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June 3, 2022

"'Tough Talking' Sacramento District Attorney Presides Over Homicide And Violence Surge While 'Liberal' San Francisco Enjoys Major Decreases"

Image-fullNext week brings a high-profile recall vote on San Francisco's District Attorney Chesa Boudin, an election that many have come to view as a referendum on the progressive prosecutor movement. Because I consider all "movements" in the criminal justice reform space to be dynamic and erratic, I rarely think any one local vote itself reshapes the reform landscape.  But I still understand why this vote is getting considerable attention, and lots of politicians and pundits will surely see lots of lessons from the outcome of this interesting bit of local criminal justice democracy.  

Against that backdrop comes this notable new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.  Here is the report's introduction:

San Francisco has seen major decreases in crime amid progressive reforms, while nearby Sacramento is seeing a homicide and violence surge under the leadership of a conservative prosecutor whose policies feature high rates of incarceration.  Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has positioned herself as the state’s leading “tough-on-crime” candidate as she criticizes progressive San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin and seeks to unseat California’s reform-minded Attorney General Rob Bonta (Hooks, 2021; Schubert, 2022).  Yet DA Schubert’s tenure has coincided with increased homicide and violent crime, lesser declines in property crime, and above average rates of homicide and violent crime for urban Sacramento than in San Francisco.  Schubert’s “tough on crime” rhetoric and policies have not delivered lower or falling crime rates.

This analysis compares crime trends during Schubert’s conservative prosecutorial term in office (2015- present) with those of San Francisco’s progressive prosecutors (George Gascón and Chesa Boudin) during a key period in California’s criminal justice reform era.  If talking “tough on crime” and incarcerating more people actually reduced crime, we would expect to see a much bigger decline in crime and a lower crime rate in Sacramento than in San Francisco.  In fact, the opposite is the case. San Francisco has sustained larger crime declines and achieved lower rates of violent crime than the City of Sacramento since 2014.

The figure reprinted here is only one of a number of graphics from the report seeking to provide a broad view of crime rates and trends in two nearby (but very different) California cities. According to the report, the data show that "violent crime rates have risen an average of 9% in Sacramento while falling an average of 29% in San Francisco from 2014-2021, a period that spans the tenures of DA Schubert and San Francisco's progressive DA’s."  Here are some more data points from the report as highlighted on this CJCJ webpage:

June 3, 2022 at 08:15 AM | Permalink

Comments

So what this article is saying is that because Boudin refused to bring charges on a huge number of crimes, that crime has gone down? And furthermore, San Francisco has saved itself and the state some money--solely because Boudin stopped prosecuting thugs? And that makes SF better than Sacramento?

So the costs of violent crime are hidden because the victims are the ones that pay (with lives, property, etc.) so that Boudin and the writer or this piece can claim that SF has reduced its crime, when all that's been reduced is the prosecution of crimes.

Why isn't this fact the lede of this article? Because the title now is misleading in the extreme.

Posted by: restless94110 | Jun 3, 2022 9:13:56 AM

restless94110 --

Correct. This "report," which simply reeks of partisanship, reaches its conclusions by sleight-of-hand, rather than by taking an honest look at facts on the ground. (For example, when "progressive" SF police routinely take a pass on making arrests, sure, you're going to get less REPORTED crime. But that doesn't mean less crime).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 3, 2022 9:58:23 AM

Bill & Restless,
I'd be with you if this report was about property crime alone: the REPORTED crime problem you emphasize would be the whole story. But it also includes violent crimes, i.e. crimes that are charged in SF.

Posted by: John | Jun 3, 2022 4:35:49 PM

Ah yes, San Francisco, that urban hellhole, or should I say sh_thole (this is a family blog, isn't it?) that people are desperate to escape from. That's why it's practically deserted and the real estate is going for a song. In contrast, everyone, their moms, and their dogs, are beating the door down so they can take even the smallest part in the .... Sacramento Miracle. Did I get that right?

Posted by: kotodama | Jun 3, 2022 10:00:00 PM

kotodama --

You got it more right than you think. In 2014, the low year for crime, San Francisco Bay Area home prices increased by 20%. Since then the rate of increase has fallen off sharply (averaging a little more than 6% over the next five years, and only 1% for the last year for which data are available). It would appear that quite a few people are having second thoughts who were more eager when crime was lower.

https://www.bayareamarketreports.com/trend/3-recessions-2-bubbles-and-a-baby

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 4, 2022 10:43:04 AM

Bill, the article you link appears to have market data only through 2019, and DA Boudin did not become DA until 2020. That fact aside, the article pretty robustly suggests that home prices have very little to do with crime rates, since reported SF crime dropped a lot from 2008 to 2011, but so did home prices. But wait... I need to remember your first comment in this thread, which suggests that we should only look on data on REPORTED crime when they support your arguments, not when they undercut your claims. Got it, your view on data seems a lot like your views on textualism and originalism: very important stuff, unless and until they do not support your contentions, in which case they no longer matter.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 4, 2022 11:36:43 AM

Doug --

"Bill, the article you link appears to have market data only through 2019, and DA Boudin did not become DA until 2020."

