Editorial: Time to declare war on murder 

It’s disheartening, even heartbreaking, that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s idea to offer $100,000 rewards for information leading to the solving of murder cases has come to naught. It was not a bad idea, exactly, and it may even be premature — it was announced little more than three months ago — to call it a failure.

You would not think it naïve to hope that the six-figure sum would lure some people out of the shadows to finger murderers, especially if granted a veil of anonymity. These crimes usually are committed, after all, in an amoral nether region where cash can trump loyalty. And even then, by definition, not all conveyers of useful information are snitches.

Then again, maybe in the final analysis, it was naïve. Those of us who work in clean offices making an honest living, not to mention high-minded criminologists or bureaucratized police officers, seldom can plumb the depths of depravity in which many of these creatures conduct their daily lives.

If homicidal culprits and their associates operate in a black market, beyond the reach of civil society’s enforcers, they may well be dealing in the kind of cash that would make the mayor’s money look like chump change. Some knowledgeable individuals may even follow a perverse, diabolical code, unable to overcome the pejorative power of the word "snitch."

And some will know that, ineluctably, if they come forward even in police-conferred confidence, they will be identified. The cruel calculus: Their own lives are worth more than $100,000.

So it is that the killer or killers of 17-year-old Raymon Bass, gunned down as he picked up his tuxedo for a night at the prom, over which he was to have presided as "king," have not been captured (unless they’re jailed on unrelated charges, presided over by more monstrous royalty, recidivism being a predictable feature of this hellacious world).

Nor have we knowingly taken off the streets the killers of Evelyn Hernandez, Sukhpal Singh, Vicente Pascua, Carl Applon Jr., Martell Bray, Scharod Fleming, Johnny Loggins, Roger Yound, Omari Ford, Victor Bach, Charles Baker, Brian Marquez, Raymond Russell, Sandy Young and Jermaine Cooper — all killed since 2002, all individuals who should be alive today.

A few days ago, a happy-face story hit the media trumpeting this year’s "decline" in San Francisco homicides. The fluky statistics: 88 in 2004, 96 in 2005 and 85 last year. Let’s not lie with those statistics. This remains an alarming and unacceptable murder rate.

Probably, the rewards shouldn’t be taken off the table. They can stay as supplemental tools to be used in difficult investigations. But a serious assault on murder will require aggressive tactics. Surveillance cameras and foot patrols can help, as especially will tougher judges. And maybe even reconsideration of that ban on an armed citizenry, which didn’t exactly intimidate the murderers among us.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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