Crime falls as San Francisco shelters in place

Chief reports up to 25 percent decline in calls for service

San Francisco Examiner, Mar. 23, 2020

By Michael Barba

Crime has fallen noticeably since San Francisco ordered all residents to stay at home, Police Chief Bill Scott said Monday.

Reports of violent crimes had fallen by nine incidents so far this month as of Monday compared to the same time in 2019, while reports of property crimes fell by 409, according to Scott. Calls for service to dispatch have also fallen by 20 to 25 percent.

“We were on a little bit of an upward trend prior to this public health order,” Scott said at a press conference, apparently referring to violent crimes. “Now we are at a significant downward trend.”

There were 1,289 violent crimes and 11,017 property crimes in all of March 2019, according to police data.

The shelter-in-place order from San Francisco health officials has barred all residents from leaving their homes except for the most basic needs like grocery shopping and exercise since last Tuesday.

The local order is expected to be in place at least until April 7, while the state has issued a complimentary order requiring residents to stay at home until further notice.

Public health officials are hoping to slow the rapid spreading of the coronavirus so that hospitals do not become overloaded with patients who require attention and ventilators.

Scott said the San Francisco Police Department has beefed up its presence on the streets to prevent looting during the order.

All officers have been ordered to wear uniform, including those in administrative or investigative roles, and extra squads have been added to district stations and areas like Union Square and Civic Center, Scott said.

Many businesses in neighborhoods such as the Mission have boarded up their windows, but no looting has been reported.

At Northern Police Station, Capt. Joseph Engler has witnessed the decline in crime.

“We are seeing our community at its best with reported crime,” Engler wrote in a newsletter last Friday. “Vehicle burglary, robberies and other types of thefts, greatly reduced.”

While the virus has also raised concerns about rising anti-Asian sentiment in the community, Scott said police have not received any reports of hate crimes related to COVID-19.

“If those types of crimes are happening, we really need people to report them so that we can investigate them thoroughly,” Scott said.

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