San Francisco Mayor London Breed and SFPD Chief Bill Scott gave their first "CompStat" press conference of the year Monday — one the mayor's first in-person events thus — and they took the opportunity to try to counter the much-repeated narrative about how much crime has been plaguing San Francisco in the last year.
As you're likely more than aware, home burglaries have indeed gone up in multiple neighborhoods around the city, which some have attributed to fewer tourists and fewer opportunities by thieves to rob them and their rental cars. But, like DA Chesa Boudin has tried to stress in recent months, other types of crime have gone down.
"There is a lot of misinformation out there about what is going on in San Francisco," Breed said at the event, which you can see in full below. "We know that numbers don’t matter when you’re the victim of a crime; any crime, in any capacity. But at the end of the day, we have to use this data to make a decision about our policies and our investment."
Cautioning that they weren't yet prepared to announce any law enforcement changes, Breed said that the SFPD and the city would be using the CompStat data "to be making some significant changes" in the coming months.
Chief Scott said that viral cellphone videos of some of the most brazen crimes — like that image of a thief plundering a Walgreens while a security guard stands idly by — are not representative of the larger picture.
"There’s no statistic for brazenness," he said. "What we see in some of these videos of brazen, heinous crimes, there’s no statistic for what that does to our outlook and how we perceive what’s happening in our city."
Scott also touted his department's 90% clearance rate for homicide cases, and the fact that homicides remain low, despite an uptick last year from 2019's historic low.
As the midyear CompStat data shows, there has been a significant increase in gun violence incidents so far in 2021, not all of which were fatal. As the Chronicle reports, while shoplifting overall has been down across the city in the last year, the perception of a rise in the crimes comes from the fact that more "essential" retailers like Walgreens are getting hit.
Aggravated assaults at this midyear point are currently around 8% below where they were at this time in 2019, and 20% below where they were at this time in 2018.
Breed said in her remarks that "sadly," the city has "gotten a lot of negative attention" recently when it comes to crime. She noted that San Francisco is receiving plenty of praise at the national level for its response to COVID and its significantly lower mortality rate than other cities, but the city is simultaneously in the spotlight as a hub for crime. But she wanted to stress that the story that is not being told is one about the SFPD's successes in arresting many of the people suspected in these crimes.
"What is not getting the attention is the fact what you do come to San Francisco and commit a crime, you will be arrested by this police department," she said. "Our investigators and the work they do to bring people to justice has been extraordinary."
Breed said that around 10 distinct groups of thieves are believed to be responsible for the majority of burglaries and auto-break-ins around the city — around 1,000 incidents each month — and each time an arrest is made, these crimes slow down.
"At the end of the day, we have to make sure that accountability is a part of this," she said. "And one of the big conversations that is happening around defunding the police is not taking into account all the incredible work San Francisco has done to invest in programs that help to prevent crimes from happening in the first place."
Breed became most vehement in encouraging the media in attendance that they should look at the CompStat data and highlight the arrests that have been made, especially in the violent crime category, the same way that the media has highlighted the crimes themselves being committed.
"If you look at that and you see the incredible work... that this San Francisco Police Department is doing to bring justice to those families who are victims, you would be proud of the work they have done," she said.