San Francisco Deemed More Dangerous than Colombia and Brazil, Google Employee Reports

By: Georgia | Published: May 20, 2024

Google employee Sam Padilla described walking through San Francisco as reminiscent of “The Walking Dead,” drawing a stark comparison between the city’s streets and the fictional zombie apocalypse. 

His words paint a vivid picture of a city that feels more desolate than vibrant, underlining a sense of urban decay.

Comparing Safety: SF vs. South America

Hailing from Brazil and Colombia, Padilla found San Francisco to be uniquely ‘sketchy’, even when compared to some of South America’s notorious spots. 

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A sprawling hillside favela in Brazil with closely packed multi-story homes surrounded by lush greenery under a cloudy sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His experience left him stunned, describing his walk from Soma to Hayes Valley as the “sketchiest walk of my life.”

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A City in Crisis

San Francisco’s crisis deepens with escalating homelessness and addiction. 

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Aerial view of downtown San Francisco displaying a mix of modern high-rises and traditional buildings with the Bay Bridge and waterfront visible in the distance

Source: Shen Pan/Unsplash

Last year marked the deadliest year for drug deaths in the city, with fentanyl largely to blame. 

Comparing Crisis Zones

The areas of San Francisco Padilla explored felt as dangerous—if not more so—than Bogota’s infamous “calle del cartucho,” a hub for poverty and drug trafficking. 

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A homeless person covered with a grey blanket sleeps on a sidewalk next to a parked black limousine

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His words capture the gravity of the situation: “Felt close if not worse than the freaking calle del cartucho in Bogota.”

The Blame Game

San Francisco’s progressive ‘harm reduction’ policies, which avoid penalizing hard drug use, have come under fire. 

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A city street lined with tents and makeshift shelters forming a homeless encampment, with bicycles, carts

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Critics argue these policies only exacerbate the city’s crisis, allowing the situation to spiral further out of control.

Corporate Flight

Rising crime has forced businesses to flee, with American Eagle shutting down its store due to over 100 significant security incidents in three years. 

The storefront of an American Eagle Outfitters, featuring a modern facade with the store's name in bold letters above the entrance

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The retail landscape is transforming as lawlessness takes its toll on the business community.

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Mall Becomes Ghost Town

The once-thriving Westfield San Francisco Centre now stands at a mere 25 percent occupancy. 

Facade of the Nordstrom department store at the Westfield San Francisco Centre, featuring decorative arches and geometric patterns on the exterior, with shoppers and pedestrians visible on the busy street

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A stark decline from its bustling past, it’s been largely taken over by the homeless, with drug use and crime surging.

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Tech Dystopia Realized

Amidst his eerie city walk, Padilla encountered an unoccupied self-driving car, adding to the dystopian feel of his experience. 

A small, compact Waymo self-driving car, painted white with the company's green and blue logo

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Right then, an unoccupied FSD Waymo car drove by… San Francisco is the epitome of a tech dystopia,” he observed.

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Safety Concerns with Autonomous Vehicles

The sighting of the driverless car wasn’t just a surreal experience but a reminder of the ongoing safety debates. 

A white Waymo self-driving minivan equipped with roof-mounted sensors and cameras, driving through a residential area with trees and houses visible in the background during autumn

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Waymo’s recent incidents, including a collision with a tow truck, highlight the growing concerns around autonomous vehicle safety.

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Mayor's Defensive Stance

Despite the chaos, San Francisco Mayor London Breed insists the city doesn’t deserve its bad rap. 

A female politician wearing a blue blazer with a warm smile, waving to the audience at a public event with a backdrop displaying the Democratic Party logo

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Yet, even she has started to back more aggressive measures to handle the crisis, indicating a shift towards stricter policies.

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Welfare and Drug Testing

In a bold move, Breed supports proposals for drug screening before dispensing welfare benefits to single adults. 

Close-up of a drug test kit labeled with various drug tests

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This controversial step aims to address the rampant fentanyl crisis more aggressively, affecting roughly 9,000 individuals on welfare.

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Surveillance and Safety

As crime rates soar, Breed is also advocating for increased police powers, including the use of drones and surveillance cameras. 

A street view showing a homeless encampment with multiple tents and makeshift shelters along the sidewalk

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This push for heightened security measures has sparked debate, with opponents arguing for more ethical solutions to the city’s issues.

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