What's behind the uptick in SF's violent robberies? New data shares more perspective

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, June 1, 2023
Is there an uptick in SF's violent robberies? Here's what data says
Newly-updated data from SFPD shows there have been 131 more robberies across the city so far this year compared to last year.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There's been a marginal increase in juveniles committing serious and violent felonies in San Francisco so far this year, according to data obtained from the city's juvenile probation department. But, overall the number of juvenile robbery arrests made in the city over the past two decades has gone down significantly, FBI crime data shows.

The I-Team sat down with Tracy McCray, the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

It's been nearly a year since a group of four juveniles attacked a 70-year-old woman in San Francisco.

RELATED: Suspects' ages in elderly woman's beating are 'shocking,' SF police chief says

San Francisco police announced the arrest of suspects in the assault and robbery of an elderly Asian woman during a press conference Monday.

Sierra: "How often are you seeing cases similar to this?"

McCray: "More than I want to see."

Sierra: "What is more?"

McCray: "More, like six or seven kids, you know, ganging up, attacking elderly people. There is at least one every week."

Sierra: "One every week?"

McCray: "At least."

EXCLUSIVE: 79-year-old woman kicked in stomach on SF Muni bus, highlighting increase in attacks

Newly-updated data from SFPD shows there have been 131 more robberies across the city so far this year compared to last year -- bringing the total to 1,003 since January.

Police attribute some of that increase to juvenile crime. McCray says juveniles around 12 to 14 years old, some as young as 11, are being recruited to work in groups coming in and out of the city.

"Some are coming from the East Bay, some have run away from their group homes, you know, down south or from the valley and are coming up to San Francisco," McCray said.

Last week OPD arrested nine juveniles believed to be responsible for 35 robberies in Oakland. McCray says SFPD investigators had been dealing with several of them weekly.

RELATED: 9 kids, ranging from ages 12 to 17, arrested in connection with 35 robberies across Oakland: Police

Nine children ranging in age from 12 to 17 were arrested in connection to 35 robberies throughout Oakland, according to police.

"We've come in contact with those juveniles. I think probably three or four of the same ones," McCray said. "And they're kind of part of this group, this click where I think one of the youngest ones we ran into was 11 at the time."

McCray says attacks among juveniles are getting more violent often targeting elderly victims. But, there's not enough data out yet to discern the uptick in violent robberies is solely tied to juveniles. For context, the number of juvenile robbery arrests in San Francisco has gone down drastically over the past two decades.

"The number of juvenile robberies in SF is very small numbers now," said Mike Males, a senior research fellow for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

According to FBI crime data, there were 537 juveniles arrested for robberies in San Francisco in 1995. In 2010, that number dropped to 188. From 2019 through 2021, those figures dropped again into the 20s.

The I-Team is still waiting for the exact number of juvenile arrests SFPD made so far this year.

MORE: SF DA announces new policy to prosecute teens as adults for 'heinous' crimes

"There's hardly a juvenile crime wave," Males said.

A crime wave? No.

An uptick? Yes, but the numbers are small in comparison.

According to the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Dept., there's been a steady increase of juveniles committing serious and violent felonies, also known as 707b offenses. For example, in March there were 74 juvenile cases referred to court - which is 45% higher than the average last year. There were also 30 admissions, which is 58% higher than the average last year.

"So there's some basis that there's been an increase in juvenile crime, but we have to remember the numbers are really small," Males said.

EXCLUSIVE: SF parents outraged over district's silence after 12-year-old's attempted murder charge

San Francisco police suspect a 12-year-old boy is responsible for two stabbings in less than a week including one where the victim nearly died.

SFPD data shows that, aside from robberies, there's been a slight uptick in homicides and a moderate increase in motor vehicle thefts across the city this year. But other violent crimes like rapes, assaults, burglaries and larceny-theft have gone down slightly in the first five months of 2023 compared to 2022.

According to SFPD's crime data dashboard, larceny theft accounted for the most crimes committed: 11,551. That's down from nearly 13,000 last year.

"That's mostly organized retail crime or petty theft," McCray said. "Going into a Walgreens or Target -- some is more sophisticated, though. Way ahead of the game. I always feel like we're playing catch-up, right? Because we have to follow the rules."

Sierra: "Do you see that problem ever getting better in San Francisco?

McCray: "No, not until there's a change in the law, until there's some teeth within the law."

RELATED: Juveniles arrested for violent crimes 'more common than you think,' SF lawyer says

Is it common for young juveniles to be suspects of violent crimes? Here's what a lawyer said.

The SFPOA supports repealing Prop 47 which made non-violent drug and property crimes where the value doesn't exceed $950 into misdemeanors. But, supporters of the legislation argue California has some of the toughest property crime laws in the country.

"In California, you have to steal $950 for it to become a felony. In Texas you have to steal $2,500," Males said. "It's not a matter of having a weak law. Forty other states have much weaker crime laws than California and police are able to operate in those states."

Weak or not, the reality is this: the department is bracing to lose up to 120 officers by the end of June due to retirements, according to McCray.

"To be honest with your viewers, it will take years to correct this, if we even can," said McCray in April 2022.

MORE: SF Whole Foods garage break-in video goes viral in Indonesia; experts fear long-lasting consequences

Sierra: Do you still stand by that statement?"

McCray: "Oh yeah, girl. It will take years to right the ship so to speak."

Sierra: "How many?"

McCray: "At least five... maybe 10."

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live