SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco saw an increase in shootings in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, and a slight uptick in aggravated assaults like those seen in viral videos that have drawn national attention, the city's police chief said Monday.
But retail robberies have declined despite brazen thefts caught on video, Police Chief Bill Scott said.
Scott said there were 119 shootings in the first half of the year, compared to 58 in 2020. The number includes both fatal and nonfatal shootings.
“We’re almost double where we were in the last two years, and that is a huge concern,” Scott said.
The increase in shootings in San Francisco follows a trend in many major cities throughout the country. Shootings are up from the same period last year in Chicago; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Portland, Oregon; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Houston.
President Joe Biden on Monday met with Democratic city leaders to discuss ways of addressing the surge in shootings across the nation. Biden is limited to what he can do at the federal level, but he promised to support efforts on the local level to combat crime.
To help address the rise in gun violence in San Francisco, the police department is building relationships with community members and partnering with the California Partnerships for Safe Communities, a coalition of organizations that identify people who are at risk of becoming a crime victim or a perpetrator and who work with families to prevent crime, Scott said.
But while some cities are in the national limelight for a spike in shootings, San Francisco has been garnering national attention for brutal attacks on Asian people and brazen daytime robberies at retail stores.
In May, two elderly Asian women were stabbed as they waited for a bus in downtown San Francisco and the attack was caught on video. It was the latest in a series of attacks against Asian Americans in the city and nationwide since the start of the pandemic last year.
In a robbery caught on video last week at a Nieman Marcus in Union Square, 10 people went in, snatched designer purses, and ran out to waiting cars.
That video followed another one of a man filling a garbage bag with items inside a San Francisco Walgreens as people recorded him with their cellphones.
“Videos drive perception,” Scott said. “When you see people getting robbed, when we see elderly victims in our city getting robbed, and those videos go viral, you think, ‘Oh, my goodness. Things are out of control.’”
The chief used the news conference to push for more officers amid a national movement to cut police funding in the wake of the George Floyd killing. He said the San Francisco Police Department has a shortage of 400 officers.
Scott said research shows robberies go down when more officers are in the streets “because people are less likely to rob people when they see officers nearby.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed promised last summer to reallocate $120 million from law enforcement to the Black community. But the budget agreement reached between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors on June 30 increases the police budget over the next two years to account for salary increases, hires to maintain staffing levels and new equipment, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
On Monday, Breed did not address the issue of police funding, but praised officers for their work.
“When you come to San Francisco and commit a crime, you will be arrested,” she said.
In the last six weeks, more officers have been reassigned to patrol the Mid-Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods, both magnets for drug dealers and drug users, and robberies have already decreased by about 38%, Scott said.
Robberies have been declining in the city since 2018, when there were 1,553 robberies in the first half of the year. In comparison, there have been 1,123 robberies reported in the same period this year, Scott said.