CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, November 10, 2008

S.F. killings seen as centering on gangs, turf

San Francisco's 98 homicides last year, the highest number in 12 years, were anything but random. According to a new study, the violence was concentrated - routinely involving the same gangs and featuring suspects and victims with long rap sheets.

Nearly three-fourths of the 38 suspects arrested so far in the killings had criminal records, according to the study by the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice, a research and policy group at the UC Berkeley School of Law. The average suspect had 12 previous arrests.

Homicide victims typically had even longer records, the study found. More than three-fourths had been booked for a felony or misdemeanor at some point, and victims who had records averaged 13 arrests.

Police concluded that almost half the slayings in 2007 were carried out for the benefit of one of the city's 53 identified gangs, the study said.

Some of the findings of the study by researchers Anthony Braga, David Onek and Sarah Lawrence were presented at a recent anti-crime summit at the University of San Francisco. Police worked closely with the authors and intend to use the study to guide policy, but it was not paid for by the city.

"Today's shooter is tomorrow's victim," said Onek, the study group's executive director and a member of the San Francisco Police Commission. "A small number of individuals in a small number of places are responsible for a disproportionate share of the violence. If you can make a difference with that group, you can make a significant impact on violence in San Francisco."

Deputy Police Chief David Shinn, who heads the Police Department's investigations bureau, said the concentrated nature of the violence prompted the department nine months ago to crack down on drugs and gangs in five neighborhoods: the Mission, Tenderloin, Western Addition, Bayview and Visitacion Valley.

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