San Francisco, Oakland combat uptick in crime amid pandemic

The mayors of San Francisco and Oakland spoke out Tuesday against a recent spree of violence that includes high-profile killings and other crimes amid the pandemic.

"Some really horrible events have occurred, we've seen them on video," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Surveillance video showing the deadly attack on 84-year-old Thai immigrant Vicha Ratanapakdee is now seared in the public's mind. It came as 76-year-old private investigator Jack Palladino died after a struggle over his camera in an unrelated incident.

Referring to Ratanapakdee's killing, Breed said, "It was heartbreaking. And the fact that another human being would do that to an elderly senior in our community, is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen."

Authorities believe the uptick in crime is linked to short fuses and feelings of desperation because of the pandemic. But they say anyone who thinks San Francisco is soft on crime is wrong.

"Let's dispel the myth right now that there are no consequences for committing crimes in San Francisco," Breed said.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott agreed, saying, "This kind of horrific violence has no place in our city. We stand united to work to ensure that justice is done."

District Attorney Chesa Boudin said Antoine Watson has been charged with murder and elder abuse. Lawrence Thomas and Tyjone Flournoy face murder charges in Palladino's killing, the prosecutor said.

"Despite these recent terrible crimes, San Francisco is and will continue to be a safe city," Boudin said.

Authorities say Watson was identified in Ratanapakdee's killing with the help of body-camera footage from earlier that morning when officers cited him for a crash.

Across the Bay in Oakland, police are investigating 15 homicides in January alone, as well as an armed robbery in the city's Eastlake neighborhood. Two men with guns confronted a man at a home near East 10th Street and 10th Avenue.

"This is everyone's worst nightmare," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. "The trauma from that incident will last for the rest of that man's life." Schaaf said the coronavirus has led to a boost in crime.

"This trend is something that most major cities across the country have seen, and we do believe it's tied to the pandemic," Schaaf said.
Also troubling, the mayor said is a rise in juvenile crime.

"We are also seeing a very disturbing increase in youth participating in criminal activity, and that is why I am so clear that we have got to get our kids back to learning," Schaaf said.