Updated: Feb 4, 2021
San Francisco officials sought to assure the public that violent incidents, particularly those victimizing seniors and other vulnerable persons, won't be tolerated
The City has seen a spate of high-profile violent crimes in recent weeks, which have raised concerns about the City's law enforcement response during COVID
Certain categories of crime, such as auto break-ins and robberies, have fallen sharply since March 2020, while burglaries, arson and homicides have risen
Top San Francisco officials are aiming to assure the public that violent incidents, particularly those victimizing seniors and other vulnerable persons, won't be tolerated.
The press conference on Tuesday, Mayor London Breed, Chief of Police Bill Scott, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin each said that serious crimes, namely murders or suspected murders that have taken place in recent days, will be punished "to the fullest extent of the law," in Breed's words.
The conference, which sought to present a united front for residents anxious about crime trends, comes in the wake of several high-profile, fatal incidents since the close of 2020.
Over the weekend, two seniors were assaulted: One, a resident of the Anza Vista neighborhood named Vicha Ratanapakdee, was the victim of an unprovoked attack and died of the resulting injuries. Another, well-known detective Jack Palladino, sustained a fatal head injury in an attempted robbery outside his Haight-Ashbury home.
Breed noted another killing that took place in Bayview-Hunter's Point just before the press conference, as well as the fatal shooting of a 6-year-old child, Jace Young, on July 4. Two people were reported shot as of mid-day Tuesday at 3rd and Palou streets; SFPD recently arrested a suspect in the murder of Young.
"Everything is on the table for us to pursue when you cross that line: We will be watching, we will be vigilant," said Breed, also calling the assault of Ratanapakdee, which was caught on video, "one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen."
SFPD statistics show a divergence in local crime trends during COVID-19, with some categories, such as auto break-ins, falling sharply amid widespread shutdowns and an absence of of tourist activity. Other types of crime, such as burglaries, arson and homicide, have risen in the past year.
Breed, Scott and Boudin pushed back on a perception that perpetrators of crime don't face serious consequences in San Francisco.
Those concerns were magnified by a New Year's Eve car crash that killed two bystanders in the South of Market neighborhood. The suspect in that killing, a parolee, was found to have a string of prior arrests in the preceding months, raising a debate about the role of the District Attorney and other law enforcement stakeholders in preventing such incidents.
Boudin said that the District Attorney's office requested that the suspects in the attacks of Ratanapakdee and Palladino be held in custody, and that a murder charge is forthcoming in the former case. In the latter case, the office is favoring murder charges but plans to assess results from the Medical Examiner on the cause of death before making a final charging decision.
"Let's dispel the myth right now that there are consequences for committing crimes in San Francisco, especially against our most vulnerable," said Breed.
In response to a question about an apparent flight of residents and business activity from the City, Breed said she was "confident" that visitors will return after shutdown orders are lifted.
Remote work has keep a substantial chunk of the local workforce at home since March, diminishing commutes and leading to plunging commercial rents and other downstream economic effects. Tens of thousands of residents appear to have moved out of the City, and Moscone Center — the crown jewel of SF's tourism sector — is reportedly losing business due in part to the safety concerns of visitors.
"I have faith that when we reopen…people will return to San Francisco," Breed said. "It's not a matter of if, but when."