"I Actually Met a Guy, Literally, Who was Shot Eight Times in the Hospital." - Gavin Newsom on Violence Prevention in his 2008 State of the City Address


By Benjamin Wachs

00:00 - "Well 2008 was a big year in terms of investing in programs and solutions to reduce violence in San Francisco."

Gavin, Gavin, Gavin - however big 2008 was for investing in solutions to stop violence, it was an even bigger year for violence. Why not play to our strengths?

00:10 - "Some paid great dividends, and some have still yet to produce the results that we were hopeful for."

00:15 - "One of the big initiatives in 2008 was the development of a new violence prevention plan." It's a five-year "blueprint for how we as a community can do more and do better to transform San Francisco streets and neighborhoods into safe communities and environments."

Gavin - what have I told you about not announcing five year plans when you already look suspiciously like Hugo Chavez's kid brother?

00:34 - "It's about aligning resources, coordinating city departments, community based organizations, and individuals and organizations together."

Oh - so the plan is to do all that stuff we're not good at!

00:43 - "Basically streamlining the entire process of delivery for community crime prevention." Just the way he did in 2007 for small businesses! And he sure turned that around!

01:18 - Gavin notes that, despite deficits, we've put an increasing amount of money into public safety. And despite more money, we have seen increasing violence.

02:35 - Gavin says the "Summer Street Violence" initiative was a big success. There was no summer school-related violence, the way there has been in previous years. I know the schools and the police worked very hard on that. The Mayor's office, if I recall correctly, contributed by releasing a giant report about how hard the schools and the police were working.

04:14 - We've been hiring more police than ever. For the first time since the voters mandated it in the 1970s, we'll now have "baseline staffing."

04:38 - Those police will be "including police walking the beats." He goes into some detail about how many more beat police we'll have, and how many more we need.

Wait, didn't he veto beat patrols when the Supervisors first required them?

05:30 - Gavin has now gone over five minutes in a discussion about crime and violence in 2008 without mentioning "rising homicides." This is fundamentally dishonest.

06:47 - Gavin says that non-fatal shootings are as important a statistic as homicides - and he says it in the worst way humanly possible:

"So often our focus is on homicides - but that's really a grace of God! I mean, someone can come up, shoot you 23 times, and you can survive. I actually met a guy, literally, who was shot 8 times in the hospital. Went to visit him: 8 times and was still alive. You have other folks, who are shot once, by a random bullet a hundred yards away, and that become victims of a homicide. That doesn't necessarily mean we are more safe or less safe just became homicides have increased or decreased. It's those non-fatal shootings, it's the number of shootings, that's most important from my perspective. And so that's the biggest indicator of success in this last year: that 37% reduction in these non-fatal shootings."

Wow. Where to begin? First there's the callous disregard for the seriousness of the subject; the way Gavin says that the statistic where he doesn't look good (homicides) is less important than the one where he does (non-fatal shootings; ) and the way Gavin puts crime victims on freak-show parade (can you BELIEVE that guy survived?).

Then there are the grammatical issues: as it stands, Gavin is saying that:

* This guy was shot 8 times in the hospital.

And

* Gavin visited some guy 8 times and he survived.

I'm assuming neither is true. The first is at least possible, though.

But most importantly, there's an alternate explanation for these statistics: if homicides are going up while non-fatal shootings are going down, doesn't that just mean the city's killers are improving their aim?

07:38 - This is how Gavin describes a rising homicide rate: "That in spite of the fact that homicides are pretty much flat compared to last year They haven't gone down."

Uh huh - so if they're not flat but "pretty much flat," and "they haven't gone down," what does that mean they've done, boys and girls?

09:12 - Gavin has been relying a lot on PowerPoint slides this webisode, to show you how much improvement there has been. And, indeed, the yellow blob to the right is significantly higher than the yellow blob to the left.

10:48 - "Crime cameras continue to be controversial. And I get it. But I say this: you know, everyone that can't stand crime cameras tend to be people that live outside the city, editors of newspapers, for example, or folks that have strong opinions who don't even live in the state that are ideologically opposed to them. "

Yeah! Like City Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who defunded the new crime cameras: he lives in Toronto. Or Chris Daly, who telecommutes from Rome. Or the entire editorial staff of the San Francisco Chronicle, which since last year has been outsourced to Mumbai!

