In 2010, the U.S. Attorney nominated the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) for recognition by the Department of Justice for the innovative and collaborative anti-violence program which dramatically reduced violent crime in a major city. The SFPD was recognized as a national model worthy of the Project Safe Neighborhoods National Achievement Award for Outstanding Local Police Department Involvement.
In February of 2008, faced with escalating violence and homicides, SFPD implemented an innovative violence reduction strategy designed to direct a concerted enforcement effort in the targeted areas or “hot spots” in each of the ten police districts in the city. The new citywide “Zone Enforcement Strategy” was based, in part, on utilizing research partners and in depth analysis of homicides, violent crime and gun crimes, crime reports, arrest statistics, calls for service, informant information and observed narcotics activity. The officers assigned to the Violence Reduction Enforcement Operation were deployed at the affected locations during the times that crimes were being committed. This effort included fugitive recovery teams, high visibility traffic enforcement teams, intensive and sustained narcotics enforcement efforts, gang task force efforts, gang injunctions, parole and probation checks, foot patrols, California Highway Patrol saturation for high visibility, gun buyback programs and tactical teams deployed during late night hours.
The SFPD dedicated a variety of resources and partnered with community groups, city agencies, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other local and federal law enforcement agencies in a collaborative effort, working toward a common goal – reducing violent crime. The results were astounding. In 2009, homicides dropped by 54% – the lowest homicide rate in 45 years. Non-fatal shootings dropped by 34%, with a record reduction in overall violent crime. The collaboration between SFPD, the U.S. Attorney and federal partners such as ATF and FBI paid off as a variety of drug and gun cases were referred for federal prosecution sending a strong message to street thugs and gang members that violence would no longer be tolerated on the streets of San Francisco.
Prevention and intervention were both key components of the plan. SFPD did an exemplary job of working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as service providers and non-profits, including homeless outreach, court drug diversion programs and other intervention programs. This was accomplished through fortifying existing relationships and forging new ones while coordinating three group efforts simultaneously – Operation Ceasefire meetings (targeting individuals, developing investigations and implementing gang call-ins), Zone Enforcement meetings (specific targeting efforts in locations of criminal activity and constantly analyzing and refining effective tactics), and Public Cluster meetings (city and community assets used to support prevention and intervention strategies for both juveniles and adults).
The Zone Strategy has continued for several years and the partnership with the federal agencies has continued to curtail violent crime in San Francisco. In 2009, homicides dropped from a high of 98 in 2008 to an all time low of 45 in 2009. In 2010, the trend continued at a record low of 50 homicides, and for 2011 there are 47 homicides year-to-date (through November).