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Embattled District Attorney Chesa Boudin: 'We Want Everyone To Feel Safe' In San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who is facing a recall election in June, called this weekend's brazen robberies "absolutely unacceptable" and was preparing tough charges against those arrested during the criminal bedlam in Union Square.

In an interview with KPIX 5's Betty Yu, Boudin said that "if you bring that kind of nonsense, that kind of behavior to our city, there will be consequences."

UPDATE: Flash Mob Smash-and-Grab Robberies Dampen Holiday Spirit in San Francisco

Boudin said his office was eagerly awaiting more arrests and plans to announce felony charges on Tuesday. He said 25 individuals are still at large in connection with the Union Square burglaries on Friday night.

"This is not a San Francisco specific problem. It doesn't have anything to do with local policy," added Boudin.

Watch full Chesa Boudin interview with reporter Betty Yu.

Critics say the weekend's chaotic events are a result of his policies.

Yu: "So many people, residents and tourists alike, have reached out to me to say they believe under your leadership, San Francisco specifically, not other cities across the country, has really become this haven for retail crime and property crime alike, because of your hands-off approach to crime.

Boudin: "If it feels that way then we've got work to do. We want everyone to feel safe and to be safe in San Francisco, and until everybody is safe and feels safe our work is not done. That's why I've been focused on proactive work."

Boudin said his charging rates in 2021 are higher than those in other counties around the Bay Area, and higher than his predecessor's in 2018 and 2019.

Union Square retailers are not taking any chances. Multiple stores near Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street, including Michael Kors and Adidas are now boarded up. High-end brands like Valentino still allowed customers inside, but security locked the door after each entry.

"We know that when it comes to property crime in particular, sadly San Francisco police are spread thin," said Boudin. "They're not able to respond to every single 911 call, they're only making arrests at about 3% of reported thefts."

Over the weekend, Police Chief Bill Scott said more arrests in the brazen burglaries were coming. Eight people, including six men and two women, were arrested. He said many of the suspects are repeat offenders.

"Well, the fact of the matter is if this were something driven by my policies, we wouldn't be seeing it in Chicago, San Jose, Hayward, Walnut Creek or any other places we're seeing it across the country," said Boudin. "Anybody who tries to say that the crimes we witnessed last weekend, are a result of a specific policy by a specific elected official, is trying to distract you from the bigger picture issues."

Yu: "Do you believe that you are soft on crime?"

Boudin: "Absolutely not, nothing could be further from the truth. Anybody who says that isn't looking at the facts, or the evidence, or my record."

Yu: "Do you think jail time is sufficient punishment for such behavior and if not, what is an alternative that you see fit?"

Boudin: "I think it depends on how much time and what the criminal history is. We can't generalize. If we're going to be smart on crime, if we're going to be effective at breaking the cycle of incarceration and stopping the revolving door, we need to look at every single case, based on the facts, based on the law, based on the individual circumstances."

Tourists and locals in Union Square checked out the holiday sights Monday night, though there was not a lot of window shopping to do.

"I mean it's craziness. It's weird to see, and it's sad to see," said Roger Somers, who was visiting from Nebraska.

When asked about his sense of safety, a resident who identified himself as "D," said:

"I mean there's a cop every two feet... so you tell me."

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