sfpd_cityhall.jpgViolent crime in San Francisco continued to decline in 2010, and though the number of homicides rose slightly, it remained at historically low levels, Police Department statistics show.

Figures provided by the San Francisco Police Department through Dec. 25 showed that a total of 7,139 violent crimes–homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults–were reported throughout the city, a 3 percent drop from 2009.

Through Dec. 25, there were 48 homicides citywide this year, up 7 percent from 45 in 2009.

That number rose to 49 homicides after a shooting Tuesday night in the Bayview District in which an 18-year-old man was killed.

The statistics show a consistent decrease from 2008, when there were 96 homicides in the city, and the several years before that, when the homicide figures ranged from the mid 80s to the high 90s. During the 1970s and parts of the 1980s and 1990s, the number of homicides in the city often exceeded 100.

Police Commission President Thomas Mazzucco said today that the decrease in homicides in the past two years reflected greater cooperation between police and the community, and more honed enforcement strategies.

“Given the size of our city, that’s an incredible number,” Mazzucco said. “And the credit goes to the active participation of the community and the focused approach of law enforcement.”

Police have credited the decrease in crime to a targeted enforcement strategy in high-crime neighborhoods implemented in 2008 under the regime of former Chief Heather Fong, as well as Chief George Gascon’s introduction in 2009 of new statistical analysis methods that track crime more closely and hold district captains accountable. Community advisory boards that meet regularly with police are also believed to have played a role.

Homicide arrests in 2010 remained at 2009 levels, according to Lt.

Lea Militello, the head of the homicide unit.

A 39 percent drop in homicide arrests cited in the department’s Dec. 25 numbers–from 33 in 2009 to 20 in 2010 — did not include arrests this year in older homicide cases, of which there were 14, Militello said.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my guys; they’re working really hard,” Militello said.

She said the numbers would be updated when the department releases it final statistics for 2010.

For the many unsolved homicide cases–the department considers 30 of the 49 this year unsolved–police noted that unless an arrest is made immediately, the process of investigating is laborious and complex.

“Some of these cases just take time. There’s not a quick fix to solving a homicide,” police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said. “We are working to make arrests as soon as we possibly can, and trying to work closely with the district attorney’s office to get cases prosecuted.”

Two murders that received heavy media attention in 2010 — the July 11 fatal shooting of 39-year-old Lee Farley, of Richmond, outside a Mission Bay nightclub whose lease was subsequently terminated, and the Aug. 8 killing of 50-year-old Mechtild Schroer, a German woman who was visiting the city with her husband and was caught in the crossfire of a Union Square shootout–resulted in arrests, but prosecutors later declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence to prove the cases.

Those cases, however, are considered “cleared” by the Police Department, as is another case this year in which a murder warrant was issued for a suspect believed to have fled the country, according to Militello.

The killing of another Richmond man, 19-year-old Lawon Hall, during a gang-related shootout outside Suede nightclub near Fisherman’s Wharf on Feb. 7, did result in an arrest and prosecution after the alleged gunman was shot at the scene by a security guard. Under pressure from the city, Suede management agreed to close the club.

A second man was later arrested in the case but was released without being charged.

Prosecutors often note that the standard by which an arrest can be made differs from the legal standard for a successful conviction.

Another high-profile case, the Jan. 24 attack by a group black youths on an elderly Chinese man, 83-year-old Huan Chen, who died from his injuries nearly two months later, remains unsolved.

Chen was accosted near a bus stop in the Bayview District, which has large populations of both African Americans and Asian-Americans.

The attack inflamed tensions between the two communities, which city officials sought to calm through a series of public dialogues. The mayor’s office has issued a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Overall in 2010, “Part One” crimes, which include both violent and property crimes, went down by 8 percent citywide, according to the Police Department’s Dec. 25 statistics.

Property crimes such as burglaries, auto thefts and arsons, with a total of 32,127 citywide, declined 9 percent.

Other serious crimes not included in the Part One category, such as child abuse and domestic violence, showed mixed results.

Child abuse reports decreased 11 percent, but domestic violence reports rose 4 percent.
The department is planning to hold a news conference after the New Year to release the full results for 2010.


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