DA Gascón Delivers State of Public Safety, Discusses Vision for a Modern Justice System Fit for the 21st Century

February 27, 2014

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Gascón San Francisco well positioned to become safest big city in America

SAN FRANCISCO - District Attorney George Gascón delivered his first ever State of Public Safety Address today to hundreds of public safety advocates and community leaders. The District Attorney detailed his vision for a modern justice system and discussed plans to implement new programs and technology designed to create efficiencies and reduce the prison population, thereby enabling prosecutors to redouble their efforts to keep violent offenders off the streets.

“Restorative justice holds great promise for a modern justice system,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “And central to a modern justice system is our implementation of modern technology.”

The District Attorney discussed plans to introduce new tools such as an arrest alert system. The new system will quickly notify prosecutors when key individuals who are known to be driving criminal activity in San Francisco are apprehended. He also discussed how the use of such tools and data can maximize taxpayer dollars by unclogging our courts and enabling prosecutors to focus on the issues that pose serious public safety consequences.

For example, the District Attorney pointed out that 63% of the office’s caseload was devoted to narcotics in 2009, but drug offenses now account for only 32% of all cases. He attributes the decline to a focus on serious and violent offenders, with felony filings for assault, domestic violence, gun possession and robbery, all up. Convictions for assault, robbery and domestic violence are all up as well. San Francisco also saw fewer gun shots fired on its streets in 2013 than in 2012, and a 30% reduction in homicides.

“These are lives saved, and traumas avoided,” Gascón explains. “One less crime means one less tragedy - and one less victim.”

District Attorney Gascón also detailed prevention efforts spanning from pedestrian safety to initiatives to keep juveniles out of the criminal justice system. One such initiative, called “Make It Right”, is a restorative justice alternative to traditional prosecution. Young people, their victims and supporters come together to develop a consensus-based plan to address the root causes and repair the harm caused by their criminal acts. If they successfully make amends, the case will not be prosecuted, and the juvenile can avoid having a record. The District Attorney explained, “We believe these interventions will prevent juveniles from entering our adult criminal justice system, and will ensure victims are restored and treated with respect.”

District Attorney Gascón bemoaned the inability of the justice system to keep pace with the times, and pointed out that the system has lost the ability to “distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance.” In San Francisco, however, programs to treat and rehabilitate offenders have been so effective that the District Attorney announced the creation of a new division dedicated to innovating and improving alternatives to incarceration. The Division of Alternative Programs and Initiatives will oversee all of the office’s restorative justice programs and initiatives focused on reducing incarceration rates, improving public safety and restoring victims.

With these advances and more, San Francisco is well positioned to be the safest big city in America. For more information about the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and District Attorney George Gascón, please refer to the District Attorney’s 2013 annual report at www.sfdistrictattorney.org