Owning a profitable business in San Francisco could come down to hand-to-hand combat skills. Yesterday in San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood three men walked into a camera store and attempted to smash display cases and steal merchandise. The owners and another man managed to fight them off.
SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN SHOP OWNERS FIGHT BACK AGAINST SMASH-AND-GRAB ROBBERS
“One of the guys, they put the pepper spray in my eyes,” said Sergio. “The other guy is trying to hit me with a hammer and I’m trying to protect myself.” @KPIXtv @AndriaKPIX https://t.co/et8uDhk8b8 pic.twitter.com/obFNhqTnSd
— Betty Yu (@BettyKPIX) March 23, 2022
KPIX reports there was a heavy price paid for that momentary victory:
“One of the guys up there is trying to hit my partner with a hammer,” said Sergio. “I run and I try to grab a bat that I have. Try to protect myself and my business here.”
A neighboring business owner came running over with a sandwich board trying to stop the attack. He got hit in the head with a hammer and needed 10 stitches.
“One of the guys, they put the pepper spray in my eyes,” said Sergio. “The other guy is trying to hit me with a hammer and I’m trying to protect myself.”
This sort of thing is nothing new in San Francisco. The Wall Street Journal published a story Sunday pointing to San Francisco as leading the pack on property crime rates among America’s largest cities:
Among the 25 largest U.S. cities, San Francisco has had the highest property-crime rate in four of the most recent six years for which data is available, bucking the long-term national decline in such crimes that began in the 1990s. Property crimes declined in San Francisco during the first year of the pandemic, but rose 13% in 2021. Burglaries in the city are at their highest levels since the mid-1990s. There were 20,663 thefts from vehicles last year — almost 57 a day — a 39% increase from the prior year, although still below the record of 31,398 in 2017, according to the police.
Smashed storefronts are so common that the city launched a program to fix them with public money. Car owners leave notes declaring there is nothing of value in their vehicles, or leave their windows open to save themselves from broken glass. Videos of shoplifters hauling goods out of drugstores such as Walgreens have gone viral, and a smash-and-grab robbery by 20 to 40 people at a Louis Vuitton store last November made the national news.
Owners of small businesses say the costs of security and repairs are eating into profits already diminished by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the Castro, the neighborhood where Cliff’s is located, shops have recorded nearly 100 instances of smashed windows and doors that cost $170,000 to repair since the beginning of 2020, according to the neighborhood’s merchant association.
Some former police officials said in interviews that officers don’t feel it is worth making an arrest in low-level cases because they assume the district attorney won’t file charges. They also point to a statewide ballot measure passed in 2014 — Proposition 47 — that raised the dollar amount at which theft can be prosecuted as a felony from $400 to $950.
In a recently published interview Police Chief Bill Scott revealed that his own son has had his vehicle broken into twice:
In terms of public safety, people are worried about car break-ins and house break-ins, burglaries and shoplifting. Can’t we put more undercover police on the streets to combat this wave?
Yeah, we had to do that and more. My son’s car has gotten broken into twice.
What has worked for us recently is identifying the people who are the most prolific. We have a list of them and we track them. They’ve been arrested a number of times for burglaries or theft-related incidents.
They keep coming back and when we get an opportunity to arrest them again, it’s working with the district attorney’s office to attempt to get them detained until they have their day in court. Sometimes we’re successful. Sometimes we’re not. But the times when we’re successful on those most prolific, it does have an impact and we track it.
Chief Scott was clearly trying not to stir up any drama but did express some frustration with DA Boudin:
Do you believe Chesa Boudin is enforcing the law and putting people in prison appropriately for this kind of crime?
I don’t think incarceration in and of itself is going to be the one and the only answer to this issue. But I do think accountability when people are arrested and incarceration serves as somewhat of a disincentive for drug dealers. It’s a different story with users, to some degree. Look, the average time in jail is somewhere around five days for the almost 500 arrests that we made last year.
I’m not saying that it’s the DA’s fault or the court’s fault, but the bottom line is that’s the average time. … To reduce incarceration, that’s a real thing. I’m not saying that’s misplaced. Let’s just focus on the drug sales right now, or prolific offenders. There’s got to be some level of accountability when the evidence is there. We have to be effective, when we do enforce, who we’re enforcing on, these impact players, these prolific offenders.
There has to be some accountability and right now there’s just not. Part of that is Boudin but part of it is also a hangover from the city’s enthusiasm for defunding the police.
Spoke to @SFPDChief Bill Scott today at the Board – we have a crisis in policing – we are short 500+ officers and it would take maybe 5 years to hire these numbers – last class just graduated 13 officers!
— Ahsha Safai 安世輝 (@Ahsha_Safai) March 23, 2022
So even if the city does something smart and recalls DA Boudin in a few months, that’s not going to magically make up for the deficit of officers who simply don’t want to work in the city. It will probably be years before this situation turns around under the best of circumstances and given the likelihood that inflation will remain high, these aren’t the best of circumstances.