The Criminal Streets of San Francisco

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin looks on during a news conference May 10, 2022 in San Francisco.


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Crime has increased in many major American cities, and one reason is the rise of progressive prosecutors who refuse to enforce criminal laws. San Francisco voters have an opportunity on June 7 to send a national message when they decide whether to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

“We still have a long way to go to decriminalize poverty and homelessness,” Mr Boudin said when he applied for the job in 2019. He vowed not to prosecute “no criminal cases of quality-of-life-related crimes” such as street homeless encampments, prostitution, obstructing sidewalks, or public urination. Ending cash bail was among his first acts and the District Attorney’s website shows a sharp decline in criminal prosecutions during Mr Boudin’s tenure.

How does that go? In 2021, homicides in San Francisco increased by 36% compared to 2019. Last year, 222 people were injured or killed by gun violence in the city, compared to 137 in 2019. Motor vehicle theft is up 36%, arson is up 40%, and theft is up 20% in 2021 compared to 2019, according to these officials Property crime figures are likely low as some victims no longer bother reporting crimes they know will go uninvestigated or punished.

Homelessness and drug use are rampant on the streets of San Francisco. Shoplifting of goods worth less than $950 is a mere misdemeanor across California, and Walgreens said last year it spent 46 times the chain average on security at its San Francisco stores. Retail theft nonetheless put five Walgreens locations in the city out of business last October.

The crime and disorder prompted San Francisco Mayor London Breed to speak out late last year in favor of more police money and a crackdown on open-air drug trafficking. That was a big change for the mayor, who wanted to cut the police budget after the killing of George Floyd. But Ms Breed has not commented on the recall, and Gov. Gavin Newsom is also absent from action.

A May public opinion poll found voters in favor of the recall ranging from 48% to 38%. Another poll conducted in mid-May by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce found that 66% had a negative opinion of the district attorney and 67% supported recall.

The poll also found that three-quarters or more said enforcing laws against open-air drug trafficking, sending more police to high-crime areas and providing “court-ordered treatment to those not in the community” was a high priority able to care for them even because of severe mental illness.” It is remarkable that this is the growing consensus now, even in progressive San Francisco.

The residents of the city voted by leaving. Census data shows a 6.7% population decline in San Francisco County between April 2020 and July 2021. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce found that 45% of respondents said they were likely to leave the city in the next few years. A quarter named crime as the main reason.

Mr. Boudin and the California political class will conclude from a recall failure that they do not need to change their policies. Recall success alone won’t clean up the criminal streets of San Francisco, but it would be a good start.

Wonderland (12/15/21): While district attorneys are withdrawing prosecutions and focusing on areas like reducing bails, crime rates are rising. Perhaps voters are now beginning to regret the consequences of voting for progressives. Image: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

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Appeared in the print edition on June 1, 2022. The Criminal Streets of San Francisco

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