By Erik Honda
Vice-President, Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association
Since 2014, when the neighborhood was stunned by two homicides in our Triangle that remain unsolved to this day, the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association (DTNA) has been working to learn when and how and to what degree homicides, assaults, and other crimes are solved (or in police parlance, “cleared”).
In general, it has been difficult for DTNA to get information from the SFPD. Unlike many cities around the country San Francisco does not publish homicide or assault clearance statistics on a regular basis. In 2016, with dogged persistence and the help of then Supervisor Scott Wiener’s office, we were able to complete a Request for Information that resulted in the release of a ten-year history of clearance statistics, but since then, despite the efforts of both supervisors who succeeded Wiener, we have not been able to get the statistics updated.
Meanwhile on the west side of the city a similar movement was brewing that ultimately resulted in the creation of the organization Stop Crime SF. That organization has grown to include nine neighborhood organizations across the city, including DTNA. Stop Crime SF was originally focused on the low clearance rate for car break-ins (fewer than 2% of all car break-ins in the city result in an arrest), but has since expanded their area of concern to holding the police department, and the justice system more generally, accountable. They have instituted a Court Watch program, where volunteers attend the trials and sentencing hearings of serial criminals, to be sure that the community’s desire for justice and accountability is not thwarted.
In October of 2018 DTNA met with Stop Crime SF to hammer out some ideas for legislation to make important statistics like homicide, assault, and car break-in clearance rates more readily available. Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s office has expressed support for the effort, and he may be the linchpin in driving it forward.
So far our main ideas are to have the information posted yearly by January 31, and readily accessible on the SFPD website as “Crime Trends”. We would like to see the information be easy to read and access and copy, with links and downloadable, copy-ready files. Information should be presented in both tabular and graphic forms, and include ten-year trends, both the raw numbers, the numbers per capita, and per police officer. Information should be available city-wide, for each police station, and by neighborhood. The ten-year trends are important, as when SFPD presents information at community meetings and supervisors’ hearings they tend to highlight monthly trends, and then choose the monthly trends that make them look the best. A particularly egregious example of the latter was when current police chief William Scott presented to the supervisors recently and touted that car break-ins in the Mission Station area were up “only” 6% this year, as opposed to 83% last year. That of course tells you nothing about how high car break-ins were compared to ten years ago, or even five. And Chief Scott did not mention how many (few) of those crimes were solved.
DTNA and Stop Crime SF are also interested in working together on other accountability issues, such as increasing the percentage of officers who live in San Francisco in order to increase understanding of the community, and reducing the round-robin reassignment of district station chiefs (which again reduces accountability). We’d like your help too. If you are not already a member of both of these organizations, please join.
Also published in the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association newsletter.
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