SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Fear of crime is on the rise in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially when it comes to returning to major urban shopping areas, according to a poll released Thursday by the Bay Area. Council.
Jim Wunderman, chairman and chief executive of the council, called those fears a “stern deterrent” as businesses try to bounce back from two years of COVID restrictions. Of Bay Area residents surveyed, 65% said they avoid going to downtown areas of major cities because of crime.
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“Fears about crime are a serious impediment to getting people back on public transit and in our downtowns and business districts,” Wunderman said in a press release. “Bringing down the hammer on crime and ensuring public safety is not a moot issue, it is a core responsibility of local government and law enforcement. The deep concern reflected in the results of these polls should be a clear call to our local leaders to do what is necessary to make our cities, neighborhoods and transit systems safe for all.
The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored public policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area that regularly surveys local residents about life in the area.
Thursday’s poll focused on crime and the results were eye-opening.
Crime and safety ranked third on the list of top local concerns among respondents just behind homelessness and high housing costs. Perceptions of the Bay Area as a safe place to live dropped from 63% in 2019 to 47% in this year’s poll.
According to the survey, 65% of respondents said they avoid going to downtown areas of major cities because of crime. Concerns about crime and safety were also mentioned as a reason for leaving the Bay Area. That’s a stark change from 2018, when crime was barely recorded as a reason for moving.
Asked about crime in general, respondents mostly cited the fear of being the victim of car and home break-ins. This was closely followed by violent crime, public drug use, begging and public nuisance.
The poll of 1,000 Bay Area respondents was conducted by EMC Research on behalf of the council between March 2 and March 9 and has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.1 percentage points.
“I think you ask a lot of people in our cities either they’ve personally had their car broken into and the glass broken,” Wunderman said. “Or their best friend for the neighbor or a family member has. I think it’s close to people, that kind of property crime.
Wunderman said KPIX crime was once a tracking concern in their poll. It is now ranked third on the list of most important issues facing the region, just behind the pillars.
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“You have homelessness, which is number one, and then you have housing,” Wunderman said of the list. “But right after that you have crime, which was at the bottom of the list. So that’s the perception? Is this reality? I don’t want to guess, but I think we have to take it very, very seriously.
KPIX spoke to a few local residents in both San Francisco and suburban Walnut Creek to gauge their feelings on crime.
“We’re right across from the Louis Vuitton store that was looted,” San Francisco resident Pat said as he made his way to the Apple Store.
He knows what happened in Union Square, but he says the real problem is car break-ins. Does he think crime is getting worse?
“Here and Oakland, absolutely,” he said.
“I feel like even here in Walnut Creek, two or three years ago, the things that were happening here weren’t happening here,” said Sean, an Oakland resident who was in Walnut Creek. for lunch. “You’re Macy’s stores, your Nordstrom’s, lots of kids rushing and running with everything.”
Oakland resident Sean knows about the high-profile looting of downtown Walnut Creek, but he doesn’t think that’s the whole story of the crime.
“I don’t think crime has increased,” he said. “I just think there are different levels. And we have technology exposing it now.
As to whether or not the Bay Area is a safe place to live, polls differ by county. 60% of San Mateo County residents report feeling safe, but the numbers are dropping. Only 37% of Alameda County residents feel safe, while 33% of respondents in Napa and Solano counties said they feel safe. The crime, if nothing else, has a lot of people talking and arguing.
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“People from out of town think we meet in bars and talk politics,” Pat laughed. “We are not talking about politics. Crime is on everyone’s mind.