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65% of Bay Area residents say crime keeps them from getting to downtown areas of big cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Known for its streetcars, natural beauty and urban excitement, the charms of San Francisco have been well known for decades.

But now, new survey data released by the Bay Area Council indicates that 65% of local residents avoid traveling to the downtown areas of major cities like Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

One of their main reasons is crime.

“Whether it’s homelessness or street crime or certainly a neighborhood prone to property crime,” said Rufus Jeffris, spokesman for the Bay Area Council.

RELATED: Tourists ‘shocked’ by SF robbery spree; industry fears crime will deter visitors

Jeffris says whether people’s perceptions are accurate or not, they can have a significant impact.

“There’s no debating that people’s perceptions are, in some way, reality,” he said.

And it’s not just Bay Area residents who have concerns — local business leaders say crime remains a concern for their businesses.

“Well, frankly, this is something we talked about before COVID, the conditions of the streets of San Francisco. We can do better,” said Rodney Fong, president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

He says that if left unchecked, high levels of crime can have snowball effects not only on businesses, but also on jobs.

“The real punishment for the business world is for small businesses when there’s crime on the streets,” Fong said.

RELATED: Despite pre-pandemic sensation, economic recovery slows in San Francisco

But not everyone feels safe.

On the streets of the city, several tourists tell ABC7 News that rumors of crime and homelessness in San Francisco were scarier than reality.

“For the most part, it’s been pretty harmless as far as interactions go,” said Brian Yoachum, who is visiting family from Utah.

However, with local perceptions now overwhelmingly negative, Jeffris says it’s up to Bay Area leaders to try to deal with the problem head-on.

“I think it’s really incumbent on local leaders to recognize those fears and take the necessary steps to display and show that they understand those fears,” Jeffris said.

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