Thank you, Capt. Obvious: The Crisis in San Francisco

By Charles “Sam” Faddis, AND Magazine

One of my favorite recurring television characters is Captain Obvious. He appears in a string of commercials, dressed in a uniform vaguely resembling that of a hotel doorman and says things that are, well, painfully obvious. Apparently, Captain Obvious doesn’t just appear on commercials, however, because it appears he attended a recent meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and revealed the obvious to its members.

On June 4, 2019, the Board voted to allow mentally ill and often drug-addicted individuals to be forcibly committed and compelled to accept treatment. Speaking afterward San Francisco’s mayor had this to say. “Allowing people to continue to suffer on our streets is not acceptable or humane, and I am glad the Board of Supervisors supported our approach to finally make a change.”

Talk about obvious. The first mental institution in the United States opened in Philadelphia in 1753 in Philadelphia. Even before we were an independent nation the Quakers in Pennsylvania had faced the hard truth that certain people are a danger to themselves and others and simply must be compelled to accept treatment. Apparently, San Francisco is just now getting the word.

The truth is, of course, that the fact that San Francisco is only now beginning to wrestle with the necessity for a means to commit mentally ill individuals is just one symptom of a much broader problem. San Francisco has become, in effect, the poster child for the dysfunction inherent in a whole range of so-called “progressive” policies. Paralyzed by political correctness, unwilling to make hard decisions and obsessed with victimization, San Francisco sinks every year deeper into the morass. A once great American city is now awash in filth, disease, and hordes of addicts and criminals.

A “poop map” of San Francisco, available online, tracks every location at which human fecal matter has been reported on city streets. Opening that map shows the entire city colored in the nasty brown of human feces, and you will have to zoom in a number of times before you can begin to distinguish locations that have not been “soiled.”

San Francisco is overrun by the homeless, many of them drug users and petty criminals. Drawn by the policies of a city that will not arrest them or force them to seek treatment and by the availability of shelters and public benefits, substantial numbers come to San Francisco from elsewhere. Many others are simply unable to secure housing in a city which has made the construction of new apartment buildings prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Over the last two years, the number of homeless persons in San Francisco has grown 17%. There are now over 8,000 homeless persons in a city of only 880,000 people.

San Francisco now has more drug addicts than it does students enrolled in public high schools. At last count, there were almost 25,000 intravenous drug users in San Francisco, compared to a total of 16,000 high school students. That 25,000 figure represents an increase of roughly 2000 users since 2012.

All of this means filth on an epic scale on the streets. Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, Berkeley who has researched slums across the world has this to say. “The contamination is … much greater than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India.” In Los Angeles, which has similar issues, typhus, a disease of the Middle Ages, has made a comeback. It can only be a matter of time until the same is true in San Francisco.

Not surprisingly, San Francisco is the now the nation’s leader in property crime. In 2017 there were 30,000 reports of car break-ins. The current average is 51 a day. Other crimes – burglary, larceny, shoplifting, drug dealing, street harassment, encampments, indecent exposure, public intoxication, simple assault, and disorderly conduct are also rampant.

Crime is destroying retail sales. Stores are closing in response to rampant shoplifting. Empty storefronts dot once prosperous neighborhoods.

“Property and low-level crimes shrink the space for everyday people and enlarge them for the people committing them,” says Nancy Tung, a criminal prosecutor for two decades, who is running for district attorney in the 2019 election. “If we continue down this path, we will see more people leave San Francisco.

That prediction seems likely to be completely accurate. Recent polls show huge numbers of residents dissatisfied with life in San Francisco and yearning to leave. Recent surveys by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group found that 44% of those queried in the San Francisco area planned to leave the region.

The real estate company Redfin estimates that 23.8% of users of its site in the San Francisco area are browsing out of town locations.

The Chicago-based public relations firm, Edelman conducted a survey earlier this year and found 50% of respondents in the Bay Area were considering leaving the state. Among millennials, the figure was 66%.

“A lot of people are ready to leave because the crimes are causing depression,” says Susan Dyer Reynolds, editor-in-chief of the Marina Times, an independent community newspaper. “Navigation centers” for the homeless, says Reynolds, “are not sober facilities, and people steal and break into cars to feed their habits. Crime will go up. We know this.”

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This is the horrible, almost science fiction-quality reality of life in a city run by people incapable of making rational, common sense decisions and doing what is necessary to maintain order and protect law-abiding citizens. This is what happens when politicians care more about the “rights” of criminals and drug addicts than they do the safety and security of the community. In this context, against this backdrop, a token effort to begin to commit small numbers of individuals unable to care for themselves is a very small step. Still, it is a step, even if it is an obvious one.

Thanks, Captain Obvious.

Charles S. (Sam) Faddis, Senior Partner- Artemis, LLC is a former CIA operations officer with thirty years of experience in the conduct of intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia and Europe. His last assignment prior to retirement in May of 2008 was as head of the CIA’s terrorist Weapons of Mass Destruction unit. He took the first CIA team into Iraq in the Summer of 2002 in advance of the invasion of that country and has worked extensively in the field with law enforcement, local security forces and special operations teams. 

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