December 2013

Crime & Safety Report: Homicide

Keith Burbank

The homicide rate in the Bayview Police District has dropped by almost half since last year, according to police data. Through September 30, 2013, the Bayview District, which includes Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, has seen eight homicides, compared with 14 during the same period last year. In 2012, 18 homicides occurred in the Bayview District.

“One homicide is one too many,” said Bayview Station Captain Robert O'Sullivan, who reported the statistics at an October meeting of the San Francisco Police Commission, held at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House. O'Sullivan added that shootings have tremendous impacts on the surrounding community, whether or not a person dies, referring to work being done by Dr. Nadine Burke at the Center for Youth Wellness. Emerging data indicates that community violence “affects the developing brains and bodies of children,” according to the Center's website.

Though homicides were up significantly in 2012 compared with the previous two years, so far in 2013 the number of homicides is less than a third of what they were in 2004. “We're going in the right direction,” O’Sullivan said. “And it's because of the tremendous amount of work that both the community and police officers at Bayview Station have done over literally a decade.”

O'Sullivan cited several reasons for the lower homicide numbers. Officers have increased seizures of illegal firearms. One hundred and ninety guns have been confiscated so far this year, compared to 134 in the same period in 2012. O'Sullivan is confident that the station will seize at least 200 firearms by the end of the year.

However, it’s not clear whether there are more illegal guns in the Bayview District, or whether the station is doing a better job finding them. “I don't know the answer to that,” O’Sullivan said. “The more guns we get off the street, the more shootings we potentially interrupt.”

Officers have also been proactive in enforcing traffic and penal codes, which have led to firearm-related arrests. And officers have recovered weapons by exercising warrantless search clauses against individuals on probation or parole. Bayview station has partnered with other City offices and community organizations to identify and refer at-risk 18 to 24-year-olds to jobs and job-readiness training.

In 2004, the Bayview District experienced 29 homicides. That fell to 25 in 2005. In 2010 and 2011, the district experienced 14 and 11 homicides respectively. Last year was a bit of an aberration, with the summer being particularly violent, O'Sullivan said.

O'Sullivan said that reducing violence, specifically gun violence, is the number one priority of Bayview Station officers. “A good amount of our focus is on preventing gun violence through addressing issues that are gang-related,” he said. According to O’Sullivan, gangs drive a lot of the violence, with between eight and ten gangs operating in the district. A police map of gang locations shows two gangs operating near Potrero Hill, the Zoo Block and the 25th Street gang. The others are operating within or closer to Bayview-Hunters Point.

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