Captain Stephen Tacchini of Mission Station explained why drugs, prostitution and street-level violence plague certain parts of the district, but that wasn’t enough for Police Commander Jeff Godown, the remarkably tall detective wooed from Los Angeles to run the city’s new crime tracking system.
“Now that you told me why this occurs, I want you to tell me what we’re going to do to get rid of it,” he said.
This line of questioning, often interrupting the captains mid-sentence, defined Godown’s style at the second public meeting Wednesday morning. It also reflects the core intent of CompStat, the crime tracking system introduced two weeks ago by the new Police Chief George Gascón: Focus on solutions, not explanations.
Standing in the Scottish Rite Memorial across from Stern Grove that was packed with blue uniforms, each captain fielded questions for up to 45 minutes about the crime they reported over the past month. Godown grilled captains from three of the city’s most crime-ridden districts: the Bayview, Mission and Tenderloin. The other two districts presenting, Taraval and Central, were not as thoroughly questioned.
Tacchini reported that violent crime in the Mission was up three percent in the last month, though it’s down 21 percent this year compared with last. Property crime was down 22 percent in the last month and 26 percent in the last year.
Godown and Gascón asked questions based on a breakdown of crimes by type that were distributed to officers but not projected on the screen or made publicly available.
In the Mission District, rape, aggravated assault and auto theft cases were singled out for most of the questioning.
“After a homicide, [rape] is one of the most serious crimes we deal with,” Gascón said.
This year, there have been 19 reported rapes in the Mission, but only two arrests.
“Do we profile suspects?” he asked, referring to a process that would identify trends in criminal behavior, whether it be other crimes like drugs or serial rapes.
Lieutenant Dan Leydon from the centralized sexual assault unit explained the challenges presented by rape cases, which often involve acquaintances, intoxication and recalcitrant victims. But Gascón didn’t seem satisfied.
“For the next CompStat meeting, I want you to present profiles of rapists in the city. I really want to understand…who these people are, what they’re engaged with and what we’re going to do,” said Gascón.
He and Godown made clear that they expect greater thoroughness when profiling criminals across the board. They cited the thick files that gang units collect on their suspects as exemplary.
“There is going to be some labor intensive work… for tracking,” said Godown. “Not just for us to look at up on the screen but for you to use at your stations.”
But it’s more than a new way of tracking that Godown wants. He wants to see a better way of communicating across districts and the centralized units.
“We have three different stories for the same problem,” said Godown, referring to the different units that respond to aggravated assault cases in the Mission.
Assault there takes many forms: domestic violence, street fights, gang violence, or riffraff outside clubs, according to Lieutenant Dominic Celaya, head of the aggravated assault unit, who will soon be promoted to captain of the Tenderloin station.
“The Mission is hard to pin down to be quite honest,” he said.
Gascón saw this as a failure of communication.
“You guys who are centralized need to be talking,” he said.
No moment better illustrated the problems with communication across the department then when no one, including Gascón, seemed to know the number of parolees in the city.
Godown pointed out that if they don’t know how many there are, they certainly aren’t tracking who they are.
As the department upgrades its admittedly archaic computer system, a process that could take months or longer, the CompStat meetings will evolve. And once their records are all kept electronically instead of relying so heavily on paper, communication within the department will be made much easier.
But in the meantime, the act of sharing information across units — and enduring the sting of tough questions asked publicly — seems it could be transformative by itself.
The next meeting will be held Nov. 18.