‘Breath Of Fresh Air’: Unlike Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s New DA Is Getting A Grip On Soaring Crime, Experts Say

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Trevor Schakohl Legal Reporter
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  • San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins replaced Chesa Boudin following his June 2022 recall and was elected in November.
  • Jenkins has received praise from experts after taking a tougher prosecution approach and rolling back parts of Boudin’s policy agenda, reinstituting cash bail in some cases. 
  • “I think that she first of all came in and was a breath of fresh air for a lot of people who felt like Chesa Boudin just ignored them all,” California Policy Center Education Policy and Government Affairs Vice President Lance Christensen said.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has made positive strides overall since replacing her left-wing predecessor Chesa Boudin, according to experts, despite Boudin supporters’ opposition to parts of her agenda and some city leaders’ aversion to increasing police funding.

San Francisco voters removed Boudin from office in a June 2022 recall election championed by Jenkins, with his opponents arguing he let recidivists out of jail who ultimately reoffended, and failed to prosecute criminals enough for serious offenses, having eliminated cash bail and campaigned for office in 2019 on lowering incarceration rates. Experts who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation commended Jenkins’ efforts to fight crime by taking a far more aggressive prosecution stance than Boudin, whose tenure was marked by policies she has begun rolling back.

“More than anything I believe having Brooke Jenkins as the District Attorney sends a clearer message to criminals that prosecution is back on the table,” Pacific Research Institute Senior Urban Studies Fellow Steve Smith told the DCNF. “Mr. Boudin would say that he was prosecuting cases, but what he was doing was diverting cases. Once that kind of information gets out on the street, then the crooks know that means there’s no real consequence for what they do.” (RELATED: Crime Has Risen Under The Watch Of Soros-Backed Prosecutors In Six Major Cities)

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office during Boudin’s tenure sent an increased number of cases to diversion programs sparing defendants from lengthy incarceration periods and allowing some to walk free without criminal records, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Richie Greenberg, who founded the Committee Supporting the Recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin that unsuccessfully sought to oust him in 2021, told the DCNF that Jenkins had to fire office staff members still loyal to Boudin and face “trumped-up, fake charges” that his loyalists submitted to the San Francisco Ethics Commission and California State Bar.

Greenberg said Jenkins is rebuilding a district attorney’s office that Boudin and his established predecessor, current Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, tried to use as rather than truly prosecuting. Billionaire George Soros donated more than $2 million in 2020 in support of Gascon, who has since survived to Los Angeles County recall efforts.

Jenkins announced Aug. 3 that her office would prohibit referring drug dealers arrested with more than five grams of drugs to San Francisco’s community justice court and consider enhancing charges for drug dealing within 1,000 feet of a school. She said the office had already revoked 30 open plea offers made by Boudin, one of which had been awarded to a defendant facing six open fentanyl-dealing cases.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 07: San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin looks on during an election-night event on June 07, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Voters in San Francisco recalled Boudin, who eliminated cash bail, vowed to hold police accountable and worked to reduce the number of people sent to prison. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 07: San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin looks on during an election-night event on June 07, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Taking another step away from Boudin’s policies a few weeks later, Jenkins pledged to seek cash bail in some misdemeanor cases as legally required and evaluate every pre-trial release decision on a case-by-case basis, with public and victim safety serving as the primary considerations. In October, her office touted filing about 95% more felony narcotics charges over the previous three months than Boudin’s office had during the same period in 2021.

By Feb. 25, Jenkins celebrated her office having pursued pre-trial detention in 17 cases involving alleged fentanyl dealers with several previous charges for that offense, and the Chronicle pointed out that Boudin’s office often diverted dealers to treatment programs.

“I think that she first of all came in and was a breath of fresh air for a lot of people who felt like Chesa Boudin just ignored them all,” California Policy Center Education Policy and Government Affairs Vice President Lance Christensen told the DCNF. “And her open door policy is a dramatic departure from a ‘we’re gonna give it to you hard and you’re gonna like it’ approach that Chesa Boudin had for a long time.”

Roughly 68.42% of SFPD arrests for burglary, robbery, kidnapping or motor vehicle theft from August 2022 through February 2023 have resulted in filed criminal charges, compared to charges in 58.87% of such arrests from August 2021 through February 2022, when Boudin was in office, District Attorney’s Office data shows. Serious property crime and violent crime incidents comparatively fell by around 2.5% between those two periods, according to SFPD statistics.

Breed and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott support Jenkins, but she faces powerful opposition from sources including San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, who supported Boudin, according to Greenberg. Raju has vocally attacked some of Jenkins’ reforms, accusing her office in August of “intentionally setting money bail to lock a poor person in jail where a wealthy person could simply pay the money and be released.”

At a Tuesday press conference that Jenkins and Scott attended, Breed promoted a $27 million police overtime funding bill, urging San Francisco Board of Supervisors members to “put politics aside,” according to The San Francisco Standard. Scott indicated the SFPD needs some 500 more sworn officers to support its workload long-term.

Greenberg claimed most of the Board of Supervisors’ 11 members still harbor “defund the police, anti-cop sentiment” following the 2020 George Floyd protests. He said the city’s Police Commission remains “mostly anti-cop as well.”

“Brooke has been in court and has won at trial,” Greenberg told the DCNF. “So the challenge though that we have is we’ve got a non-cooperative Police Commission and we have a still-stuck-in-2020-attitude Board of Supervisors who is delaying or putting up barriers or stopping further appropriating funds to get more police hired and to authorize and pay for more police academy classes to graduate more cops.”

Christensen said Jenkins hasn’t made “an incredible difference in everything,” describing how acquaintances currently struggle to visit San Francisco based on safety concerns. Some of the city’s small business owners have suffered repeated burglaries at their establishments, according to the Chronicle.

However, Christensen credited Jenkins with restoring a degree of public confidence, arguing San Francisco “wasn’t destroyed in a night and a day” and she is “doing the best she can.”

“It’s gonna take some time to rebuild that place, and she’s a key figure in that process,” Christensen told the DCNF. “I would say she’s gotta be careful that she doesn’t get sucked into this cult of personality and think that it’s her and her alone. As long as she continues to work with the partners and the different people in the area, San Francisco can have a turn-around.”

Jenkins’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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