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Nearly half of people convicted of crimes in San Francisco were arrested again within three years, and offenders who committed violent crimes, burglaries and other felony property crimes were even more likely to come back through the criminal justice system.

But people busted for drunken driving in the city rarely saw the inside of a jail cell again, and just 2% of DUI offenders were reconvicted of other crimes within three years.

The statistics — released this week by the San Francisco district attorney’s office — are part of a broad public data initiative that tracked recidivism rates of 9,407 offenders. The statistics were collected by following adults convicted and sentenced locally for crimes in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Their subsequent contact with the justice system was tracked for the next three years at three points: arrest, arraignment and conviction. The office also collected data on offenders’ race, gender and age.

Law enforcement officials have documented the number of crimes, arrests and convictions in San Francisco and beyond for decades, but often-elusive recidivism rates provide more precise insight into a city’s success — and just as importantly, its failures — to intervene and stop criminal behavior.

“The goal is transparency, but it’s also a tool for policymakers to say, ‘How do we measure our criminal justice system? How do we measure effectiveness? What are the interventions that we may want to evaluate differently?’ ” District Attorney George Gascón told The Chronicle.

The new data, which will soon be available on the district attorney’s website, is part of an initiative in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Department, California Policy Lab at UC Berkeley and the MacArthur Foundation.

The numbers, however, do not include offenders who were sentenced to prison in California. The district attorney’s office said it measured recidivism rates beginning when a person was released from custody, and it did not have data from the state’s Department of Corrections on when offenders got out.

As it happens, San Francisco is proportionally the lowest contributor to California’s prison system, with less than 20% of felony convictions resulting in state prison, Gascón said. A state audit released earlier this year found recidivism rates hovered around 50% over the past decade for people coming out of state prison, even as the prison population fell.

Of the San Francisco cases tracked by the district attorney’s office, 43% of people were arrested on a new charge, 36% were re-arraigned and 23% were convicted on a new charge.

Recidivism rates in San Francisco

Data collected by the San Francisco district attorney’s office tracks subsequent contact with the justice system (within three years) for 9,407 adults convicted and sentenced locally for crimes in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Arrested Arraigned Convicted
Overall 43% 36% 23%
DUI 6% 4% 2%
Burglary 72% 63% 45%
Felony assault 49% 41% 21%
Felony drug sales 54% 43% 20%











The highest number of offenders, 2,320, were convicted for DUI and just 6% were rearrested, while 2% were convicted of another crime within three years.

Other categories of crimes, though, had more discouraging outcomes.

Of the 965 people convicted of burglaries, 72% were rearrested and 45% were reconvicted. For the 882 people convicted of assault, 49% were arrested again and 21% were reconvicted. And convicted felony drug pushers were rearrested at a rate of 54%, with 20% of them convicted on a new charge.

It’s not shocking that people convicted of property crimes would have the highest recidivism rates considering the staggering number of burglaries — specifically, auto burglaries — and similar crimes in San Francisco. A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California showed San Francisco averaged 5,844 property crimes per 100,000 residents from 2014 to 2016, which was the highest rate in the state.

Gascón hopes the new recidivism statistics, which his office will continue to update until his Dec. 31 departure, will be used by his successor and other officials to deploy resources more strategically.

For example, Gascón said, rearrest rates may offer insight into law enforcement, community supervision and clinical strategies. Tracking arraignments could help officials in the justice system use court and custody resources more efficiently. And the number of people reconvicted could lead to new long-term supervision strategies, like probation, jail or state prison.

Ideally, the data could help reduce the city’s jail population, which the city has repeatedly failed to do after the Board of Supervisors in 2015 voted against replacing the run-down and seismically unsafe facility at the Hall of Justice.

“This innovative tool is a model for how cities and counties can use data to inform efforts to safely reduce the jail population and address racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Laurie Garduque, director of criminal justice at the MacArthur Foundation.

San Francisco is the first county in the state to collect such granular data on recidivism rates, but the district attorney believes it can be replicated in other jurisdictions.

The initiative “raises the bar for criminal justice transparency, and we hope other jurisdictions follow suit,” said Evan White, executive director of the California Policy Lab at UC Berkeley.

In May, the district attorney’s office launched DAStat, another first-of-its-kind project that provides data on prosecutions, caseloads and trial outcomes as part of an effort to increase accountability.

Collecting and publicly releasing recidivism data, Gascón said, may be another step in helping reform the city’s criminal justice system.

“Other than public health, public safety is the biggest chunk of any local budget and we spend it without often knowing whether it will work or not,” he said. “This could be the beginning of a different conversation.”

Evan Sernoffsky is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @EvanSernoffsky

This story originally appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website on September 17, 2019. It has been reformatted to fit this website but is otherwise unedited. All credit goes to the author and original posters of this content.