Commentary: Julie Pitta

The Truth About Crime

The shock waves were felt across the City: A tech executive was stabbed to death in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning. Even in the Richmond District, a quiet corner of town, residents were abuzz with the tragic news. An online news site, bankrolled by a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, asked a question on some minds: “Bob Lee Killing: A Tipping Point in a City Fed Up With Crime?”

In the hours and days after Bob Lee’s murder, those in the tech community, conservative political circles – or both – rushed to judgment. Lee’s death was inevitable, they said, in a City where crime was rampant under progressive leadership. No matter that a progressive has not held the City’s highest office since Art Agnos stepped down more than 30 years ago.

Some laid the blame for Lee’s murder on the unhoused, finding in the most vulnerable a convenient scapegoat. Again, the facts don’t fit the narrative: Homeless people are more often the victims rather than the perpetrators of crime.

Nine days later, a suspect, a 38-year-old Emeryville man, was arrested. Nima Momeni, like Lee, is a tech executive and the two, according to law enforcement officials, were well acquainted. Those who used Lee’s murder as evidence of San Francisco’s descent into chaos were suddenly quiet. The truth, it turned out, was far different than they would have you believe.

According to the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) own statistics, city residents have rarely been safer. Violent crime, law enforcement’s standard measure for public safety, is at a historic low. Certainly, the City has experienced a spike in property crime, no surprise in a city that has one of the highest rates of wealth disparity in the country.

Regardless of the facts, San Franciscans feel unsafe. The blame rests with the very same people who peddled the story of a deranged homeless killer on the loose. They’ve been ably assisted by the local and national press, who’ve taken great relish in portraying San Francisco as a crime-ridden dystopia.

Their objective is political. Groups like GrowSF and TogetherSF Action, richly funded by tech venture capitalists, have used scare tactics to alter San Francisco’s political landscape. Their first target was progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Boudin proposed a different route toward public safety, one that offered rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. San Franciscans will never know whether Boudin’s policies would have worked since he was removed more than two years after taking office in a recall campaign that was funded, in large part, by Republican billionaires.

Emboldened by Boudin’s recall, they targeted progressive office holders like Supervisor Gordon Mar in District 4, bankrolling his challenger Joel Engardio, a candidate who promised a swift return to “law-and-order.” Engardio was among the first to pounce on Lee’s murder, appearing on a tabloid TV program to stoke fears about public safety, a tasteless attempt to exploit a man’s death for political points.

Mayor London Breed, the primary beneficiary of these scare tactics, now wants them to stop. Crime fears will do little to return San Franciscans to a downtown that’s been hard hit by the pandemic. Breed, it must be noted, used fear to consolidate power. She declared a poorly executed state of emergency in the Tenderloin, installed a hardline prosecutor Brooke Jenkins as Boudin’s successor, and saw that allies like Engardio and former SFPD public relations chief Matt Dorsey were elected to the Board of Supervisors.

With fears about public safety soaring, Breed has pushed through more funding for police with little evidence that more money will make SFPD more effective. San Francisco has the highest number of officers per capita than any California city. Conversely, it has one of the lowest arrest rates in the country.

There are signs that San Franciscans have had enough. Police Commissioner Kevin Benedicto spoke for many when he said, “It’s premature and distasteful to try to fit this horrifying act of violence into a preconceived narrative and use it to advance a political agenda.”

The San Francisco Standard, bankrolled by billionaire venture capitalist Michael Moritz, may be correct in one sense: Bob Lee’s murder may indeed be a “tipping point.” It could be remembered as the moment when San Franciscans rejected a false – and damaging – narrative about the City they love.

Julie Pitta is a member of the executive board of the Berniecrats. She is a former senior editor for Forbes Magazine and staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. You can email her at

4 replies »

  1. Evidence pleade. Gordon Mar was a voted out because he ignored a large number of his constituents for 3 years, starting with closing the GH. We needed a change.


    • Thanks to Ms. Pitta for calling out the city leaders and tech execs on their shameless exploitation of the Lee murder. Pitta’s article is grounded on publically available statistics and facts — violent crime is not on the rise in SF, and it was not rising during Chesa Boudin’s time in office. The people perpetuating this myth are not only unethical and motivated by self-interest, they are endangering our community. They are also ignoring our city’s history and the multiple failed efforts over the past decades to address drug use and property crime with law and order “crackdowns.” Property crime is driven by income inequality. As parents, students, renters, homeowners, business owners and workers we need to come together and support sustained action to meaningfully tackle this inequality.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. San Francisco is getting the payback it richly deserves for driving out ethical honest DA Chesa Boudin. Crime was only an issue to be exploited by the Reactionaries who poured 9MM into their insidious campaign in collaboration with City Hall apparatchiks. A gullible paranoid citizenry. The collapse of downtown accentuated by the imminent closure of Nordstroms is the price San Francisco is paying for its false flag of law and order.


  3. Thank you, Julie, for a terrific analysis of the phoney SF crime problem. It’s a shame that local millionaires are engaging in these scare tactics that discourage people from visiting and living in this most beautiful of cities. I wonder what’s in it for them.


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