San Francisco's homicide count has already surpassed last year's total of 41, hitting 45 as of last week with the fatal killings of Lamar Williams and Demaree Hampton in Hunters Point. And while police caution against drawing comparisons with last year, this pandemic year has proven to be a violent one both in San Francisco and in the East Bay, and there are still five weeks left to go.
There have been eight killings in San Francisco in 2020 that police have attributed to gang violence, as the Examiner reports, compared to just three in 2019. And in Oakland, the number of homicides has already topped 100, crossing the three-digit mark for the first time in seven years. Last year, Oakland saw 78 homicides.
The November 19 shooting of Williams and Hampton remains under investigation, as Mission Local reports. Williams, 38, was a well known high school football coach, working at both Mission High School and Galileo High School, and Hampton, 30, had been a star player when he attended Mission High over a decade ago.
The pair were reportedly standing in Williams' garage on Bertha Lane in Hunters Point when they were shot. Williams' wife, a San Francisco firefighter, attempted life-saving measures, but he later died at the hospital.
Supervisor Shamann Walton gave a press conference Tuesday, as the Examiner reports, calling for more resources to combat violence in the Bayview/Hunters Point area.
"I want to make sure that we don’t have to bury another person during this pandemic,” Walton said. “I just want to get through the end of the year without another homicide. I’m just tired of seeing people perish for no reason."
The Bayview has seen the most killings this year of any SF neighborhood, with 13 to date.
Captain James Aherne of the SFPD's Major Crimes Unit tells the Examiner that 2019's historically low homicide count in SF was likely "an anomaly," and that this year's homicide rate is in keeping with previous years of relatively low violence. With just 41 homicides, 2019 marked a 56-year-low for killings in the city, matching the number seen in 1963.
DA Chesa Boudin echoed that in a statement saying, "The good news is the numbers this year are still in keeping with the general low numbers over the last five or 10 years. The bad news is we have lost more lives than necessary."
Still the pandemic has disrupted lives in a year in which the role of police is being broadly called to question — and some crime experts have suggested that murders go up in times when trust in police goes down, because more people tend to take justice into their own hands.
But pandemic lockdowns and school closures have changed the dynamics on city streets in many ways. The New York Times published a story last month that suggested that having more high schoolers hanging out on the street instead of being in school and sports routine creates a recipe for more drama. And as Aherne tells the Examiner, "It’s affecting every part of our life. It affects our kids’ school. It restricts personal contact. It reduces the jail population because they push people out of the jail. Why wouldn’t it affect crime rates?"
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