AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Last Wednesday, a local California news station inadvertently revealed what historians might one day consider to be the nadir of the crime wave currently gripping liberal cities throughout the United States. According to ABC7 News, car break-ins across San Francisco have become so ubiquitous that residents are “emptying everything of value from their vehicle, unlocking their doors, and leaving the trunk open while they go about their business.” Smashed windows are often the most expensive items to replace following vehicle break-ins, and residents are hoping that leaving cars wide open with no valuables inside will deter thieves from breaking them.
The new tactic, a clear sign of desperation from the city’s law-abiding residents, further revealed just how pervasive the crime problem has become in a city that has for decades been associated with far-left criminal justice policies. However, after city leaders pledged to “re-invest” $120 million from the police budget earlier this year (in other words, defunding the department), Mayor London Breed is now launching an emergency police intervention to finally confront the crime wave.
In addition to the rash of car robberies sweeping the city, San Francisco has also seen a dramatic uptick in retail thefts in recent months. Viral videos have shown organized groups of thieves ransacking high-end stores like Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent, something that California Retailers Association president Rachel Michelin said was “traumatizing” employees and shoppers. Robberies have been on a steady rise since 2014, when the city passed a law that categorized any theft of merchandise worth less than $950 as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Likely in response to outrage from scared residents and store owners, Mayor Breed announced four proposals last week specifically to combat the high crime rate across the city. She also called for the “reign of criminals who are destroying our city… to come to an end.” Moreover, Breed said that the city must “be more aggressive with law enforcement… and less tolerant of all the bull**** that has destroyed our city.”
This tough-on-crime language from a well-known progressive mayor who has in the past expressed support for the “Defund the Police” movement caught many by surprise. However, Breed’s proposals seem to offer some hope for residents desperate for any action from the city to make their neighborhoods safer.
The first proposal is a crackdown on crime in Tenderloin, a section of San Francisco that is facing an untenable surge in illegal drug use, gun violence, and fentanyl overdoses.
The second is a move by law enforcement to curb the unlawful street sales of stolen goods. Many of the robbers besieging California have become so brazen that they will sell stolen merchandise on the street within walking distance of the stores they robbed.
The third measure will permit law enforcement to use security cameras in real-time. Due to a 2019 ordinance, police are prohibited from accessing security camera feeds during active crimes. This measure amends the law and permits police to stop crime as it is in progress.
Breed’s fourth proposal calls for using emergency funds to expand the police budget and hire additional officers and has drawn the most attention from both “Defund the Police” advocates and proponents of more strict crime policies. In essence, the move amounts to an admission of defeat on the efficacy of defunding police departments. After re-allocating much of the police budget earlier this year, Breed is now re-funding the department – with interest.
Progressives have predictably pushed back on Breed’s plan, insisting that less policing will somehow lead to a reduction in crime. However, with residents unable to even leave their cars parked on the street in broad daylight without fear of a break-in, Breed has few alternatives. In response to criticism, Breed has stated, “We are a city that prides ourselves on second chances and rehabilitation. But we’re not a city where anything goes. Our compassion should not be mistaken for weakness or indifference.” While Defund the Police ideology continues to persist in liberal pockets throughout the country, it appears it is officially in full retreat in San Francisco.
Breed’s weariness with far-left criminal justice policies may be spreading to other city officials as well. District Attorney Chesa Boudin, another early Defund the Police proponent, is already facing a tough recall election. In a similar pivot, after promising not to prosecute “victimless crimes,” including prostitution, drug dealing, and shoplifting, he announced felony charges for nine suspects arrested after a mass retail theft in Union Square. He further stated: “Let me be clear. I am doing everything in my power to keep San Francisco safe and to make sure that people who come to our city to commit crimes are held accountable.”
Tragically, this supposed about-face has come too little too late for many San Francisco residents who have lost their businesses, their property, and in some cases, their lives in the liberal push to “remake” the criminal justice system. While any positive change is welcome, voters are likely to remain skeptical until concrete action follows the new tough-on-crime rhetoric. Even then, they will not easily forget how far-left policies have decimated a once vibrant city.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.