Why did SF have among highest increases in larceny in the state in early 2013? 

click to enlarge There were 16,535 larcenies - thefts without violence or the threat of violence - reported in The City in the first half of 2013, according to FBI data.
  • There were 16,535 larcenies - thefts without violence or the threat of violence - reported in The City in the first half of 2013, according to FBI data.

Larcenies in San Francisco skyrocketed by 22 percent in the first half of last year, a much higher jump than was reported in any other major city in the state, according to FBI data.

The first half of 2013 had 16,535 larcenies reported in The City, while 12,910 were reporterd during that period in 2012.

Larceny -- thefts without violence or the threat of violence -- is among a handful of crimes, like homicide and rape, reported by every police department in the country each year to the FBI.

If the FBI numbers are to be trusted, San Francisco experienced a larceny epidemic last year that was unmatched in the state.

In that same period, for example, Oakland saw a marginal rise in larcenies -- 4 percent. Los Angeles had a 2 percent drop. In Antioch, it dropped by 12 percent. In Fresno, it dropped by 14 percent.

While the FBI's report is preliminary and only a six-month slice of time, the San Francisco Police Department told the FBI that there were 36,527 larcenies in all of 2013.

In 2012, there were roughly 28,000 larcenies reported all year, according to police data.

When it comes to arrests for larceny, which the department does catalogue by month, 2013 saw an increase in the first six months of the year of 46 percent, from 1,402 to 2,043.

It's unclear whether the trend has continued into 2014, since the department doesn't break down larceny reports by month, at least not through its issue-ridden public stats.

Those numbers will only appear when the FBI's full 2013 and 2014 uniform crime reports occur.

But Peter Keane, former assistant city attorney and dean emeritus of Golden Gate University's law school, said he doesn't need to wait until then. Such an unaccountable increase in larceny must be wrong, he said.

"I am not saying that someone has manufactured it, but there's always a certain amount of skepticism when crime stats are rolled out," he said.

Keane said jumps in larceny statistics like this should be explained if people are going to believe them.

"The burden of proof is with the department who's putting out those numbers," he added. "I don't think people should swallow them based on their assertions."

Still, not all are so skeptical.

"Twenty-two percent is a significant spike, but it's not unthinkable," said Bobby McCarthy, a researcher associate at UC Berkeley School of Law. McCarthy doesn't have intimate knowledge of why the numbers in San Francisco might be so high, but said it could be due to a change in reporting methods or may be linked to the spike in cell phone thefts, although many of the cell phone thefts are robberies.

The Police Department did not return calls for comment.

Violent Crime

Meanwhile, at least in the first half of 2013, violent crime rose.

While homicides and a few other violent crimes are down in San Francisco so far this year and in 2013 -- Police Chief Greg Suhr said Wednesday that violent crime was down 13 percent and recently told USF Magazine that homicides are at a 30-year low -- the latest FBI crime statistics from the first half of 2013 and recent data from the first four months of this year paint a more nuanced picture of crime in San Francisco.

Aggravated assault, for instance, was up 14 percent in the first half of 2013 in The City.

Oakland, in comparison, saw aggravated assaults decline from 16 percent.

In all, violent crime in San Francisco was up 18 percent in the beginning of 2013 compared to that same period in 2012.

This year so far (January to April) is looking somewhat better, according to the department. Aggravated assaults are down slightly by 4 percent while robberies are down a whopping 25 percent. Still, burglaries are up 7 percent. Larcenies are not a category in police statistical breakdown.

Charting crime in The City

The FBI's uniform crime report compares the first half of 2012 with the first half of 2013.

Larceny: up 22 percent

2012: 12,910

2013: 16,535

Aggravated Assaults: up 14 percent

2012: 1,073

2013: 1,227

Robberies: up 24 percent

2012: 1,601

2013: 1,989

Property crime: up 23 percent.

Violent crime: up 18 percent

Source: FBI

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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