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Residents of San Francisco are being asked whether or not they need to endure repeated burglaries within barricaded homes.
The issue comes as part of a crime wave that seems to have erupted since the election of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who’s approach to crime seems to be “live and let live.” This prompted a story from the San Francisco Chronicle that unashamedly and unironically asks, [S]hould they tolerate burglaries as a part of city living, and focus on barricading homes?” alongside the equally shocking, “Should repeat offenders get rehabilitation services, or be incarcerated so they can’t commit more crimes? ”
Residents and city leaders are searching for answers: should they tolerate burglaries as a part of city living, and focus on barricading homes?
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) November 5, 2021
The Chronicle’s story begins with the tale of a man waking up in the Castro district to burglars rummaging through a basement he shares with other tenants at 3:30 a.m. In a surprisingly bold move, he grabbed a bat and went to confront the thieves, but they had already left with his bike and his neighbor’s bikes.
The police were notified, and surprisingly enough the two suspects, Nicholas Tiller and Tyler Howerton, were arrested merely hours later at a notorious hub for stolen goods in San Francisco, the downtown area of Seventh and Market streets.
Tiller and Howerton had extensive criminal records. Howerton alone had been arrested seven times for burglary since 2019. Tiller had been arrested a whopping thirteen times since 2013. At the time of the arrest related in the Chronicle, both were on probation.
Incredibly, San Francisco doesn’t seem to know what to do with the two repeat criminals. The DA’s office has managed to find the gumption to charge the two with felony first-degree residential burglary, along with several other charges, which would normally entail six years in prison if convicted.
Yet in spite of that, the DA spokeswoman, Rachel Marshall, stated in an email to the Chronicle that the DA’s office would consider alternatives, such as drug treatment, “if there is a specific, viable plan that can address what is driving their behavior.” Therefore the two may never even face charges for the latest burglary (that they were successfully caught for) in their long careers.
Superior Court Judge Brian Ferrall went further and ordered the release of Howerton from jail with GPS gear to monitor location, which was too far for even the DA’s office, which protested that Howerton wasn’t cooperating with his existing probation. Why would he be cooperative in another, similar program? Yet even amongst the prosecutors, there’s been no consensus in showing the slightest firmness: the judge simply pointed to the fact that an earlier prosecutor had failed to protest or oppose Howerton’s release.
This story of two burglars is becoming increasingly common. In one jurisdiction alone, that of the Mission District Police Station, there have been 810 burglaries, versus 716 in the same period last year, an increase of 13 percent. San Francisco has had one of the highest rates of property crime in the nation for years now, and it isn’t hard to see why when examining the ethos behind its notions of “justice.”
One Supervisor, Rafael Mandelman, expressed “frustration” with the situation of just what to do with repeat offenders:
“It raises tricky questions about incarceration because so far we’ve been unable to release [Tiller and Howerton] without them committing more crimes. And the question for reformers is, ‘What do we do with someone like that?’”
Nobody seems to have considered simply punishing and imprisoning repeat offenders. So while San Francisco grapples with these existential questions, the rest of the nation is likely to find it amazing and incredible that they have to be asked at all.