11:18 - Gavin says: "In spite of the reports that show that they don't do much on homicide reductions, and there are a lot of questions of their efficacy generally" ... Gavin has just moved to Ann Arbor ... "one of the things that I continue to try to reconcile is: why do we have 71 cameras at all these locations, and no one has ever told me to get rid of the camera that we've put in these locations?"

Maybe they're just that trivial?

13:17 - More on crime cameras: "Sometimes the intention of this was to actually apprehend criminals."

No kidding? What was it the other times?

13:20 - "It's actually been used to exonerate suspects. And maybe that's a good thing."

Maybe?

Is part of our strategy to put innocent people in jail? I don't remember seeing that in the paper work ...

13:52 - Last word on crime cameras: "I'm supportive of this. Not, though, monitored live in real time."

That's too bad: studies show the cameras actually work if they are monitored in real time, so that a real person can say "Hey, somebody's getting shot!" when it still might count for something.

But apparently Gavin is only committed to the program to the extent that it is ineffective. That is a brave stand.

14:40 - In 2009, the entire city justice system - including sheriff, public defender, DA, adult probation, courts, police department - will be on one database.

This is legitimately huge. You have to watch the hearings to know how many times people in these agencies say they can't work together because they don't use the same software. It's obscene.

15:40 - "Take a look at this," Gavin says, pointing to a slide. Apparently there are white bits on a blue background. I'm glad he pointed that out.

16:00 - San Francisco offers more reward money for information leading to arrests than any other city in America, including 16 rewards up to $250,000.

"These are audacious," he says.

18:08 - Rapes are "an anomaly," this year.

But he doesn't say how.

"That's the most alarming of the stats in the 2008 year."

But what happened?

"And we're not yet necessarily completely clear. All the experts I'm talking to, everyone has a different opinion."

BUT WHAT HAPPENED?

"Some just believe it's just more people reporting things that happened, not necessarily more rapes. Others say no, it's more rapes, and we need to do more prevention. But we're trying to reconcile all that."

STOP POINTING AT THE UNREADABLE SLIDE AND TELL US WHAT THE STATISTIC IS!

"But that's the one stat that's the most alarming."

He moves on to car thefts. He says they're down.

18:53 - From a distance, I could swear the slide he's pointing to is Beethoven's oboe concerto.

18:58 - Overall, he says, violent crime is down. This is true. Homicides are flat. This is not true.

19:56 - "Another area where we're going to do some dramatic changes, and that is we went out to a third party..."

Who? Lucas Films?

"...to get some consulting work done to look at best practices. A third set of eyes ..."

Google?

"...A different set of eyes..."

The Garth Fagan Dance Troupe?

"... to take a look at our policing strategies."

The result was a report that recommended significantly cutting the number of police stations and reorganizing the department significantly, among other items. Newsom says he approves 9 out of 10 of them. He doesn't tell us what any of them are, though, beyond truisms like "accountability" and "transparency," both of which he is in favor of.

21:32 - "One of those areas where progress will be made in the new year is the Community Justice Center."

Oh look, it's Gavin's favorite football! Who wants to kick it today?

22:37 - "It's something that I recognize the voters did not want to codify in terms of guaranteeing funding well into the future, and I recognize and heed that warning, so I recognize that my job is to prove it can work. To prove its efficacy and its success on an annual basis, and ask that the elected family ..."

The "elected family?"

"... each and every year make the judgment to continue to fund it."

Aside from that bizarre "family" reference ... what are we, the Godfather? ... that sounds pretty reasonable.

24:18 - the slide about new city identity cards "transcends all the other slides."

24:28 - "Nothing would be worse than to have a new identification strategy that had unintended consequences, that were used and abused for the wrong reasons. As a consequence, I've tried to slow down the process to make sure that the cards are secure and make sure the cards can be used for their intended purposes."

He "absolutely does not regret this decision" and thinks it has led to a stronger law.

But "the reality is" the city won't move forward on the IDs until Gavin is absolutely satisfied that it's secure and can't be abused.

26:26 - "If the idea is to make this card a success, and that's what I believe ..."

Unlike all those legislators who have been pushing "unsuccessful card" legislation.

"... then let's do it right."

Um ... okay.

The video ends abruptly with the words "it's used for its intended purposes."

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