The San Francisco police say that an effort to identify and target the city’s most violent predators and subject them to federal prosecution has helped slash the city’s homicide rate in the second half of the year by nearly 40 percent, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The city had been averaging nine slayings a month at mid-year, a rate that would have pushed the total to well over 100 for 2004 and made this the deadliest year in San Francisco since 1995. The burst of killings moved to the top of new Mayor Gavin Newsom’s agenda. He showed up at homicide scenes and talked with potential witnesses. He called police homicide clearance rates “a problem that needs to be solved.” A month later, they were “an outrage and inexcusable. ”
In the second half of the year, the number of homicides dropped to roughly five a month — a turnaround that dispelled fears of a long summer of gang bloodshed. The homicide total still exceeds the 70 recorded in 2003. Through Wednesday, there had been 85 killings in San Francisco this year, but only 32 of those have happened since July 1. The most important factor in the decline, police say, is their attempt to take those they consider the most violent, incorrigible criminals off the streets with the help of the federal “Triggerlock” law, which provides for prison terms of 10 years or more for felons who are caught with a gun.