Who is Chesa Boudin? 'Woke' DA blamed for spate of shocking robberies in the Bay Area
San Fransisco is currently facing one of its worst crime waves in recent memory. In mid-November, armed robbers have been brazenly caught on video looting stores in the Bay Area, including a Sam's Jewelers store, Lululemon, and a Wellspring Pharmacy. Despite the video evidence, there's little police can do to stop the crime wave, which has led to additional pressure on District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
The Bay Area isn't the only part of the US plagued by looting. Amid constant protests against police brutality and racism, several cities have faced issues with looters. In October 2020, a Walmart store in Philadelphia was looted and caught on television. Before that, in August, looters ripped through the Chicago shopping district after rumors began to circulate that police had shot a child. Then in April 2021, the shooting of Duante Wright in Minneapolis led to the looting of nearby shopping malls.
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However, the Bay Area is currently facing a crisis like a few other cities. Despite not being rocked as badly by protests, larceny-theft is on the rise in SF. SFPD data shows a 14.7% increase in cases between 2021 and 2020. While there are plenty of factors contributing to the rise, residents believe there's one key factor - DA Boudin.
Boudin's role in SF's crime spree
Boudin was elected DA in January 2020, taking over from George Gascon. He's part of a long line of Democratic candidates, who prefer to take a softer stance on crime than their Republican counterparts. In fact, back in 2014, California voters passed Prop 47, which turned non-violent property crimes (less than $950) into misdemeanors, raising the dollar amount for them to be classified as felonies.
Since passing that proposition, many California cities have seen a rise in looting, but SF appears to be bearing the brunt in recent months. In fact, The Daily Mail noted that charging rates have dropped across the board under Boudin, with conviction rates also falling. Gascon had 82% and 77% conviction rates for theft and petty theft, as opposed to 79% and 62% by Boudin.
Those numbers appear to be the reason the city is furious with its DA. While he has been silent on Prop 47, his policies have been polarizing at best. He backs the reduction of pretrial incarceration and eliminated charges for possession of contraband obtained through stop-and-frisk style "pretextual" searches. Many critics have labeled his policies as "lax", allowing criminals to get away when they shouldn't be. But while many see him as a reformer of the criminal justice system, there are plenty of people that don't.
Boudin faces recall
The crime spree forced SF voters to back a recall vote for Boudin, with the petition becoming successful in early November 2021. Boudin will now have to face the ballot box on June 7, 2022. Around 83,000 people signed the petition, over 32,000 more than what was needed. "This has nothing to do with the facts or the real challenges our communities are facing. This has everything to do with disrespecting the will of the people," he said at the time, but it appears to have had little effect.
He's not the only one on the line though. Local businessman John Chachas told The Mail, "The mayor and her entire team should resign. We can't operate a business, so we will evaluate our options to be elsewhere unless this nonsense ends." But for now, Boudin will be the one facing recall and the city's ire. In fact, two of his attorneys recently quit the DA's office to help with the effort, dubbing the DA "dangerous" and saying he wasn't doing enough.
The truth is, there are a lot of reasons for the crime spree in SF. The pandemic has seen a sharp rise in poverty and homelessness and coupled with the Bay Area's steep rents, thousands of residents are struggling to get by. But Boudin's inaction seems to be the most troubling factor, with the DA simply unwilling to charge enough people or let them remain in prison.