Underlying last year’s increase in San Francisco homicides are two disturbing trends, says the San Francisco Chronicle: high-crime neighborhoods awash in guns and gunmen who are younger and quicker to pull the trigger. At a hearing yesterday before a special Board of Supervisors committee, police said they responded to 315 shootings last year, a 21 percent jump over the 260 shootings logged in 2004. Killings resulting from gunshots have steadily risen over the past five years, doubling from 39 in 2001 to 80 in 2005. Last year, police presented 133 gun cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution under federal gun laws, compared with 77 in 2004, police Capt. Kevin Cashman said.
“A lot of the shooters out there are younger,” Cashman said. “The kids are coming up, and they’re a little reckless. That’s the generation we all have to worry about.” Some young gunmen are the offspring of parents whose neighborhoods were ravaged by crack cocaine trafficking during the 1980s. They “never had a chance, for the most part,” growing up under the direct influence or coercion of gangs, he said. In the last two years, 184 people were slain in San Francisco. Half of the suspects and nearly a third of the victims in those killings were between the ages of 19 and 24. Franklin Zimring, a University of California at Berkeley professor, said that while San Francisco’s homicide rate is low on a per capita basis compared with Richmond’s and Oakland’s, the role of guns in city killings is striking. “That’s a big change for San Francisco,” Zimring said. “That happens to be a little bit higher than Houston. That’s a surprising percentage.” Out of the 96 homicides in 2005, police have made just 22 arrests.