Attack Ads Call San Francisco State's Crime Mecca

Saturday, May 29, 2010  |  Updated 1:45 PM PDT
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Josh Keppel

The party continued outside, where classic San Francisco parking challenges ensued. Looks like this Subaru driver was intimidated by the never-ending gaze of Doggie Dinner Head as he gave up and just left the car half-cocked.

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In the contentious Democratic primary race for California attorney general, former Facebook executive Chris Kelly's latest ad against San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris makes misleading claims about crime rates in his opponent's city.

"San Francisco has the highest homicide and robbery rates in the state," the voiceover intones. "And Kamala Harris wants to be your next attorney general?"

But FBI statistics do not support Kelly's claim of a crime-besieged San Francisco. When treated as a city, San Francisco's homicide and robbery rates are lower than some other cities.

Instead, the ad presents San Francisco as much worse because the campaign relies, without specifying, on its unique status as both city and county. State figures show that when, compared with other counties, San Francisco did have the highest homicide and robbery rates in California.

San Francisco's homicide rate ranked 25th among California cities of 100,000 people or more in 2009, according to the latest FBI data.

In 2009, San Francisco had 45 murders, or about six per every 100,000 city residents. In Oakland, a city about half the size of San Francisco, 104 people were murdered in 2009, or about 26 per every 100,000 residents.

California's most violent city by far in 2009 was Richmond, a city of just over 100,000 across San Francisco Bay, where 47 people were killed—two more total than in San Francisco, a city eight times Richmond's
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Other cities with higher homicide rates than San Francisco's last year include Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Salinas.

San Francisco was a less pleasant place to be for robberies last year, though the city still ranked only fifth out of cities of more than 100,000 people, according to FBI statistics. Law enforcement reported 3,423 robberies in San Francisco in 2009, or about one robbery for every 237 residents.

Oakland, Berkeley, Stockton and Inglewood all ranked higher.

A spokeswoman for the Kelly campaign defended the use of county rather than city crime statistics, saying district attorneys represent counties, not cities.

"The department of justice statistics are black and white and they're county by county," campaign spokeswoman Robin Swanson said. "Those are the most straightforward numbers that are available. We don't choose how they do their numbers."

Kelly lives in Palo Alto, which had a total of four homicides and 202 robberies from 2005 to 2009, according to the city.
 

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