A detailed analysis of property crime in Bay Area cities shows that San Jose and Berkeley have seen property crime decrease over the last two years, and while many Bay Area cities saw an increase in 2021, thefts are still down double-digit percentages compared to 2019.

There are two dueling Bay Area priority crime analysis pieces circulating in the media discourse today, and you pick which one you want to reinforce your assessment of whether property crime is out of control, or being wildly exaggerated by people with political agendas. The Los Angeles Times has a provocative article called “San Francisco confronts a crime wave unusual among U.S. cities,” which is long on individual anecdotes but skimpy on data, and drawing the expected response from the “Recall Chesa Boudin and replace Him with Batman” crowd.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area News Group has its own piece published today entitled “Amid mob theft scare, Bay Area property crime in 2021 was modestly up and down.” The point of that one, which does analyze year-to-year data now that we have complete 2021 data, is that yes, property crime was generally up in 2021 compared to 2020 in many Bay Area cities. Yet even the 2021 rate was well below the pre-pandemic rate from 2019, a perception undermined by a number of high-profile cases which begat predictable Fox News hysteria.

The Bay Area News Group’s assessment breaks this down by city. “Oakland saw a 7.5% increase in all property crime from 2020 but is still down 12.3% overall from 2019,” according to the assessment. “San Francisco, up 11.8% in property crime from the year before, remains 11.2% below its 2019 levels.”

“Even Walnut Creek — where a mid-November mass attack on a downtown Nordstrom reverberated nationwide — has seen property crime decline 9% from two years ago,” the news group notes. "And even more contrary to public perception, the new group adds that “Many cities — San Jose and Berkeley, for two — enjoyed a second consecutive year of decreases in property crime.”

Image: SFGov.org

But the issue has become a political hot potato, and one where elected Democrats from Nancy Pelosi to Gavin Newsom to London Breed have felt the need to make a big stink of how they are tougher on crime than the rest of their fellow Democrats. Assessing the political winds with their fingers just pulled freshly from their mouths, many are unapologetic about ignoring the data and deferring to media hype.

“I’m not a big person into just looking at macroeconomic statistics. I look at what are people in my district are feeling,” Bay Area congressional Rep. Ro Khanna told the Bay Area News Group. “They’re concerned about public safety. They’re concerned about going to shop outside, being outside at coffee shops, their cars being stolen.”

The blame for the crime surge that is not a crime surge is typically directed at San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and/or the 2012 measure Prop. 47, which reduced penalties for non-violent crimes. Yet it seems far-fetched that flash-mob burglars know what Prop. 47 even is, or who their county’s district attorney happens to be at a given time.

“As for Prop. 47, there’s a lot of different opinions out there. I’m not sure we have enough data yet to make any definitive conclusions on it,” Walnut Creek police chief Jamie Knox told the News Group. “Crime ebbs and flows on a number of factors.”  

Related: SFPD and City Hall Announce Initiative to Crack Down On Retail Theft Which Includes Privately Funded Police [SFist]

Image: @BrockKeeling via Twitter