The stabbing death of CashApp founder Bob Lee has prompted comments perpetuating the notion that San Francisco is dangerous and crime-riddled, but data shows violent crime – especially homicides – are well below that of many other cities of a similar size.
George Tita, a criminal justice professor at the University of California, Irvine, believes the perception has more to do with the profile of those involved in certain crimes than the actual data.
“When a very high profile tech person is murdered, it is just going to get more publicity than if it was an impoverished person in a neighborhood of color,” Tita said. “It’s just low-hanging fruit. Nobody wants to look at actual statistics. Most of the states and counties with the highest level of crime statistics are in red states versus blue states.”
Lee died after a stabbing attack in the Rincon Hill area of the city. Police officers responded to the report of a stabbing early Tuesday morning, according to a statement from the San Francisco Police Department. They found “a 43-year-old adult male victim suffering from apparent stab wounds.”
“Officers rendered aid and summoned medics to the scene,” the police statement said. “The victim was transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. Despite efforts by first responders and medical personnel, the victim succumbed to his injuries.”
San Francisco recorded 56 homicides each in 2022 and 2021, up over 36% from 2019, when there were 41 homicides, according to police department data. Despite the increase, the number of homicides in San Francisco is well below that of other cities of a similar size, data from the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association shows.
Indianapolis, for example, witnessed 271 homicides in 2021 and 226 in 2022. Jacksonville, Florida, meanwhile, saw 129 homicides in 2021 and 154 in 2022, while 204 homicides took place in Columbus, Ohio, in 2021 and 140 in 2022.
Violent crimes in San Francisco, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, reached a high in 2013 with 7,164 violent crimes, according to California Department of Justice data. But they have tapered off significantly in the past couple of years. San Francisco now falls in the lower middle of the pack when compared with several cities of a similar population, according to data from the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association.
Property crimes in San Francisco, however, tell a different story, as seen in several attention-grabbing videos. Though still well below levels seen in 2017, the city saw a 23% increase in property crimes between 2020 and 2022, with spikes in burglary and larceny theft headlining the surge, according to San Francisco PD data.
“People who believe that housing is bad, that crime is always up, they believe that based on their world view and dogma and not on facts,” Tita said. “All we can do is provide unbiased, carefully-constructed data. At the end of the day, there are some people who don’t care about the facts.”
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott indicated homicides had been on decline before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but climbed during the subsequent months, which was a nationwide trend, CNN affiliate KPIX reported.
“When you (look) at San Francisco’s violent crime rate compared to other cities per 100,000 (in population), we’re towards the bottom for major cities,” Scott told KPIX. “That never gets talked about.
“We have our issues with our city,” he continued. “We have some things we definitely have to continue to work on. We have these images that go viral and are posted all over the world dealing with drug use and homelessness. Those are real issues in our city, and we’re addressing that too. But violent crime? We’re not that city.”
CNN’s Emma Tucker and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.