San Francisco sees major drop in homicides


With just two days left until the new year, San Francisco is on pace to have its lowest murder rate in half a century and it is not just homicides that are down, violent crimes across the board are on the decline in San Francisco.

San Francisco has not seen crime drop like this since 1961, and city leaders say it is because of stepped up police patrols in high crime neighborhoods, like the Mission District.

"It's time to celebrate the fact that there are significant reductions. The reality is that we have almost 50 people that are walking around today that would not have been walking around a year ago," said San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon.

With just a few days left until the new year, Gascon and Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the city's murder rate reached a historic low in 2009 with 45 killings after setting a homicide record just a few years ago.

"Is that acceptable? 45 homicides? Of course not. Can we do better? I'm absolutely convinced we can do better," said Newsom.

And it is not just a decrease in homicides -- auto thefts dropped by 18 percent, robberies by 14 percent, rapes decreased by 8 percent and aggravated assaults by 4 percent.

Authorities say it is because they have focused their crime fighting on traditionally crime-plagued neighborhoods like the Mission, Bayview and Tenderloin. They are going after open-air drug dealing and cracking down on gangs.

But residents say they do not need crime stats to tell them the streets are safer.

"Shrines are sort of a memorial that friends and family and friends of the homicide victims are putting together. You don't see that anymore and it has to do with the reduction of crime," said Bayview neighborhood activist Linda Richardson.

Violent crime overall is down by 10 percent compared to last year.

"Our signal goal is to be the safest big city in the United States of America. Period, exclamation point," said Newsom.

One thing the mayor was not so emphatic about is the number of murders solved in San Francisco. So far this year, police have solved about 60 percent of all homicides.

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