Photo courtesy of CBS
For the first four months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, crimes in San Francisco pretty much increased across the board. This also represents the first four months of District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s term and his unique philosophy. Despite a period that included 45 days of shelter-in-place, homicides were up 25%, burglaries +12%, robberies +3%, arsons +52%, and stolen vehicles +15%. With tourists blocked from visiting San Francisco and retail stores closed, larcenies dropped 16%.
Note that larceny involves property only. Robbery includes force or fear imposed on a victim, while burglary involves breaking into another's property. Up until a couple years ago, If someone went into a store and stole something, it was considered larceny and burglary. After Prop 47, they dropped the burglary component.
So — the first person breaking down a door is a burglar. But, everyone else going in is just stealing (larceny).
On May 8, 2020, District Attorney Chesa Boudin made a public statement: “We decreased the jail population by 40%. Meanwhile, crime rates plummeted by more than 40%.”
Recognizing that there was a disparity between Boudin’s assessment and SFPD Compstat numbers, I made a public records request into Mr. Boudin’s office. Rachel, the former public defender handling Mr. Boudin’s public records requests, stonewalled with the claim that the DA’s office did not have to respond “as the informational items are not public records, and appeared to be a media request to gain further information about something DA Boudin said publically.” Yeah??
There are several problems with Boudin’s boasted success with reducing the jail population”
After I provided the statute that commands the DA to respond to the public records request, Rachel came up with a second excuse: “we are not required to create new records and sources you appear to be seeking come from an outside agency.”
After I finally explained to Rachel, an attorney, that anything Chesa Boudin says or writes publically is subject to a public records request, Rachel finally revealed that Boudin had gone to SFPD’s Crime Dashboard and picked a 35-day period immediately following the March 16, 2020 stay-in-place.
There are several problems with Boudin’s boasted success with reducing the jail population:
1. He gave equal weight to all crimes. In other words Boudin believes a decline in two larcenies fairly offsets two murders.
2. With no one on the streets, total crimes exclusive of larcenies barely declined for Boudin’s cherry-picked 35-day period: 1,036 this year versus 1,082 last year.
3. When he cherry-picked the period that made his policies appear the least disruptive, he failed to consider how his policies would affect the city once the stay-in-place was lifted.
We are all aware of the public protests that started May 28, 2020 over the tragic murder and complete disregard for George Floyd’s life. Concurrent with the protests, larcenies and looting escalated. (This story is about fudging of crime statistics, not who is responsible for the looting.) The explosion of larcenies have the potential to damage Chesa Boudin’s narrative that allowing hundreds of people out of jail does not affect the crime rate, especially larcenies stats which carry Boudin’s statistical thesis. The recent larceny wave also affects how citizens will view Mayor Breed and Chief Will Scott’s performance.
To see how Chief Scott and the two elected public officials will account for the surge in larcenies and looting, I went to Mr. Boudin’s source, the SFPD Crime Dashboard. Last year, for the four-day period of May 28th through May 31st, larcenies totaled 458. Through the same four-days of this year, SFPD is reporting only 64 larcenies- a 96% decline despite all the looting we have witnessed.
Burglaries for the same period increased 100% from 64 to 126.
So from SFPD’s larceny and burglary statistics above, we can conclude that SFPD will claim that the hundreds of people that stormed businesses with snatch-and-grabs of millions of dollars worth of merchandise can be smoothed down into 126 burglaries. And, after all this passes, Chief Scott, Mayor Breed, and DA Boudin will use this burglary blip to pat themselves on the back and claim how successful their policies were.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Lou Barberini is a former police officer with the San Francisco Police Department. He has written for the Westside Observer for four years.
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