Even hardcore liberals have to admit that when your streets are overrun by thugs and bums, at some point you’ve had enough. “Tolerance” only goes so far.
From her apartment at the foot of the celebrated zigzags of Lombard Street, Judith Calson has twice peered out her window as thieves smashed their way into cars and snatched whatever they could. She has seen foreign tourists cry after cash and passports were stolen. She shudders when she recounts the story of the Thai tourist who was shot because he resisted thieves taking his camera.
And that is her tally from the last year alone.
“I never thought of this area as a high-crime neighborhood,” Ms. Calson, a retired photographer, said of this leafy part of the city, where tourists flock to view the steeply sloped, crooked street adorned with flower beds.
San Francisco, America’s boom town, is flooded with the cash of well-paid technology workers and record numbers of tourists. At the same time, the city has seen a sharp jump in property crime, up more than 60 percent since 2010, though the actual increase may be higher because many of the crimes go unreported.
Recent data from the F.B.I. show that San Francisco has the highest per-capita property crime rate of the nation’s top 50 cities. About half the cases here are thefts from vehicles, smash-and-grabs that scatter glittering broken glass onto the sidewalks.
The city, known for a political tradition of empathy for the downtrodden, is now divided over whether to respond with more muscular law enforcement or stick to its forgiving attitudes.
The Chamber of Commerce and the tourist board are calling for harsher measures to improve what is euphemistically called the “condition of the streets,” a term that encompasses the intractable homeless problem, public intravenous drug use, the large population of mentally ill people on the streets and aggressive panhandling. The chamber recently released the results of an opinion poll that showed that homelessness and “street behavior” were the primary concerns of residents here.
It’s a lovely town to visit, but every time we’ve been there the past couple of decades the homeless mess is progressively worse. Normally leftists would wag their fingers at you for expressing disgust, but even they have their limitations.
“People believe that everyone has the right to be on the streets. However, I think there is a tolerance limit to bad behavior.”
Visitors come to bask in the Mediterranean climate, stroll through the charming streets and marvel at the sweeping views of the bay and the Pacific. But alongside those views are tent encampments on sidewalks and rag-covered homeless people in front of some of the most expensive real estate in America.
The divided opinions on how to handle the problems are evident among members of the Board of Supervisors.
Scott Wiener, a supervisor and an advocate for more aggressive law enforcement, said his constituents were urging him to act. “I can’t tell you the number of times where I have received emails from moms saying, ‘My kids just asked me why that man has a syringe sticking out of his arm,’ ” he said.
Good luck with that.
Violent crime has increased 18 percent since 2010, but the city has a low murder rate relative to other large American cities.
Police are barred by city ordinance from installing surveillance cameras that are commonly found in other cities, a restriction that even Mr. Wiener said he did not want changed.
Ms. Calson, the retired photographer, said she offered to let the police mount a surveillance camera outside her Lombard Street apartment. The car break-ins happen so quickly that she has not been able photograph the perpetrators.
On Wednesday, another car was broken into below her window. A woman who was dropping off her daughter at a day care center had parked for 10 minutes and returned to find her window smashed and her purse gone.
“It’s just insane,” Ms. Calson said. “On and on and on it goes.”
Keep electing Democrats. Seems to be working wonders.