In testy exchange, Mayor London Breed defends San Francisco as safe city

In a testy exchange with KTVU on Wednesday, Mayor London Breed defended San Francisco as safe despite the recent stabbing death of tech executive and the perception that The City is overly progressive and full of lawless behavior. 

Breed also called some of the reporting surrounding this month's death of Cash App founder Bob Lee "inaccurate," but she refused to give details.

Here is the Q&A between Breed and KTVU anchor Gasia Mikaelian. The questions have been slightly edited for clarity. 

Gasia: What's your take on what's happening in your city? 

Mayor: Well, I think that oftentimes because of social media, because of cameras and how people are able to publicize things that are happening in a moment, it is taken completely out of context in terms of highlighting the entire city as being unsafe. That's not entirely true. 

And when you look at statistics, you see that, for example, with homicide rates in San Francisco, the police department here has an 85% clearance rate, whereas in other places around the country, the national average is 60%. 

I understand that if it happens to you or your loved one, it does not matter. And our goal with making sure we have police officers, ambassadors, security cameras and a number of other things, especially in places where we have high foot traffic, that we're doing everything we can to ensure safety of the public. 

Gasia: What we know about the Bob Lee case for many people is horrific. He was stabbed to death. He pleaded for help, made 911 call that is yet to be released. You said yesterday the fact of many of these cases as they come out, people are going to be surprised. What do you mean by that being surprised?  

Mayor: Well, just to be clear, I don't want to do anything to compromise this investigation. And also, even some of the things that you just said aren't entirely accurate. I think that's the problem with speculation when you talk about someone.  

Gasia: What would you like to clarify?

Mayor: I want to be clear that I am not going to talk specifically about this case and the specifics of the case until we are able to release the facts to the public. But my point is that there's a lot of speculation and there's inaccurate information that's being published out there. So until our police department and our district attorney can provide the public with the facts, it is best that we are very careful about that, because if it were your loved one, you'd want justice brought against the perpetrator or the perpetrators of that crime.  

Gasia: So if it's true that San Francisco does have a perception problem, what are you doing to address that?  

Mayor: Well, let me tell you, this past weekend, what's amazing about this city, it was so packed, the Cherry Blossom Festival was going on and you couldn't even hardly move around in Japantown. The Drag March was happening, Easter egg extravaganza, all kinds of events. This city was packed, downtown was packed. 

And so when I was looking and I went to a lot of these places just to see what was going on in these various neighborhoods, we didn't see any incidents. We didn't hear any reports. 

And at the end of the day, San Franciscans and visitors and people who come here are going to continue to love and enjoy this city. 

Gasia: I'll speak to KTVU. We cover those events that you just listed, the Cherry Blossom Festival. How can you understand how the single killing of a person on the street in the middle of what should be a safe neighborhood. Do you understand how that really does strike to the heart of not just people who live in the city, but people who think, 'Boy, I used to love going to San Francisco for a day out or to see a show, but I don't want to do that now.' " 

Mayor: San Francisco is a major city and things are going to happen in any major city like they do all over the country. And our goal is to do everything we can to prevent things from happening. And that's just the best that we can do, because we know that there's a perception problem. 

We know that the Internet and social media is here to stay. It's not going anywhere. And people are going to jump to conclusions and speculate all they want. But we're going to continue to be responsible. 

We're going to continue to host events and to do everything we can to make San Francisco safe. I've been getting so many incredible feedback letters, including one from JPMorgan, Morgan Chase, which just hosted a huge convention in San Francisco and sends a letter talking about how wonderful Union Square was and how the people who participated in this convention felt safe and felt that San Francisco kept their word and improve conditions. 

And they're coming back next year. 

So we have to keep working at this. It's something we're going to have to continue to work on every single day.  

Gasia:  I feel like you and I have been talking for at least two years about, you know, revitalizing, bringing people back to the downtown core and other parts of the city. Public safety has to be part of that equation. You mentioned yesterday you're interested in getting some support from the state and federal government. What might that look like? 

Mayor: Well, we are having discussions now with federal and state government. And my hope is that when we get something concrete, we're able to roll it out. But we're going to need their help. We're going to need to make sure, for example, you know, you heard about the two fentanyl dealers who went through a trial and they were not convicted. And that is a real problem, especially when we bring something to trial and we have the evidence. 

And our goal is to make sure that the federal government understands what we're going through, And as soon as we have those things narrowed down, we will make that information known to the public. 

Gasia: How do you answer the critics who say the state that San Francisco is turning to state and federal authorities because, in some part, it's the doing of its own politicians and city leaders. Essentially, they're saying the progressive policies are what got us here. Now we're turning to others for help. 

Mayor: You know, it's sad because I think it's just San Francisco has been a target for so long and used as an example because we're innovative, we creative, we come up with out-of-the-box ideas and a number of other things to push forward change in our communities. And I think that sadly, you know, with the previous president, it was a target. 

I mean, it just really is unfortunate that people are using a social media platform to redirect towards San Francisco. 

But I do understand that there are people who have legitimate concerns and we are working on those every single day. 

Some of our policies have been problematic and we will do what we can to roll those back. But in the meantime, we've got to keep moving forward. It's going to take us some time to get to a better place where public safety. But we are not letting up.