S.F. gunshot injuries doubled since 2003 

The number of gunshot wound victims treated at San Francisco General Hospital more than doubled from 2003 to 2006 to nearly 230, despite a slight decrease last year in The City’s historically high homicide rate.

At the end of last year, city leaders credited crime-fighting strategies for the decrease in the number of homicides, from 96 in 2005 to 85 last year. Those wounded by stabbings and gunshots increased, however, according to statistics from the San Francisco General Hospital Trauma Center.

"Some have said that there is an epidemic of violent crime and murder. I think it is really genocide. You do not have to look to Darfur in the Sudan. You can find it here in San Francisco," said San Francisco General Hospital trauma surgeon Andre Campbell, chief of the medical staff at SFGH, during testimony Monday before the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee.

"I think he’s characterizing it correctly about the status of African Americans in a city like San Francisco and other urban centers," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, chair of the committee. There have been 30 homicides this year, mostlyin predominantly African American neighborhoods. At the same time last year, there were 27 homicides.

"African Americans represent 9 percent of the population of San Francisco, but in my work I see 70 to 80 percent or more of the victims of gun violence are black," said Campbell, a 13-year veteran of the hospital.

Last year, San Francisco General’s Trauma Center treated 228 victims of gunshot wounds — which left 13 with spinal cord injuries — compared with 110 in 2003. The Trauma Center also treated 196 stabbing victims in 2006 and 166 in 2005, according to the hospital.

Of the 799 gunshot wound patients treated at San Francisco General Hospital between 2002 and 2006, 407 were between the ages of 15 and 24.

"We have gotten pretty good at saving lives, but we cannot save everyone," Campbell said. He later added, "If San Francisco General Hospital were not there to provide the care, the impact on the community would be unfathomable."

Campbell said that just last weekend, eight victims of a Tenderloin shooting spree were treated at the hospital. "It seems that we get a mass casualty drill each weekend night. I do not have to wait for a big catastrophic terrorist event since we have one mass casualty event each weekend in our city," Campbell said.

Lenore Anderson, the head of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, called Campbell’s testimony "very powerful" and said "reducing violence in San Francisco is a top priority for the administration."

"The City continues to aspire to do everything we can. We are doing everything we can do currently and we want to do even more and until you see the numbers go down you have to do even more," she said.

"We’re doing everything we can to get the guns off the streets," police Sgt. Neville Gittens said. The department has seized more than 3,300 guns in the last three years. Gittens attributed the increase in gunshot wounds to violence associated with narcotics and more spontaneous violence, as well as to a nationwide trend of more people using guns to settle disputes.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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