San Francisco is the inclusive city. San Franciscans love everybody, except conservative and religious people. San Franciscans have always been in the vanguard of progressive thinking. That’s why San Francisco is surprised to find itself grappling with a big statistical problem: It’s arresting African-Americans at a rate disproportionate to any other city in California:
San Francisco police arrest African Americans for serious crime at a much higher rate than officers in California’s other biggest cities.
Black people in San Francisco are arrested for felonies at nearly twice the rate they are in Sacramento. They are arrested at twice the rate of black people in Fresno, three times the rate in San Jose, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego, and four times the rate in Oakland.
The disparity between San Francisco’s black felony arrest rates and the seven other largest cities’ — measured by the number of African Americans arrested per 1,000 black residents — is so large that many experts and civic leaders who reviewed the numbers said they are “disturbing” and require an investigation.
The female, Chinese Chief of Police Heather Fong, offers one rational explanation for the situation:
While Fong said the arrest numbers merit review, she suggested that the disparity exists in part because the perception that sometimes San Francisco is “soft on crime” may draw criminals from out of the city who feel they can come here and “not be held accountable.”
Fong’s staff said they hand-counted arrests made by the Tenderloin Task Force last year and found that more than 60 percent of the African Americans arrested were listed on booking cards as “no local” — a term often applied to transients — or gave addresses outside San Francisco. The department does not have similar data for other districts besides the Tenderloin, which police looked at because they believe many nonresidents are involved in drug dealing and other crimes there.
San Francisco officers arrest criminal suspects as they find them, not based on the color of their skin, Fong said.
“I don’t think just by looking at the numbers, you can prove or disprove that there is any targeting,” she said, adding that factors such as repeat offenders and out-of-town criminals influence the numbers.
Police offers also suspect “immigrant” criminals:
San Francisco police cited several factors they say contribute to African Americans accounting for about half of all felony arrests in the city, where they are less than 8 percent of the population. In 2005, 1 out of 3 arrests of black people involved narcotics.
Officers interviewed by The Chronicle said most of the dealers coming from out of town by BART or car to sell drugs — primarily crack cocaine and sometimes methamphetamine — are African Americans. Moreover, said Capt. Timothy Hettrich, head of the narcotics division, black drug dealers often sell out in the open on street corners, thus increasing their chances for arrest.
Fong also has said that some of the offenders are arrested time and again, thereby increasing the black arrest numbers.
Also, she said, the department has had to devote a lot of resources to combatting gangs of youths responsible for many of the city’s black-on-black homicides. William Whitfield, an African American officer who has worked in the department for more than a decade, said factors such as out-of-town criminals do affect arrests.
You can read the rest of this very long article here.
I’ll toss in my own ideas here, based on knowing the City and knowing the geography.
Theory number one is to agree with the police, but to expand upon it. Richmond, California, is eighteen miles from San Francisco, and connected by an easy BART train ride. Richmond is a majority back city. It’s also a very scary place. Several years ago, when I had to make a court appearance there, the (black) sheriff at the courthouse insisted on walking me the one block to my car because he said it wasn’t a safe neighborhood for someone like me (white, female). He was right then, and he’s right now — Richmond is considered the most dangerous city in California. It also exports its crime. I too live near Richmond, and to the extent there’s any larceny in my community, I have it on good authority (very good) that the likelihood is that a Richmond resident came to visit.
San Francisco is also twelve miles from Oakland. Oakland is a much more complex city than Richmond. It’s huge and its demographics range from black to white, and from exceedingly wealthy to appallingly poor. Nevertheless, it’s also got one of the most significant black slums in California and blacks comprise the majority of the population. The African American community grew during World War II, when Oakland was a major industrial port. (Indeed, some of you may be familiar with the famous Port Chicago explosion, which disproportionately affected black Oakland men working the ports during World War II.) Oakland has long struggled with a crime problem, and is considered the 8th most dangerous city in California. Oakland, too, is an easy BART ride away from the City.
San Francisco itself has very different demographics. It’s a highly Asian, highly Caucasian, highly gay, highly educated city, with the fewest children of any city in America (which also means a low concentration of teenagers). This is not the type of population that commits violent crimes. It is the type of population that uses drugs (Caucasians, gays, and yuppies), and that is a sitting duck for crime (no weapons, military kicked out, progressive politics, etc.). In addition, San Francisco’s African-American community, though small, is a horrible concentration of generations of poverty, welfare and crime. The old slums (Bayview/Hunter’s Point and the Western Addition), though smaller than, say, Watts or Compton, are some of the scariest, most demoralizing neighborhoods you’ll ever see. Well-intentioned people keep trying gentrification, and keep being driven out. (One of the gentrifiers I knew had rocks thrown at him every time he left his house).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, if you have cities such as Oakland and Richmond in close proximity to a city like San Francisco, San Francisco is going to be an irresistible magnet for criminal entrepreneurs. In other words, my belief, knowing the area is that the police in the newspaper report are almost certainly correct: there are more black arrests in San Francisco because there are more black criminals preying on San Franciscans.