Rise in homicides marks violent start to 2011 in San Francisco 

With at least eight homicides in the first 24 days of the New Year, questions are being raised if The City is doing enough to counter what could be a rising tide of violence.  

Violence struck the Lower Haight neighborhood in recent days with a man fatally stabbed Friday and a woman’s charred remains found in a car Monday. The violence has prompted Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who represents that community, to call for quick action to address what he is calling an “uptick” in crime.

“It’s not something I’ve had to deal with for so long and now it’s returned with a vengeance,” Mirkarimi said. “Over the last three years we have seen record level drops in violent in crime in the District 5 area, but over the last three months we’ve seen an uptick of very troubling proportions.”

Firefighters found the woman’s body after putting out the car fire in the 400 block of Rose Street near Webster Street around 3:30 a.m. Monday.

Police are investigating the death as a homicide, and the woman’s identity will not be released until after the autopsy, said police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza.

“The body was pretty severely burnt,” Esparza said.

Cops canvassed the neighborhood Monday, speaking with neighbors and hoping to find witnesses.

On Friday, Anthony Jones, 53, was fatally stabbed after he allegedly beat a 43-year-old man with a shovel in the 500 block of Page Street around 10:30 a.m. The fight is believed to have started on the Page Street side of the Hayes Valley Apartments, about a block from the scene of the car fire.

A neighborhood safety meeting was held Saturday in response to the fear of rising crime.

“We’re very, very, very concerned,”  said Thea Selby, president of the Lower Haight Merchant and Neighborhood Association. “I see a progression.”

Neighbors say they’ve seen an uptick in suspicious activity in the area. More outsiders have been loitering in the neighborhood, and Selby said residents are getting “the sense that they’re being cased.”

In December, a merchant in the 400 block of Haight Street was the victim of a violent robbery.

Police officials say there is no reason to believe crime is suddenly increasing at an alarming rate, or there are trends of resurgence in gang violence.

“We are nowhere near the levels of 2005,” Northern Station Capt. Ann Mannix said.

Mirkarimi suggested the troubling violent start to the new year is the result of the department’s backing off on the tenets of community policing, which includes foot beats and hiring officers from within the communities.

“I think we are paying the price for the de-emphasis of the community-based priorities,” Mirkarimi said.

“Our officers are in these troubled areas every day,” Mannix said. Police officials say violent crime, overall, is down citywide.

There have been three homicides in the area covered by the Northern District Police Station, two in the Southern District Station area, two in the Park Station area and one in the Tenderloin. Last year at this time there were four homicides, in 2009 at this time there were three, and in 2006 there were six.

Mirkarimi has called for a town hall meeting in two weeks in the Western Addition/Hayes Valley area to bring city department leaders and community leaders together.

“I am not going to let this persist without any intervention,” Mirkarimi said.

The concern about violence comes as The City finds itself searching for a new police chief. George Gascón had served as The City’s top cop since August 2009, but resigned on Jan. 9 when he was appointed as the district attorney by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. The department is currently being run by interim chief Jeff Godown, a 27-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who was brought into the department by Gascón.


Staff writer Mike Aldax contributed to this report.

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