San Francisco Called ‘Lawless’ After Death of Bob Lee, but Crime Is Down

  • The stabbing death of Cash App creator Bob Lee spurred fresh criticism of San Francisco crime.
  • While critics call the progressive city “lawless” with “horrific” crime, violent offenses are down.
  • Compared with cities of similar size, San Francisco has far fewer homicides per year.

Following the tragic stabbing death of Cash App creator Bob Lee on Tuesday, critics of the city’s progressive policies were quick to label San Francisco a “lawless” place to live, with “horrific” crime — but rates of violent offenses in the city tell a different story.

Lee was fatally stabbed in San Francisco early Tuesday, according to an NBC Bay Area report, with security footage revealing his frantic search for help after the attack, spurring condemnation toward city leadership from his friends.

Matt Ocko, a venture capitalist from Palo Alto and friend of Lee’s, criticized the city’s former District Attorney on Twitter: “Chesa Boudin, & the criminal-loving city council that enabled him & a lawless SF for years,” saying the city’s leadership “have Bob’s literal blood on their hands.”

Boudin was recalled from office last year following similar critiques of his reform-minded approach to crime and agenda aimed at reducing incarceration rates.

“Violent crime in SF is horrific,” Elon Musk, chief executive of Twitter and Tesla, added on Twitter, saying that “even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately.”

Under Boudin, San Francisco ended its cash bail policy, allowing pre-trial detention only if a defendant poses an “unreasonable risk” to victim or public safety — or if they have “repeated failures” to appear in court or adhere to alternative punishments.

A California Policy Lab report found the San Francisco jail population remained relatively stable through 2021 following an earlier 2018 change in bail policy that mandated that judges consider a person’s ability to pay when setting bail amounts and that detention only be used when no other less restrictive option will ensure follow-up appearance at court and guarantee the public’s safety.

Michael Arrington, the founder of the industry blog TechCrunch, agreed, posting “I hate what San Francisco has become.”

While comprehensive statistics for 2023 are not yet available to see any recent surge in violent crime — defined as rape, murder, robbery, and aggravated assault — the city’s crime rate has remained relatively steady or decreased over the last decade, except for a brief uptick in 2019, according to California Department of Justice data.

In both 2021 and 2022, San Francisco recorded 56 homicides, well below that of other cities of a similar size (under 1,000,000 people), data from the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association shows. In comparison, there were 271 homicides in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 2021 and 226 in 2022. In Columbus, Ohio, 204 homicides took place in 2021 and 140 in 2022. 

However, property crimes, such as retail theft and car break-ins, are notably up in the city, CNN reported, as San Francisco saw a 23% increase in crimes like burglary and larceny between 2020 and 2022.

A Public Policy Institute of California study from 2018 found “some evidence” that California’s Proposition 47, which reclassified felony theft offenses as misdemeanors if the value of stolen goods is less than $950, may have been linked to the increase in larceny theft across the state after it passed in 2014.

“A small minority has tried to weaponize this tragedy to advance a narrative about a crime wave that just isn’t borne out by the data in San Francisco,” Kevin Benedicto, a police commissioner and lawyer, said on Thursday, The New York Times reported.

Benedicto added: “There are real problems about crime that need to be addressed in San Francisco, but you’re seeing people from tech, from certain political circles, who are trying to draw explicit connections to certain policies and elected officials when we don’t even yet know the facts of the case.”

Representatives for the San Francisco Police Department, as well as Ocko, Musk, Arrington, and Benedicto, did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

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