SFPD speaks out for department’s homicide arrest rate 

San Francisco police officials Thursday defended the department’s arrest rates during the last three years’ homicide spike, saying not all homicide arrests in San Francisco were reported to the state Justice Department.

According to California Department of Justice statistics, arrests for homicides averaged 23.5 per year since Gavin Newsom became mayor and appointed Heather Fong police chief in 2004. In that time, homicides have averaged 90 per year.

The Police Department reported Thursday, however, that an average of 37 homicide arrests per year have been made in San Francisco over the same time period. Capt. Kevin Cashman, of the department’s Investigations Bureau, said the reason for the discrepancy is that some arrests, primarily those that involved a federal agency, are not reported to the state Justice Department.

On Jan. 26, an Examiner report used Department of Justice statistics to compare the arrest rate during Newsom and Fong’s tenures with that of former Mayor Willie Brown and former police Chief Fred Lau. The report found, based on those statistics, that homicides averaged 65 per year during Brown’s administration, from 1996 through 2003, while arrests averaged 31, an arrest rate of 49 percent.

On Thursday, Cashman told The Examiner that 29 arrests had been made in San Francisco in 2004, compared with the 21 reported by the Department of Justice. He said 46 arrests had been made in 2005, compared with 26 reported by the state. Thirty-six arrests were made in 2006, Cashman said, a figure not yet available from the Justice Department.

Of the 46 arrests made in San Francisco in 2005, 20 resulted in federal charges being filed and were therefore not reported to the state, spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens said. At least 12 of the 20 arrests resulted from a joint SFPD-federal investigation into members of the "Down Below" street gang, who were charged with seven murders in the Sunnydale housing projects. The department did not provide arrest breakdowns for 2004 and 2006 to indicate whether the unreported arrests were the result of federal agency involvement or other reasons, such as delayed extradition from other counties.

Some of the federal arrests over the last three years were made by San Francisco police officers cross-deputized to carry federal authority. Others were made by federal agents working cooperatively with the SFPD. An exact tally of which arrests were made by whom was not available Thursday, but, "these are San Francisco homicides where the lead investigators are San Francisco police officers," Cashman said.

About 12 San Francisco police officers arecross-deputized federally, Cashman reported.

"If the arrest is made by the FBI, for example, then the San Francisco Police Department wouldn’t count the arrest in their totals. But they could count it in their clearances as well as in their reported crimes," Department of Justice spokeswoman Robin Deller said Thursday.

Cashman said the department’s "target-specific" strategy, which aims to remove the most dangerous criminals from The City’s streets, relies on federal prosecution, which has statutes specifically for gangs.

Agencies in San Francisco that report crimes to the state Justice Department include the SFPD, the University of California Hastings College of Law, the University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco State University, Bay Area Rapid Transit District, the Union Pacific Railroad and the California Highway Patrol.

amartin@examiner.com

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