January 30, 2013

Crime Beat: Scott Wiener Holds Community Meeting In The Castro

Scott Wiener hosted a community meeting on Monday to "discuss recent crime trends in the area." Scott links to a SF Weekly summary, but this (barely edited) entry on Nextdoor by Mariva A. gives a lot more information.
January 28, 2013
Eureka Valley Recreation Center

  • District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener
  • SFPD Captain Robert Moser (Mission Station precinct)
  • SFPD Captain Gregory Corrales (Park Station precinct)
  • The new SFPD captain from the Northern Station
  • Bevan Dufty (former District 8 Supervisor & current director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships & Engagement)
  • an attorney from the D.A.'s office A representative from SF SAFE
  • A representative from Castro Community on Patrol
  • A Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, who was facilitating the meeting and representing the "Stop the Violence" community victim assistance program
  • About 100-200 community residents
  • A Bay Area Reporter journalist
  • A news photographer
  • At least one victim/survivor of a recent violent robbery and assault

QUALITY OF LIFE issues involving bars, late-night parties and noise, alcohol- and drug-related problems, unsanitary conditions involving bodily fluids, etc.: These are generally low priorities for the police, especially noise complaints, and especially around 2 to 3 AM, which is the busiest time for the police department. If you live near a bar, the bar manager is responsible for hiring competent security to clear patrons away from the premises immediately after the bar closes. If this does not happen, contact the bar management to request improved security methods during and after closing time. If the situation still does not improve, contact Supervisor Scott Wiener.

STREET HARASSMENT: There are ongoing complaints of harassment and disturbances in Harvey Milk and/or Jane Warner Plazas. The police can get involved if someone is threatening someone else or themselves or are unable to care for themselves. Bevan Dufty, in his new position at HOPE, sends HOTs (homeless outreach teams) to offer assistance and services to homeless or near-homeless people. Unfortunately, the HOTs are weary of going to Milk and Warner Plazas because the problematic people there continually refuse their services. Supervisor Wiener advises local residents not to confuse problematic people with homeless people: harassment often comes from people who do, in fact, live indoors but have mental health issues, whereas many homeless people are essentially invisible, keep a low profile, and never bother anyone at all.

BAR FIGHTS: There is a perception among local residents that street crime is increasing. According to SFPD Captain Robert Moser (Mission Station precinct), the past two months of data in his precinct indicate that most incidents involving violence are bar-related. Some of the attendees found the discrepancy -- (between the perception of increasing street crime and the actual reports of bar-related incidents) -- confusing. Maybe broader statistics are needed to understand the general trends.

VIOLENT ASSAULTS: There have been disturbing reports of violent crimes -- typically muggings that have turned violent -- including an abduction and a "pistol whipping" that resulted in hospitalization due to skull fractures. This occurred on Corbett at Ord, which is a short block north of Market Street in the Castro district. A very serious stabbing occurred at 14th & Noe at 6 PM on a weekday evening. Police are working with local residents to develop and distribute composite sketches to find the suspect(s). The victim/survivor of the pistol whipping was in attendance and was visibly upset. "Someone's gonna get killed!" he emphasized. He insisted that this was a mugging that had turned violent -- as opposed to a "gay bashing" hate crime -- and he demanded more police patrols of both main streets as well as side streets. Captain Moser said that they do patrol both the main and the side streets, but there's a shortage of police officers, and, even if there weren't, they can't be everywhere all at once. The police request that residents take it upon themselves to organize and join neighborhood watch programs.

(Note that one topic not discussed during this meeting was the horrific sexual assaults that have occurred in the Mission district and the eastern section of Noe Valley [Ed.-- here and here]. Because this meeting took place in the Castro, the focus and the tone of the meeting was mostly on protecting members of the LGBT community and residents in surrounding areas.)

COMPUTER & SMART PHONE THEFTS/ROBBERIES have been on the rise, particularly in cafes and on public transit. In cafes, according to surveillance footage, the perpetrators look "ordinary" and "average" -- so make sure not to profile or stereotype anyone. Instead, carefully guard your devices and don't leave them unattended. Be aware of your surroundings and question others who are taking things that may not belong to them. On public transit, it's best not to display your devices. Stay alert; perpetrators target "easy" victims who are not paying attention to their surroundings. An easy target is someone buried in his/her smart phone and has earphones on. These thefts are part of crime syndicate rings; stolen computers and devices are collected and then sold online and/or to other countries. Some arrests have been made.