I wasn't talking specifically about Boudin. I was addressing kotodama's argument that people are breading down the door to move to SF. They might be, since it's a uniquely beautiful city, but they do so less as crime rises, hence the falloff in the rate of real estate price increases.

"That fact aside, the article pretty robustly suggests that home prices have very little to do with crime rates, since reported SF crime dropped a lot from 2008 to 2011, but so did home prices."

A young guy like you should be able to remember that the Great Recession, with its NATIONWIDE massive cratering of home prices, was 2008-2011.

P.S. Crime rates do affect home prices, as I'm sure you know, but they are far from the only thing that does. Schools, unemployment rate, commute times, interest rates, weather and lots more affect them. Did I suggest otherwise? Where was that?

"Got it, your view on data seems a lot like your views on textualism and originalism: very important stuff, unless and until they do not support your contentions, in which case they no longer matter."

Gads, did I join your club while I wasn't looking? For decades, liberals have been ginning up "rights" through the dippsy-doodle of substantive due process (an oxymoron by its own terms) -- until the discussion turns to qualified immunity, in which context there is no end of liberal wailing that HEY IT'S NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION!!!

P.S. Still, being a sporting man, would you like to make a bet on whether Chesa Boudin, with his criminals-are-cool progressive policies, is retained or booted by perhaps the most liberal set of voters in the country? How 'bout $100? That's chickenfeed to a high-flying chaired professor.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 4, 2022 12:50:50 PM

So, Bill, it seems you concede you are inconsistent in your approach to the Constitution, but defend such inconsistency by claiming others are, too. Got it.

As for Boudin, the polls suggest he is in trouble, and I find betting cash on political outcomes a bit unseemly. But I would wager a meal that California, which has a much lower prison population rate/total than Texas, will not have a much higher violent crime rate than Texas in 2022 no matter the outcome of the recall.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 5, 2022 11:12:55 AM

Hi Bill - Mr. Boudin's goals of reducing crime while reducing incarceration are noble (at least from my perspective) and if a jurisdiction can reduce crime while reducing incarceration, that should be encouraged. Incarceration is very costly (and not just in financial terms but in potential damaged by imprisonment) and "tough-talking" DA's are also experiencing increases in crime rates - we should not blame Mr. Boudin for trying to reduce incarceration and at least try to impact the lives of the defendants in a positive way. Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Jun 5, 2022 11:45:32 AM

Doug --

One thing you're utterly reliable at doing is recasting what I say to be what you WANT for me to have said, and then exclaim, "Got it."

Far out!!

What I actually said was, "Gads, did I join your club while I wasn't looking? For decades, liberals have been ginning up "rights" through the dippsy-doodle of substantive due process (an oxymoron by its own terms) -- until the discussion turns to qualified immunity, in which context there is no end of liberal wailing that HEY IT'S NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION!!!"

You avoid saying if you disagree with that. Do you?

P.S. I have criticized substantive due process every single time I'm mentioned it.

"I would wager a meal that California, which has a much lower prison population rate/total than Texas, will not have a much higher violent crime rate than Texas in 2022 no matter the outcome of the recall."

Oh man, is the word "much" carrying a lot of water uphill in that sentence! Still, I would be happy to wager a meal on the outcome of the UNC v. Ohio State basketball game.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 5, 2022 12:46:53 PM

Pretty sure, Bill, I have said repeatedly that the Ninth Amendment serves as a much clearer textualist and originalist foundation for rights than "substantive" due process. Do we agree on that? We can debate what unenumerated rights should fairly be grounded in the Ninth Amendment, but my read of the text and original meaning of the Constitution is that this is where one should focus energies for stuff like the right to get married and the right to travel and the right to educate one's children and the right to refuse medical treatment. Are these the kind of "ginned up" right you have in mind?

You are on for a meal on the Dec 2022 UNC/OSU game, though we are in a big transition year.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 5, 2022 2:49:49 PM

"Pretty sure, Bill, I have said repeatedly that the Ninth Amendment serves as a much clearer textualist and originalist foundation for rights than "substantive" due process. Do we agree on that?"

We do. How good a foundation it serves is a separate question, though.

It just seems to me that, if unenumerated rights are so clearly rooted in the history and traditions of the country, it should be easy to adopt them in legislation. And if they can't get adopted in legislation, one must wonder how "clearly rooted" they actually are. I think all the rights you mention would get enacted -- or if not enacted whole cloth, perhaps the majority wants some qualifications. That in my view is the way it should work.

Carolina is also in a transition year -- transitioning from national runner-up to national champion. Still, I want to be equitable about this. If you win, we go to Arby's. If I win, we go to the Ritz.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 5, 2022 7:59:32 PM

Happy to buy you two Ritz (crackers) if I lose…

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 5, 2022 10:43:03 PM

I can go for that deal but only if your offspring show up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 6, 2022 7:23:08 AM

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