said. "It seems like we're doing the same dance over and over and expecting different results."
But Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which provides legal services and housing to low-income people, said more police patrols would deter dealers and make the neighborhood safer for residents. At the same time, he has heard the mayor's promises before and seen little concrete action.
"I'm glad the mayor's coming out like this, but it's really actions speak louder than words," he said. "We heard a lot of commitments, and now we have to make sure they happen."
"Bravo to @LondonBreed for speaking the truth about what needs to be done in San Francisco and her commitment to cracking down on crime and open air drug usage," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert wrote on Twitter. "San Franciscans deserve to live in a safe and healthy city."
—Anne Marie Schubert (@SchubertForAG) December 14, 2021
Breed said she would ask the Board of Supervisors for more money to pay for police overtime and to increase the department's budget. Legislative changes would also require the board's support.
While there has been widespread media reports and concern around a potential increase in retail thefts, the data isn't so clear cut. Though San Francisco retailers reported a wave of organized retail crime and videos of break-ins have circulated online in September, much of the increase in retail theft reports is due to a change in one store's reporting method.
Retail industry groups have said store thefts are at a crisis level and have estimated that retail gangs steal as much as 25% of sales in San Francisco and Oakland, but stores likely only lose 7 cents per $100 of sales to theft, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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