65% of Bay Area residents say fear of crime keeps them from visiting big city downtowns

Whether it's perception or reality, the fear of crime is stopping most locals from visiting San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Known for its street cars, natural beauty and urban buzz, San Francisco's charms have been well-known for decades.

But now, new survey data released by the Bay Area Council says 65-percent of local residents are avoiding going into big city downtowns like Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

One of their biggest reasons is crime.

"Whether it's homelessness or street crimes or certainly a neighborhood subject to property crimes," said Rufus Jeffris, a spokesperson for the Bay Area Council.

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Jeffris says whether people's perceptions are accurate or not, they can have a meaningful impact.

"It's not debatable that people's perceptions are, in a way, reality," he said.

And it's not just Bay Area residents who have concerns -- Local business leaders say crime remains a worry for their companies.

"Well frankly it's been something we've been talking about pre-COVID, the conditions of the streets of San Francisco. We can do better," said Rodney Fong, president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

He says if left unattended, elevated levels of crime can have snowball effects on not just businesses, but also jobs.

"The real penalty for the business community is for small businesses when there's crime on the street," said Fong.

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But not everyone feels unsafe.

On the streets of the city, several tourists tell ABC7 News rumors of crime and homelessness in San Francisco were more scary than the reality.

"For the most part, it's been pretty innocuous as far as like, interactions," said Brian Yoachum, who is visiting with his family from Utah.

However, with local perceptions now overwhelmingly negative, Jeffris says its up to Bay Area leaders to try and face the problem head on.

"I think it's really incumbent on local leaders to acknowledge these fears and take the necessary steps to display and show that they understand these fears," Jeffris said.

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