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San Francisco crime drops but public perceptions slow to change

As S.F. crime drops, public perceptions remain fixed
As S.F. crime drops, public perceptions remain fixed 03:56

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, despite perception, crime in San Francisco is going down and newly released numbers reveal that is the case.

"We have the lowest crime rate in 2023 than we had in 10 years, not including in 2020 when we shut the city down," Breed said.

According to SFPD publicly available data released by the mayor's office, when comparing January 2024 to January 2023, property crime is down 32 percent and violent crime is down 11 percent. 

The reductions in crime during that time period were broad-based, according to the mayor's office.

·         39 percent reduction in larceny theft (includes car break-ins and retail theft) 

·         11 percent reduction in robberies 

·         20 percent reduction in burglaries 

When comparing January 2024 to the three-year average across January 2018-2020, pre-pandemic, property crime is down 40 percent  and violent crime is down 24 percent.

"All of the work that we're doing with alternatives to policing, with our police department, with the community-based organizations -- how we're bringing all of that together has led to significant change on the streets of San Francisco," Breed said. 

The numbers may be reality but, for some business owners, they're just numbers because that isn't necessarily what they're experiencing.

"We just had a break-in in December," said Jeff Woo, owner of Il Canto Café.

He's happy to be located in downtown San Francisco but he's had to pivot a lot over the last several years because of a lack of foot traffic after the pandemic, including switching his business model to take-out and delivery. 

Right now, he doesn't want to bring people back inside.

"You just don't know the people who are coming by anymore," he said. "That's one big reason why we don't let people in. We've had some crazy people outside. They do their thing outside but as long as they're not in here."

This past week, the team at Fredericksen Hardware & Paint, near Fillmore and Union, showed CBS News Bay Area the steps they're taking to reduce shoplifting at their store. After a recent string of thefts, they now have employees escort customers as they shop. 

Sam Black, a longtime employee said they've experienced the worst bout of shoplifting he's seen in his more than 20 years working there.

"It's just been lawlessness. Nothing's stopping them from stealing," Black said. "And, with the felony thing being so high an amount, I've never seen anything like this. Not even close."

Both realities appear to exist at the same time.

"Of course, we need to make sure we continue to do everything we can to combat the problems that exist and that's what we're doing," Breed said.

Public perceptions of the city's crime issue could make things difficult.

The mayor said San Francisco gets an unfair reputation and she believes the press and social media are parts of the issue.

"The negative stuff seems to get a lot more attention," Breed said. "What doesn't get attention are the exciting and positive stories."

The data do show progress for San Francisco's efforts to reduce crime.

"Is it where it needs to be? No. But this is a major city. There will always be challenges around crime," Breed said. "But sadly, San Francisco continues to be a bit of a punching bag for a lot of folks who don't necessarily live here."

For those who aren't experiencing the progress first-hand, the numbers will remain just numbers until their reality changes.

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