SFPD Union Square buyout is scarier than a few break-ins

Last month I was in a CVS in San Francisco when a homeless man walked into the store, grabbed a few bags of crisps, then ran out.

There are, as far as I’m concerned, two reactions to seeing a poor man steal from a chain of convenience stores. One is to sympathize with them; their situation is dire enough that they feel they have no other recourse, which ultimately reflects America’s unsustainable level of inequality and a failure on the part of our social services. The other is to blame and resent them; they alone are responsible for their actions, no matter how serious their situation.

I sympathized with the man, who I guess needed food. This was not the first shoplifting incident I had encountered in a large metropolitan city, where a lot of people – including a lot of homeless people – congregate and live. I wish he hadn’t flown to CVS, but I understand why he did.

The CVS employee standing next to me felt differently. “They are so lazy,” she told me as I checked.

This weekend, a series of high-profile heists took place in Union Square. The affected stores were luxury retailers like Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent. Burglaries seem to have been coordinated to some extent, and some of the thieves were paid thousands of dollars in goods. Hawkers like Andy Ngo have tried to link what happened to the Black Lives Matter protests that followed Kyle Rittenhouse’s verdict, although there is no evidence to support this conclusion. As of Tuesday evening, nine people involved in the break-ins were charged with the felony, and further charges are expected.

The social media videos of the break-ins are wild. One of them jumps out at me: a potential thief jumps into his car and is immediately surrounded by cops, who hit the car with batons already drawn. Windows are broken and the person is dragged to the ground.

I would guess that the video above conveys a binary reaction similar to the convenience store shoplifting scenario I described (with the caveat that the crimes committed are clearly different in terms of severity and consequences. potential). On the one hand (my personal point of view) it sucks that the person in the video was stealing stuff, but the use of force by the cops was much more amazing and disturbing. All this violence, all these officers, to keep someone from hanging handbags? The other side has a radically opposite point of view – they are upset by the imagery of someone stealing from a store, and they blame the thief for putting himself in an unstable situation; since the theft is illegal, the cops simply acted within their means to enforce the law.

A few days after the break-ins, Monday night, I walked through Union Square. It was essentially empty. This in itself is not unusual in the evening. But there were no more cars either. Almost all intersections have been blocked. The flashing lights of the police cars flashed. Armed officers stood outside many luxury stores, protecting the items inside. This new plan, aimed at converting a wealthy tourist trap into what looks like a permanent police state, has been stamped and approved by the Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed.

“We’re going to make some changes to Union Square and the way cars can access it,” she told reporters after the break-ins. “Access will be limited with regards to when you come to this area. “

It’s not that I’m surprised by the open change, and that I don’t have enough feelings for Union Square itself to complain about the aesthetics. I to do find the speed with which it was implemented and the general muffled response from, well, almost everyone, both infuriating and disturbing.

It looks like the Police Takeover of Union Square is a trial ball for a seemingly liberal city giving in fully to conservative capital and talking points – the natural result of months and months of fear of landlord rights. business and crime and in particular the bogeyman Chesa Boudin. , which faces a recall effort.

Unlike the segments of Fox News and the viral Facebook posts that set the tone for this ongoing conversation, San Francisco is not some sort of socialist playground. It is a city of easy liberalism, with “hate has no home here” signs that begin and end on the estates dear to residents. Median household income in San Francisco has jumped by more than $ 40,000 in the previous decade, according to Forbes, the second largest increase behind only the city of Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley. We are represented in Congress by House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is worth over $ 100 million. Most of SF’s supervisory board except Dean Preston would vehemently reject the title “socialist,” as would Breed herself, who took no position on Boudin’s recall.

Let’s be clear: the reminder stems from a misplaced anxiety about property and capital. There are obviously voters who are genuinely concerned about crime (we’ll talk about that in a minute), but there is a much more influential and supportive class of donors. wealthy liberals and conservatives who teamed up to eliminate Boudin. This is why the SFPD has launched a overtly politicized temper tantrum in the name of saving handbags, not human lives.

Frightening anecdotes pushed especially harshly by local television reporters fueled the narrative of Boudin’s tenure, but these anecdotes are not backed by data, which shows more of a mishmash of statistical noise rather than a clear pattern. Year after year, burglaries are on the decline, theft is on the rise and thefts are on the decline. There have been more recorded homicides and fewer recorded sexual assaults. Total crime increased 8% from 2020, when people largely avoided others.

The city’s liberal politicians haven’t explained these discrepancies well enough. Rather than defend Boudin, they shrank and fled at the mere mention of him, further emboldening the SFPD. (Only two of the 11 supervisors, Preston and Hillary Ronen, even bothered to tweet in favor of Boudin over the past year.) Their squishiness at times like these is embarrassing and a failure; this could absolutely lead to a drop in semi-reliable voters who are not well-off liberals, some white, some not, and all of whom are Fed up with Democrats only running on “Trump bad.”

Instead of capitulating to the SFPD police prefect, here’s a suggestion: put things in perspective. Recognize that yes, you shouldn’t steal things, but Louis Vuitton’s profits are, by their own metrics, flow; the robberies they suffered in Union Square were the equivalent of you or me dropping a dollar bill on the floor. Louis Vuitton CEO Bernard Arnault is worth more than $ 200 billion. He can throw a bag of cash at the Union Square location and have it fixed in no time.

The SFPD has already presented its counter-argument, and it is a terrible and disproportionate argument. “We’re going to flood the area,” Police Chief William Scott boasted to reporters, “and we’re not going to stop at Union Square.”

It is a challenge for Boudin, now politically vulnerable and without liberal allies, to do something. Its a threat. And it is also a waste of money.

The San Francisco Liberals have a choice to make. What is the real problem here? Is the income inequality of the Bay Area, the worst in the country, lending itself to homelessness and theft during a global pandemic? Or can’t we trust the city scum under Boudin’s supervision, so now we need the police to brutal babysit?

Mayor Breed and many members of the supervisory board can remain silent and align themselves with a coalition that calls for more arrests, more batons, more blame for the perceived ills of San Francisco on a left-wing prosecutor. This scenario ends with a predictable and significant policy shift to the right. And for the record: Liberal politicians playing the game won’t get any credit for it, they’ll still get angry tweets from the SFPD union’s Twitter account, and they’ll lose voters anyway.

There is another option, however. Race and the liberal watchdog can get away with it. They can forcefully repel the police when they let the possibility of displaying themselves all over town. They can publicly discuss the root causes of poverty and crime, why we don’t need to vilify the poor, and more than that, how we are going to help them in a visible and useful way.

And if you’re one of the aforementioned well-off liberals, someone who doesn’t like Boudin and ties your identity to Democrats, you too can do something useful: take a minute to think critically about this. which constitutes a real theft in the first place. Is it the man worth $ 200 billion, or the dozens of people who allegedly stole stupid clothes and bags?

On Monday evening, on my return to Chinatown, I passed a well-dressed family just before I reached the Stockton tunnel. The family had two small children and were walking towards Union Square. One of the little children pointed at a disheveled-looking woman rummaging through trash cans, pulling out aluminum cans.

“What is she doing?” asked the child. I don’t know what the parents said in return, and I won’t claim otherwise. I imagine it was one of the two answers, one based on sympathy, the other resentful.

This is the thing. We can all agree that the situation in Union Square is a total disaster with far-reaching implications. How you define this disaster, and how you assess the factors that brought us here, is a matter of two opposing perspectives. The SFPD has let it be known that we have little time left to choose a side and react accordingly.

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