SAN FRANCISCO (AP/KPIX/CBS Newspath) — At a community meeting in San Francisco’s Sunset District Thursday, residents had a chance to question Police Chief Bill Scott and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins about violent crime in the city.
The deadly stabbing of tech business executive Bob Lee two days earlier reinforced the belief that anything can happen to anyone anywhere.
Lee’s death has further enflamed debate over public safety in San Francisco and its moribund downtown, which has not yet bounced back from the pandemic.
Twitter’s owner Elon Musk took to the social media site to post that “violent crime in SF is horrific and even if attackers are caught, they are often released immediately.” Musk tagged the city’s district attorney in the post.
Lee, 43, is known for creating the widely used mobile payment service Cash App while working as chief technology officer of the payment company Square, now known as Block. He was the chief product officer for the cryptocurrency firm MobileCoin at the time of his death.
“I’ve been downtown in the streets at night and I’ve been alone. It is scary but I don’t think it’s unique to San Francisco,” said Margaret Graf who has lived in San Francisco for more than 60 years.
Lee begged for help after being stabbed outside of a luxury apartment building on Main Street near the Bay Bridge, according to reports. According to KRON-TV, Lee screamed, “Help! Someone stabbed me,” into his phone as he called 911 for himself, surveillance footage and police records obtained by the San Francisco Standard reportedly showed.
Graf and a friend sat in a packed community center in the Sunset District, hoping to hear some solutions to the rise in crime.
Bob Lee’s stabbing death was just one of the issues addressed at the meeting. The crowd also heard a presentation of the city’s approach to dealing with drugs and homelessness.
“The police can’t even take care of this problem. So it’s going to be going on and there’s no resolution anytime soon,” Dorothy Lathan concluded.
There are residents that are asking for more proactive patrols but, with the police department down more than 560 officers, Chief Scott says it’s going to take time to get back to adequate staffing levels.
“We can’t do everything on overtime but that definitely helps and it helps us stabilize our deployment. So we have a plan to just try to stay stable. The good news is our hiring and our applicant pool is up significantly and it’s going to mean more people out of the academy but it’s going to take years…” said Scott.
The chief says the renewed collaboration with the district attorney’s office to prosecute criminals who police arrest is a welcome change.
Some feel the next step may be the need to change some of the laws to make sure people are paying for their crimes.
“We have to remember that the police are charged with enforcing the law but somebody else wrote the law. We’re the people who elected people to write those laws so it basically comes down to us,” Graf said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report