‘The statistics are counter to the narrative,’ police chief says
A bystander shared a video on social media of the raid at high-end luxury retailer Neiman Marcus on 6 June during which at least eight people were captured on film fleeing the store with stolen handbags.
The video sparked discussions around safety in the city and brought down scrutiny on its elected officials and what is perceived as increased thefts.
However, the city has since pushed back against the criticism of crime rates after releasing its midyear public safety report.
NBC News reports that authorities had pointed out that data shows overall thefts are down by nine per cent in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2020.
The data reveals that aggravated assaults, homicides and incidents with guns have risen but shows the overall numbers of violent and property crimes have fallen by 5 per cent respectively.
“The statistics are counter to the narrative,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said at a news conference according to the broadcaster.
“Sadly, as it relates to crime, we’ve gotten a lot of negative attention,” Mayor London Breed added.
She continued: “What is not getting the attention is the fact when you do come to San Francisco and commit a crime, you will be arrested by this department.”
Following the attention of the viral video online, commenters were quick to hit out at progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin, who is facing a recall campaign after vowing to reform the criminal justice system.
“Everyone in the city is tired of this,” the user who posted the original video said on Instagram.
They continued: “Crime is legal basically and allowed and tolerated due to policies put in place and supported by all our supervisors and mayor and DA. Enough is enough?! The utter lawlessness is just ridiculous.”
In 2014, San Francisco introduced a law that meant offences of theft involving items worth less than $950 (£689) were downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanour.
Mr Scott suggested in an interview with NBC News that the law could be being exploited by those who want to commit theft.
“Some people calculate, ‘Hey, you know, I don’t want to go over the $950, so let me steal $949 worth of property,’” he said.
At the beginning of July, Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association told KPIX that San Francisco is the fifth worst city in the nation for retail theft.
The comments came in response to news that San Francisco Target stores would be cutting their operating hours due to an increase in thefts.
“There comes a point — with what we have shared with the elected leaders of the city — where these types of decisions have to be made,” Ms Michelin said.
She added: “The bottom line is when these employees don’t feel safe coming to work. That’s when they have to take these drastic measures.”