SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The finger pointing has begun in San Francisco, a day after new crimes statistics show a spike in both homicides and auto thefts. The so-called war of words is between the SF Police Officer’s Union (SFPOA) and the city’s District Attorney George Gascon.
The police union has been running radio ads this week attacking Gascon and blaming him for the spike in property crimes. Property crimes went up 17 percent in 2015, largely in part due to a jump in auto thefts.
The radio ad features police officer’s union President Martin Halloran’s voice saying, “Since George Gascon became District Attorney, violent crime in the city has risen nearly 25 percent.”
It continues: “Gascon, who is the co-author of the Prop. 47 law is passing out get out of jail free cards for drug offenses and for property crimes under $950. That’s right. If you leave your purse in your car and it ends up in the hands of a criminal, under Gascon’s law, it’s just a slap on the wrist with a ticket issued.”
It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between SFPD and Gascon, himself the city’s former chief of police. Gascon has campaigned for police reform and has called for changes to use of force policies in light of some high-profile officer involved shootings including, Mario Woods and Alex Nieto, which hasn’t exactly sat well with the department’s rank and file.
Officers are also upset with the aforementioned Prop. 47, which reduced many property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
Police have blamed Prop. 47 for the increase of auto burglaries in the city, which has quadrupled since 2012. In 2015 there were nearly 26,000 San Francisco auto burglaries.
“It’s very difficult to catch these individual in the act and then of course once we catch the individuals in the act, then there’s the issue of the prosecution, the case going to the district attorney’s office and seeing whether or not they’re going to prosecute the person,” said SFPD Capt. John Sanford.
“It’s beyond ridiculous,” said Max Szabo, a spokesman for Gascon. “The fact of the matter is this is an organization that has zero credibility. They’ve completely demonstrated that they’re willing to say anything in order to evade scrutiny and intimidate the public and distract people, frankly from the problems that the department is having.
He addeed that blaming Gascon over Prop. 47 was “throwing stones” for what is a statewide initiative.
“When our arrest rate is as poor as it is, it isn’t going to make the problem go away. Making arrests in auto burglaries is going to make the problem go away.”
The D.A.’s office said they took action on 80 percent of the cases they were given, but that’s only 1.5 percent of all the car burglaries that occurred.
“This is becoming a political football. It’s not about making sure people are safe or that your car’s not getting broken into. This is about pointing fingers,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
KTVU spoke to William Villanueva outside the Hall of Justice. He said the criminal justice system didn’t go easy on him.
“I did 32 months for petty theft for something less than $100, so I did 32 months for that,” Villanueva said.
An advisor for the SFPOA spoke with KTVU over the phone. He said he helped bring Gascon over to San Francisco as police chief, but he says he now has a serious case of buyer’s remorse.
The union would not say how much they spent for the radio ad.