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Sat Jul 31, 2021, 04:04 PM

The Trial of Chesa Boudin Can a young progressive prosecutor survive a political backlash in SF

“It doesn’t matter that crime is down,” Chesa Boudin has said. “People feel less safe. They want to feel safe.”

Theft is often described as if it is among the highest of criminal arts, but the figures in recent San Francisco surveillance videos are artless. Earlier this month, a bystander captured the final stages of a ten-person larceny of designer handbags from Neiman Marcus. One by one, they spill out the front door, each clutching oversized bags to the chest; the final thief races out carrying half a dozen handbags, still attached to a multipronged security chain. Their movements are encumbered, zany, almost Chaplin-esque; when they exit, some look uncertain about which way to run. This is disorder without menace, but not without effect. Walgreens has closed stores in the city, and Target has cut store hours, citing an “alarming rise” in retail theft. The Gap, which is headquartered in the city, has closed nearly all of its retail outlets there.

The San Francisco surveillance videos that have gone most viral are those that emphasize brazenness and impunity. In June, a reporter at the local ABC affiliate posted on Twitter a cell-phone video taken at a Walgreens in Hayes Valley. A man on a bicycle stands in the middle of an aisle, calmly loading cosmetics into a black garbage bag. He begins with the top shelf, and works his way down to the bottom one, until his bag is full. A few feet away is a Walgreens security guard, who makes no effort to stop the cyclist, choosing instead to film him with his phone. Eventually, the cyclist mounts his bike and rides out, ducking to avoid a half-hearted lunge from the guard. The video crystallizes the subversive, Banksy-ish quality of the San Francisco theft wave. It also supplied a political context—in her post, the reporter, Lyanne Melendez, tagged Boudin.

In his office, Boudin considered, for what must have been the thousandth time, the implications of the Walgreens video, a task to which he brought a yeshiva intensity. “When I watch that video, I think about five questions that people are not asking that I think they should,” he said. “Is he drug addicted, mentally ill, desperate? Is he part of a major retail fencing operation? What’s driving this behavior and is it in any way representative, because it was presented as something symptomatic?” The way the video had been presented suggested that shoplifting had become a raging problem in San Francisco, but, he pointed out, the official data showed that over-all theft was down from the previous year.

Boudin turned to the matter of the security guard: Why, Boudin asked, had he reacted so passively? Boudin said, “If Walgreens has insurance for certain goods or they expect a certain amount of loss, if they would rather not risk lawsuits or escalation to violence—then maybe that’s something we should know about.” He mentioned a fact he often cites when confronted about property crime—that the police make arrests in just two-and-a-half per cent of reported thefts. “Maybe that’s a good thing—maybe that means they’re prioritizing murders,” Boudin said. “But when this particular individual was arrested, and we got the full police history, it turned out that he had been detained by the police previously after another Walgreens incident, and they didn’t arrest him because Walgreens had said they did not want to press charges in that prior case. The police had known who he was for months.”

Boudin paused, seeming to recognize that he was offering an essentially structural explanation for an emotional problem, which was that people thought criminals weren’t being punished and that freaked them out. He said, “From a public political standpoint, what matters more is the ups and downs and if people feel less safe. It doesn’t matter that crime is down. People feel less safe. They want to feel safe.”


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Reply The Trial of Chesa Boudin Can a young progressive prosecutor survive a political backlash in SF (Original post)
tenderfoot Jul 31 OP
nycbos Jul 31 #1

Response to tenderfoot (Original post)

Sat Jul 31, 2021, 04:33 PM

1. Whoa whoa whoa hold on a second.

"Progressives—among them, Kamala Harris."

I was told by "progressives" that "Kamala is cop" and given the language people used was personally responsible for mass incarceration.

When Harris was running for president there was nothing but vitriol directed out her Bible left at her prosecutorial record.

Now she is an example of a progressive prosecutor?

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