AUTOMOBILE THEFTS and break-ins: SFPD Captain Gregory Corrales (Park Station precinct) said that officers in his precinct caught "two fellas in ski masks" with air guns and spark plug tools who were probably responsible for auto thefts. Auto thefts have always been a problem in the city. According to a service rep at SF Honda, install and enable an anti-theft security system that disables the car engine upon unauthorized entry.

BUILDING BREAK-INS: There were destructive intrusions into several glass-door buildings in a row on Roosevelt Way. The police captain said that burglars target homes and buildings that have obscured or dark entry ways with no iron gates. There were other break-ins into apartment buildings in the east-of-Twin-Peaks area, and Captain Moser said that they do send patrols around the area, a mix of regular police cars and unmarked vehicles. They have adjusted work shifts for more nighttime patrol coverage. Captain Corrales said that the patrols look for people in quiet neighborhoods who look as if "they don't belong there" -- suspicious-looking lurkers who generally target cars for theft and easily (or more easily) accessible buildings for intrusions and burglaries. They have arrested a few suspects due to outstanding warrants. The larger problem, however, is a game of "whack-a-mole"; when crime is under control in one area, the criminals move into another, a less patrolled one. Right now the Lower Haight is being hit hard by street crime.

ROOT CAUSE: There are simply not enough police officers at this time. This is due to the defunding of the Police Academy in San Francisco. SFPD officers are being hired laterally through other departments, agencies, or other city police departments. It would be better overall for new police officers to be trained here in San Francisco. It's up to the residents of San Francisco to lobby the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors to reinstate funding to the San Francisco Police Academy and, in the meantime, to allocate funds to hire more police officers from wherever possible.

PROTECT YOURSELF and your community:
  • Start or join neighborhood watch programs (contact SF SAFE), online networks (Nextdoor.com, Facebook groups, Twitter alerts, etc.), community patrols, and the "Stop the Violence" program.
  • Carry a whistle and blow it if you feel unsafe.
  • Take self-defense training and practice it.
  • Keep in mind that your smart phone or computer won't be worth much in a few years -- but your body, your emotional well-being, and your life are always paramount -- so if someone is physically threatening you for your device, you're probably better off just giving it to them. (Make sure to passcode-protect your devices, encrypt the drive, consistently back up your data, and turn on "Find My iPhone." Sometimes devices can be traced through embedded GPS.)
  • Call the police after every incident -- as soon as possible! Don't wait; the quicker the phone call, the more likely the police will be able to find the suspect. If it's not an emergency, use the non-emergency line: 415-553-0123. You can also contact the SFPD via sf-police.org.
  • If you have been a victim of a crime, don't be embarrassed to report it. Reporting it will help others.
  • Always get a CAD (dispatch) number after placing a phone call to the police, as well as a police report number, for follow-ups inquiries.
[Photo: mariva8]


Anonymous said...

I'd really love to hear more about the whistle suggestion from police. In college self-defense class, we were taught that this could be *very* ineffective. Imagine you are in the Castro on an average night -- if you heard a whistle blowing, would you even perk your ears? Would you think it was anything urgent, or boisterous celebratory noisemaking? This is what we were cautioned about, and I think we should realize that's a really limited self-defense technique.

Anonymous said...

I'm very disappointed with the 'do-nothing' and 'not a priority' attitude of the SFPD. I have reported numerous occurrences of theft, traffic violations, car break-in attempts and the response that I get is - 'it is not a priority' or 'we will send an officer in a couple hours'. Notice these are quotes. My perception of the department is that they just don't care. While I know that is not true of every officer, it is real to me. Until SFPD starts making calls a priority, things will only get worse.

Anonymous said...

I thought the police department was hold more Police Academy's to hire more police. God knows we need them!!

Noe Valley, SF said...

Anon - The SFPD Police Academy graduated 46 recruits last Friday: http://sanfranciscopolice.org/index.aspx?page=3763&recordid=625

Jeff said...

The LGBT community has long promoted the use of whistles for fighting gay bashings, etc. They are often given out for free at Pride Parades, street fairs, etc.

So in the Castro the sound of a whistle is not ignored by the community. It likely won't have the same high level impact in Noe Valley but the idea is to draw attention in hopes of getting the perps to stop what they are about to do, are doing and/or to attract attention so as to have better/more witnesses and thus better information to help in the arresting, etc.

I live in Noe Valley and often carry a whistle in my hand if walking in the dark. The main thing in any city is to have street smarts. Pay attention to your surroundings. Don't be afraid to step into the street or cross mid block if something/someone up ahead on the sidewalk feels off. Trust your gut.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same Anon from the whistle post. Thanks for that info, Jeff. I was given a whistle by the Castro community policing group at a holiday event and didn't have the context you provided. Glad it would be noticed in that neighborhood, at least.