San Francisco's famed tolerance is weakened by brazen crimes

SAN FRANCISCO (AP), -- Caitlin Foster fell for San Francisco's beauty and people 12 years ago.

12 December 2021 Sunday 11:18
3632 Reads
San Francisco's famed tolerance is weakened by brazen crimes

After repeatedly clearing out drug paraphernalia, used needles and human feces from the bar she runs, and many encounters with armed men in crisis, Foster's love for the city has waned.

Foster, who runs Noir Lounge in Hayes Valley, said that it was a goal for him to live there.

An increasing number of crime stories, including mobs smashing windows and taking luxury purses from the Union Square shopping district, and shootings at daytime in the touristy Haight-Ashbury have only increased a general sense of vulnerability. Residents awake to the news about attacks on Asian American seniors and burglarized restaurants.

San Franciscans are proud of their liberal political bent. They approve tax measures that benefit schools and the homeless. They understand that living in urban paradises means having to deal with trashy streets, tent encampments, and petty criminality.

Foster moved to Seattle for more sun, but the frustration of residents is now growing. The city known for its tolerance is showing signs of decline.

Parts of San Francisco were wiped out by the pandemic, which highlighted its weaknesses: dog and human feces found on sidewalks, vehicle and home break-ins and overflowing trash cans. Officials also took a laissez faire approach to drug dealing. Parents were devastated as the public schools closed for much of the last year while nearby districts opened their doors to welcome children back.

Residents and visitors alike race past scenes of lawlessness, poverty, and inhumanity. Drug dealers are found just steps away from Symphony Hall and Opera House. They carry transparent bags filled with crystal-like stones or stand in front of the main branch of the public library, flaunting wads and selling heroin and methamphetamine.

Patrick Wolff (53), a former professional chess player from Boston who has been living in San Francisco since 2005, said that there is a general sense that things are not going right in San Francisco.

San Franciscans will vote on June 1 whether to recall District attorney Chesa Boudin. He was a former public defense officer elected in 2019. Critics say that he is too soft on crime. His supporters claim there is no crime rise and that corporate wage theft does not pose a greater problem than cases such as that of a San Francisco woman who stole more than $40,000 worth goods from Target in 120 visits. After she failed to appear to receive her court-ordered ankle watch, she was released by a judge. She was then arrested on suspicion of shoplifting.

"Where is the progress?" "If you claim you are progressive, let's get homeless people off the streets and get them mental health care," Brian Cassanego, who is a San Francisco native, said. Foster works in the lounge. Foster moved to the wine country five months back after becoming fed up with seeing drug dealers selling drugs in impunity and worried about his wife's safety.

Cassanego was walking his dogs the day before he moved and noticed a man "looking like a zombie" with his pants down to the knees and bleeding from the place where a needle was attached to his hip. In shock, a woman stood nearby and cried out.

"I went upstairs and told my wife that we were leaving. He said, "This city is finished!"

The number of reports about larceny theft, which is shoplifting from an individual or business, has increased nearly 17% to 28,000 over the same period last year. They are still lower than the more that 40,000 cases of larceny theft reported in 2019. The majority of calls to 311, which is the city's services phone, are for cleaning dirty streets and sidewalks.

However, overall crime has been declining for many years. This year has seen more than 45,000 reported incidents, which is an increase from last year when most people were kept indoors. However, this number is still below the roughly 60,000 complaints that were filed in previous years.

Conservative media outlets have used San Francisco's well-publicized problems as fuel. Trump's former president issued a statement stating that the National Guard should be sent in San Francisco to stop smash-and-grab robberies.

Elected officials claim they are dealing with deep societal problems that are common in any large U.S. town.

An estimated 8,000 homeless San Francisco residents are suffering from severe mental illness or chronic addiction. Some homeless people are emo and rant on the streets. Last year, 712 people were killed by drug overdoses compared to 257 who died from COVID-19.

LeAnn Corpus is an administrative assistant who loves figure skating but avoids the downtown rinks. She also won't take her son, aged 8, there after dark due to open drug use. However, her Portola neighborhood is still impacted by the city's urban ills.

The homeless man set up a tent using a bicycle and a sheet to shelter himself, then he relieved himself on the sidewalk. After two hours, she called the police. However, at her aunt's house, a homeless man remained in the backyard for six more months despite repeated attempts to have authorities remove him.

Corpus, a third generation native of the city, said that "this city just doesn’t feel like it anymore."

Residents of San Francisco who don't like government surveillance have put up security cameras and deadbolts in order to stop break-ins. They have also started looking suspiciously at outsiders.

Joya Pramanik's husband saw someone in a ski mask while walking along their quiet street on a warm evening. She was worried that the masked man would do harm, and she regrets it. San Francisco is a city where everyone is welcome.

Pramanik is a project manager, who immigrated from India as a teenager to the U.S. She cheered Trump's unsuccessful reelection bid, but she says she only realized too late that Democratic activists had taken over her city.

She said, "If I say that I want laws enforced," she was racist. "I'm like, "No, I'm no racist." There is a reason why I live in San Francisco.

Wolff, a retired chess player helped to launch a new political group last year that aims at electing local officials who are focused on solving urgent problems. He said that although the family for San Francisco will vote Democrats, it is not affiliated with the powerful Democratic Party establishment.

Wolff hopes to change the civic mindset by requiring citizens not to expect much beyond basic public services.

According to Jennifer Laska, the president of the neighborhood association, the residents of hip Hayes Valley were fed up with garbage littering the streets and the city's inaction. They decided to rent trash cans from a private firm. The association was able to convince the city to purchase and install new garbage cans that would keep pilferers away and trash in place after the lease expired.

It was almost four months ago.

Laska stated that "we're still struggling just getting the trash cans actually bought."

Many residents of Marina, a wealthy area with breathtaking views of the bay, Golden Gate Bridge and the bay, have recently hired private security to protect their homes from auto thefts.

Lloyd Silverstein, a native San Francisco resident and president of Hayes Valley Merchants Association said that businesses are looking into hiring security guards or installing high-definition cameras. He says he doesn't believe any city official is responsible for the current situation and is optimistic that the city will rebound.

"We've been through many earthquakes, depressions, and lots of other stuff but we have a very good bounce-back attitude. He said that although we have some issues, we will fix them." It may take some time.

Keywords:
San Francisco
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