City Hall

City Hall: Joel Engardio

Putting Crime in Context

The stabbing murder of tech executive Bob Lee in downtown San Francisco last month made international news. The headlines generated a lot of fear, which is why I did a series of media interviews to put the crime into context.

The most surprising interview was with TMZ. They provided nearly eight minutes (an eternity in TV) for a measured discussion about crime in San Francisco. Many people watch TMZ and I want to connect with people wherever they’re at.

I encourage everyone to watch the full TMZ interview here:

Crime in Context

At the start of the TMZ interview, I noted that murder is rare in San Francisco. The most violent year in San Francisco history was 1977. We had 142 murders that year. Last year we had 56.

I also cautioned that we shouldn’t conflate Bob Lee’s murder with other concerns, like homelessness. I noted that Lee’s murder was still under investigation and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the cause. Eventually we learned that Lee was killed by someone he knew and it was not a random attack.

I mentioned which crimes are actually on the rise in San Francisco and causing concern. While murder is low, we have to stay focused on the open-air drug dealing, property crime, catalytic converter thefts and assaults on elders and youth that are making residents feel unsafe.

Frustrated Residents

I want to acknowledge that there is a frustration among residents, wondering when things will get better.

Things aren’t happening as fast as residents deserve for a number of reasons. We’re short more than 500 police officers and we’re not able to hire enough replacements. Too few people are willing to be police officers in San Francisco. They don’t feel supported. They don’t want the job after politicians have been calling for defund and disband – despite our police department being a leader in reform.

Our new district attorney is still rebuilding the prosecution office dismantled by her predecessor. The mayor struggles to find a majority of supervisors to back her initiatives. Our city attorney is appealing rulings by judges that prevent San Francisco from clearing unsafe encampments, even when we offer shelter and services.

These are explanations, not excuses. Police need to be more efficient with what they have. The district attorney needs to prosecute with what she has.

It’s my job at the Board of Supervisors to fight for the resources our police department and district attorney need to do their job.

I believe we must enforce laws, make arrests and prosecute crime. We also must provide shelter and treatment – compelled when necessary – to people suffering from homelessness, addiction and mental illness. It’s the only way we can have clean streets that are safe for everyone.

Reasons for Hope

Bringing the retired police officer program to the Sunset was a priority for me. It’s finally here. These officers are a welcome sight! They will help fill the gap as we recruit and hire enough new officers to address San Francisco’s severe police shortage.

The retired officers will walk Irving and Noriega streets armed with radios to call for full-time officers when needed. They will work until 8 p.m., including weekends.

We still need to hire more police officers for both the daytime and overnight shift. I’m also working on installing more security cameras on Sunset merchant corridors that police can access to catch burglars and graffiti taggers.

The City we Deserve

We deserve a San Francisco where all residents feel safe – a well-run city where a diverse population of families and small businesses can thrive.

This vision is possible when we realize that lasting public safety depends on more than the number of people we arrest, prosecute and put in jail. The ultimate way to stop crime is to create an equitable society where education, health care, housing and employment are accessible to all.

Solving the underlying causes of crime will take a regional, state and national effort. It will also take time to transform communities to the point where crime is a less appealing option. Until then, we can’t forget about the victims of crime whose trauma must be addressed.

I also want to remind everyone that San Francisco is not a dystopian city. There is still a lot of beauty and joy here. We must celebrate that joy and encourage more as we work to create our best San Francisco.

Joel Engardio is the District 4 representative on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at

2 replies »

  1. Okay Joel. But the businesses who lay vacant and get pushed out by LLC firms jacking the rent are not due to crime, or people feeling safe, or frustrated residents not getting what you call change.

    The city music clubs getting co-opted by large firms deciding who plays there is also not what I call change for the better.

    The district attorney is playing games and doing press releases. She is not “rebuilding” anything. She might be reshuffling people, but every single DA does that, so there is nothing novel there. What is novel however is a DA who got paid $160,000 plus by the political LLC that funded the recall, in addition to violating legal ethics by disclosing info in a trial case for a political advert during the recall campaign. You might not like Chesa, and that is fair, but Chesa Boudin didn’t break the justice system, and Mrs. Jenkins has not exactly reformed it either. That is true for every DA, except you and your apparatchiks want to pretend otherwise, so you can ignore the issues your political donors want you to ignore and act like you are a spokesperson for the people, when you are just another politician.

    Accusing the board of supervisors of not supporting the mayor is code words for presuming the mayor knows what she is doing in the first place. The mayor does not need the board of supervisors to manage the government, Joel, but apparently that’s the game y’all are playing. Blame those recalcitrant supervisors so you can get lackeys, donor-funded candidates and boot-lickers like yourself elected.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s