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Monday, March 8, 2010

DA: Further Newsom Budget Cuts Would Lead to 'Surrender the Safety of Our Streets'

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Coming soon to San Francisco -- if the DA suffers more budget cuts, she warns
  • Coming soon to San Francisco -- if the DA suffers more budget cuts, she warns
One month before Kamala Harris received an Attorney General race endorsement from Mayor Gavin Newsom, her office issued a scathing report saying further budget cuts would "devastate the office and harm public safety."

Under this scenario, Newsom's efforts to maintain police funding for his freshman chief George Gascon would amount to window dressing.

"Thankfully, the San Francisco Police Department has not faced a reduction in the number of officers on the street due to budget cuts," reads the report from Harris' office. But "arrests on the street are only as good as the City's ability to effectively prosecute and convict offenders."

Meanwhile, in an interview during his last half-hour in office Feb. 26, retiring San Francisco Adult Probation chief Patrick Boyd told SF Weekly possible budget cuts would hamper his successor's ability to help prevent paroled felons from committing new crimes.

"I'm concerned whether or not the resources are going to be

there to do the probation work and for the supportive resources in the

community," Boyd said.

click to enlarge Could Civilization End as We Know It?
  • Could Civilization End as We Know It?
In order to close a projected $522 million San Francisco budget gap, Newsom has ordered departments to submit data showing how they might function in worst-case theoretical scenarios where were shrunk by 10 and 20 percent.

The budget of the District Attorney's office has already been cut by 12 percent during the last budget cycle, said Harris' spokeswoman Erica Derryck. She says the department can't contract more without potentially letting criminals get away.

"The cuts we've sustained to date impact our ability to provide a core public safety function," Derryck said.

The DA used the occasion of a routine annual "efficiency plan" submitted to the mayor's budget director as a forum for warning further cuts could make for a dangerous, chaotic future.

"Continuing to reduce the budget of the District Attorney's Office

would leave victims in peril and surrender the safety of our streets,"

the Feb. 1 report said. "Our agency is already busting at the  seams. The

prospect of losing more resources will make it impossible for us to

meep up with the demand and public safety will be hampered."

Meanwhile, possible cuts in adult probation department might undermine the goal of helping felons kick their crime habit.

San Francisco adult probationers are, as a group, more high-risk than elsewhere in the country. On average, 47 percent of U.S. adult probationers are felons. Thanks to this city's pre-trial diversion programs and a tendency to sentence fewer felons to state prison, the probation office sees the hardest cases. In San Francisco, 84 percent of the city's 6,800 probationers are convicted felons, and they are apt to have longer criminal histories than the average probationer elsewhere.

With further cuts, the department would have to eliminate specialization among probation officers. Currently, eight officers work with domestic violence offenders, four with 18-to-25 year olds, three with gang members, and two with sex offenders.

"My concern as a probation chief is that the entire system

relies on the probation process to help people get their lives straight and

stop offending," said outgoing chief probation officer Boyd. "If we are not successful at that, then you have continuing

offenses, and continuing workload for police, sheriff, jail, DA, public

defender, courts, everyone, and additional victims."

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Matt Smith

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