Washington Post man-splains SF crime

Things look fine from 3,000 miles away, they say

Thank God for the Washington Post.

It’s no secret that San Francisco is a little on edge right now. And why not? We are seeing one video after another of random, violent attacks in broad daylight.

The very worst of them were two horrific car crashes. In each case there was a career criminal at the wheel of a stolen car. The result was the death of three innocent people. Each driver was free, despite pending charges.

It’s been a lot.

So someone at the Washington Post must have said, “Hey let’s have reporter Radley Balko look into this. He can pat the Nervous SF Nellies on their heads and explain to them that there’s nothing to worry about.”

And you have to admit, Balko gets results. He begins his June 14 column with another one of the senseless, frightening incidents that seem to crop up daily.

In this one a 75-year-old woman was walking to her car at the Richmond Safeway (For you East Coasters, Richmond is a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood miles from the city center.)

The woman was attacked by three young woman. They punched her, kicked her, stole her car keys and dragged her across the parking lot. That was when a Good Samaritan named Harry Mulholland came to the rescue, saving the woman and scaring off the attackers.

And this is where Balko announces he’s found the villain in this attack. No, not the attackers. Not the SF legal system, which still seems confused about what to do about the attack.

Nope, the real culprit in this case is KGO-TV reporter Dion Lim. Lim has been leading the coverage of the random attacks in the city, often against elderly Asian victims.

Balko says he contacted the hero, Mulholland, who complained that during an interview with Lim, she pushed him to “say something” about District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Boudin, of course, is fighting soft-on-crime charges in the city, with a recall effort underway.

Holland says he felt “a little violated,” by the questions. And if he did, OK. But here’s an interview with Dion, where he seems pretty comfortable.

But the real point is that Balko is leading up to the quote Lim reportedly lured Mulholland into saying, which is:

“I believe in restorative justice and I understand Chesa has a model . . . but his way of going about it is not working.”

Which I think a good part of the population would applaud. Exactly. We are a city that embraces new ideas. We’re not afraid to try something new and different.

But this is not working.

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Every one of those incidents — from the two Asian women randomly stabbed at a Market Street bus stop to the 84-year-old man who was shoved to the ground in SF and died of his injuries — raises the heat on Boudin.

And now, mysteriously, Balko arrives. There’s no doubt he wrote a column to give Boudin cover. The headline is “The bogus backlash against progressive prosecutors.”

And just a word about Balko. He’s something of a legend in some media circles. The (admittedly partisan) web site S.H.A.M.E. (Shame the Hacks who Abuse Media Ethics) has five pages on him. At various times, the site says, Balko has claimed smoking restrictions are the work of “healthists,” and suggested that “guns save lives.”

Critics also refer to the Wall Street Journal, which published an excerpt from a Balko book and then had to issue “corrections and amplifications” that ran to almost 200 words. Among them, “The Consumer Products Safety Commission does not have a SWAT team.”

At the very least you can say Balko is a guy with an agenda, which he brought to this topic. Progressive DA’s, he’s saying, are getting a bad rap, especially from that darn over-zealous media.

And this is when everyone, from all sides, bring out their dueling statistics. This generally leads to stalemate. Depending on which data is used, it either shows that crime has skyrocketed, or that the concern is inflated because things haven’t changed that much.

The latter seems to the argument Balko is making. With the pandemic it is hard to know how to what the data means. But generally, crime hasn’t gotten worse.

So there you have it — the campaign slogan for 2024. “Chesa Boudin — It Hasn’t Gotten Worse.”

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See, that’s the thing. When we elect someone new, we expect to see improvements. At the very least new ideas that make a difference.

Instead, we get one head-shaking, violent video after another.

Now, we’ve said this before here, and we will say it again. This is not all Boudin’s fault. San Francisco’s legal system is crazy, and inclined to giving even repeat offenders a break.

Boudin had his own experience with the famously lenient San Francisco judges. Daniel Cauich, a career criminal who once faced murder charges, was brought before a judge, in May charged with burglary.

Boudin says his office recommended Cauich stay in jail. A judge disagreed and set him free with an ankle monitoring device. Cauich then randomly attacked a 94-year-old Asian woman, stabbing her repeatedly.

So yeah, it’s a tough place to be a D.A.

But when you come into office with an announcement that “We will not prosecute cases involving quality of life crimes,” you are pretty much setting yourself up for criticism if things start to go south.

And when a guy rolls into Walgreen’s on a bike and loads up a plastic bag with goods, and then rolls out, daring anyone to stop him, people are going to say “this is exactly what we thought was going to happen.” It is the definition of lawlessness.

(In another aside from the other side of the country, CBS anchor Tony Dokoupil suggested that the shoplifter might have been getting “something he needed” or a “toothbrush.” In fact, the police report says he was stocking up on cosmetics, which have an active underground market.)

Anyhow, the point is that when these things happen, people look for someone to blame. And if you’re the District Attorney, you’re in charge of law and order in the city.

Taking the heat isn’t unfair or petty.

It’s the job.

D.A.’s stand up at a podium. They say they recognize there is a problem. They say they appreciate the concern. And then they say what they’re going to do about it.

Boudin has been defensive. He’s blamed the police. He’s blamed the crime lab. He’s gotten into social media squabbles.

And bottom line — It’s not working.

Which is why I don’t think he’s a good choice for this job.

Contact C.W. Nevius at cwnevius@gmail.com. Suggestions and compliments gladly accepted. Criticism not so much. Twitter: @cwnevius