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DSA In the News

San Mateo County homicide rate up

Published on 1/28/2011

San Mateo County saw its homicide rate jump slightly to levels in 2010 that have not been seen recently, spurred by a triple murder in South San Francisco near the end of December and several killings in more unusual locales like Hillsborough and Woodside.

Overall, the county recorded 20 homicides in 2010, according to tallies kept by both the District Attorney’s Office and the Coroner’s Office.

The numbers do not include deaths later charged as vehicular manslaughter or deemed justified by peace officers.

“We haven’t seen numbers like this in several years,” said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

In comparison, 14 homicides occurred in 2009, 19 in 2008 and 14 again in 2007.

While higher, though, the recent numbers do not reach those of the county’s peak in 1992, when more than 60 homicides happened and East Palo Alto was often referred to as the murder capital of the nation.

That year, 46 of those deaths were in that one city, said Coroner Robert Foucrault who said he remembers each well because he worked as an autopsy technician at the time.

The year 2000 ended with the fewest homicides in the past decade — 10. That figure jumped to 19 in 2001 and escalated to 33 in both 2004 and 2005 before dropping to 23 in 2006. The figure stayed below 20 the next three years until 2010.

Last year’s tally wouldn’t have been that out of the norm, either, but a triple homicide on a single night in December helped spike the number.

The slaying of three young men in South San Francisco last month plus two more in mid-2010 edged that city’s total past East Palo Alto’s four homicides. Suspects are not in custody for any of South City’s five homicides.

But that was not the county’s last homicide. That death came Dec. 29 when Robert Florence, 30, was found shot several times in his Redwood City apartment on Wayne Court. There have been no arrests.

The county’s roster of homicides also include incidents in cities that less often appear in annual round-ups.

In April, Woodside resident Parima Parineh was discovered shot multiple times in her bedroom and her husband, Peter, reported the death as a possible suicide. Five weeks later, he was arrested and charged with murdering her for financial gain, specifically millions of dollars in insurance.

In June, Bradley Kleiman allegedly shot his friend Christopher Calviche in the head in the guesthouse of his parents’ Hillsborough home.

Also unique was the June slaying of East Palo Alto community activist David Lewis in the parking garage of Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo. The shooting was the city’s first in two years. Police arrested Gregory Elarms, 58, in early December.
Elarms, a childhood acquaintance, allegedly followed Lewis from his work at San Mateo Medical Center to the mall but authorities have not disclosed a motive other than possible mental illness.

In August, Jared Afu, 19, was fatally shot near the tennis courts of Mills High School in Millbrae. Prosecutors say Laungatasi Samana Ahio killed him out of jealousy over a woman. The shooting was the city’s first homicide since 2008 when Terry Najdawi allegedly killed Jack Chu in his car and drove the body to Burlingame.

More common, though no less sad to loved ones and their communities, were deaths attributed by authorities to gang violence.

While East Palo Alto is often assumed to bear the brunt of these incidents, South San Francisco and Redwood City did so last year. South City in particularly was marked by violence, with five young men killed in the area known as Old Town. In its wake, city leaders and residents have called for action and information in hopes of solving these cases and preventing others. The City Council voted Wednesday night to spend $400,000 for four new police officers and provide seed money for a community leadership coalition.