San Francisco homicide
Will the killings in SF ever stop?
One of the serial killers in SF, Joseph James DeAngelo – a.k.a. the Golden State Killer – is finally paying for the horrendous crimes he committed. But there is still a long list of unidentified killers and unresolved cases in San Francisco. And the killings may not be stopping soon.
Crime in San Francisco has always had a spot in the national limelight. While the body count is not as high as other neighboring cities in the 21st century, San Francisco is unfortunately home to the top names of serial killers like the infamous Zodiac Killer, The Doodler, The Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killers, The Golden State Killer, The Unabomber, The Zebra Killer, and The Night Stalker.
But it’s not just serial killings in SF that are notorious. It’s also had its fair share of homicides, murders, and other horrendous crimes that have captured the imagination of millions. The 20th century was the worst. Disappearances, shootings, and even massacres dominated the news spreading fear all over the city.
Today, the rising popularity of crime shows, documentaries, and podcasts has again put San Francisco under the limelight. The news of San Francisco homicides, murder in San Francisco, and shootings in San Francisco are haunting memories for the city.
Decipher the Differences: Homicide vs. Murder vs. Manslaughter
These three crimes are not the same. Let’s decipher the differences and know the laws in San Francisco.
Homicide is the killing of one person by another and is considered a broad term used for both legal and illegal killings. That is, there are situations where killing does not constitute a crime. This legal distinction is the difference between murder and manslaughter.
Under the California Penal Code section 187, murder is defined as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” Malice is knowledge and intention to do evil while ‘malice aforethought’ is killing another person with the intention to do so. In other words, murder is pre-meditated killing.
There are three charges for murder:
- First-degree murder is charged with up to 25 years in prison with an extension to life. One type is capital murder, which is murder with special circumstances punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or even death.
San Francisco’s death row is currently empty following the 2019 moratorium of the death penalty of California Gov. Gavin Newsom. San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin also noted that his office has never sought the death penalty and will never seek such punishment.
Nevertheless, over 700 people are still on death row in the whole state of California as of July 2020. The last execution was in 2006.
- Second-degree murder is killing without any preconceived intention – for example, an unplanned, intentional killing. It is penalized up to 15 years to life in prison.
Manslaughter is defined as the unintentional killing of another person and is considered a less severe crime than murder. There are two categories for manslaughter.
- Voluntary manslaughter is killing without any premeditation. That is, the intent to kill or inflict bodily harm is committed in the heat of passion (although not limited to this). And the premise is that any reasonable person under the same situation would have acted the same way.
- Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is an act committed without premeditation and any intent.
A Year Of Crime in SF: The 2020 Homicide Count
There are roughly 880,000 people in San Francisco, and the homicide count stands at over 40 people every year. This may be a small percentage but human lives can never simply be reduced to a number. As SFPD Deputy Chief David Lazar says, “One homicide is too many.” But he also noted that “the fact that we have had less rather than more is good.”
Still, it’s quite alarming that in 2020, rates of homicide in SF were slightly higher than the record-low in 2019. That is, in 2019, San Francisco saw the lowest homicide count in 56 years with 41 people killed. In 2020, the homicide count was 48. Nevertheless, the numbers are still much better than the 1960s through the 80s where serial killings and other crimes proliferated.
But increases in homicide haven’t just occurred in San Francisco. There has been a reported 35% surge in killings in the 15 biggest cities in the Bay Area. From the 210 recorded killings in 2019, the numbers jumped to 285 in 2020. Homicide in San Jose also rose, with 44 recorded killings in 2020 compared to 34 in 2019.
The jump in crime is not isolated; analysis across the biggest cities in the US also showed the same trend.
The Crime Statistics in SF
Crime in SF and neighboring cities rose substantially during the pandemic – enough to warrant a closer look at the situation. San Francisco leaders are now vowing to take hold of the situation after 2021 has already been met with two disturbing murders.
The fact that the crimes rose can be tied to the effects of the pandemic. There are all sorts of stress for people who are not able to meet their basic needs. Coupled with pressure and anxiety, it is no wonder that people are resorting to extreme measures.
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Latest Stories in San Francisco Killings
Bay Area Crime
Violent Crimes: 6,173 reported
Property Crimes: 48,118 reported
Violent Crimes: 5,854 reported
Property Crimes: 47,990 reported
San Francisco Homicide
and Cold Cases
When a San Francisco homicide is ruled as a ‘cold case’, that means the case is on hold due to lack of evidence and witnesses.
The SFPD can reopen these cases with the introduction of new promising information or witness accounts. The City offers a monetary reward if the information leads to an arrest and prosecution of these murders.