San Francisco May Have a Gun Problem

While most crimes decreased between 2015 and 2016, gun-related acts of violence spiked.

(Courtesy Photo)

For many San Franciscans, the city’s crime rate seems to rise or drop depending on how many social media posts one sees about muggings, news articles published about stabbings, or personal experiences having one’s bike stolen.

It can be hard to get a clear picture of where we stand. But thanks to the San Francisco Police Department and the Uniform Crime Reporting program — created by the FBI — there are some facts on where crime is increasing or decreasing. The 2016 data was just released, offering a peek into the crime-ridden underbelly of our 49 square miles.

First, the homicide rate. San Francisco saw a small decline from 2015 to 2016, with homicides dropping from 58 to 53. Of the past five years, 2012 was the deadliest, when 69 people were killed.

Fifty-three people is a high body count, no doubt, but compared with other major metropolitan cities, S.F. has a pretty low murder rate — the city didn’t even show up on in the top 20 for the nation’s cities with the highest rate of homicide. St. Louis, New Orleans, Oakland and Milwaukee all have San Francisco beat.

Aggravated assaults dropped 3 percent from 2015 to 2016, going from 2,703 to 2,616. Rape cases dropped half a percent, at 342 for year. Robberies decreased by a more significant 12 percent, with 3,175 cases reported in 2016.

But one area where crime did not decline was rates of gun violence. In 2016, homicides by firearm increased by 15 percent, people shot non-fatally increased by 27 percent, and 12 percent more firearms were seized from people than in the year prior. In 2016, 451 people were arrested for having a firearm. And in a depressing turn, the city’s gun buyback program — where SFPD offers cash for the public’s guns — dove a dismal 36 percent, with only 212 guns being taken off the streets last year.

While San Francisco’s gun trends appear to be on the rise, it isn’t just us. In 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives released data from U.S. gun-makers that firearm production doubled between 2010 and 2013. In 2013, the year after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, 11 million guns were produced. Gun ownership nationwide has doubled since 1968, with more than 300 million guns estimated to exist in the U.S. alone. But this doesn’t mean everyone has a gun — only one in three households.

Still, with opportunities to own guns increasing, it’s only natural that firearm-related crimes will also grow.

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