The 21st street corridor between South Van Ness and Folsom streets has a reputation for drug dealers, prostitution and the chronic alcoholics who sometimes get in fights and have been known to vandalize property.
Also there: New Door Ventures, an organization that helps at-risk youth, and the Jose Coronado Playground that runs after school programs.
Greg Corrales, the Mission Police captain, said that given these factors he would welcome
the controversial sit/lie policy, which would outlaw people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks. The Police Commission will consider the proposal on Wednesday. Most of the businesses and residents in the area, however, were ambivalent.
“It wouldn’t solve anything,” said Javier Madero, the catering manager at the Peruvian restaurant Limón. He added that even though customers complain almost daily, he suggested police should aim their efforts toward rehabilitating the “drunks.”
Neighbors said they see an ambulance pick up an intoxicated person at the park at least once a week.
Dan Quon, a youth development specialist at New Door Ventures, said he hasn’t taken a stance yet. However, he said that there should be a greater priority in rehabilitating the “drunks” and sit/lie would be a short-term solution that might just move the problem elsewhere.
The mayor introduced the proposal last week to give police the ability to remove Haight Street “thugs” who harass shop owners and pedestrians.
One of the first proposals drafted prohibited sit/lie only on certain commercial corridors but the latest proposal introduced and the one the Police Commission will consider today would make the ban citywide.
Despite being the most-reported spot in the Mission at SeeClickFix, a web site that allows users to post problems in their neighborhood, some residents said the “drunks” don’t bother anyone.
The site shows 22 people who want the chronic “drunks,” drug dealers and prostitutes gone and has 1099 views since it opened almost two years ago. Its closest competitor is the corner at 16th and Mission Streets with 10 people who want the “drugged up bums” removed and has 594 views since it opened around the same time.
Lisa Horn, who lives on Shotwell Street near the park, said she has never had any issues since she moved here in 1995.
“This is a city,” she said. “This doesn’t even compare to other places — it has gotten better.”
Clancy Fear from Pedal Revolution knows this well. Years back he saw the check cashing place next door held at gunpoint three times and a woman being dragged after trying to hold on to her stolen car.
“I used to call the cops every day,” he said, adding that nowadays things have calmed down except for the open drug dealing and prostitution.
Jose Arturo Mata, the owner of Tortas El Primo, agreed.
“This is like heaven now compared to before,” he said, adding that he opposes the proposal and favored rehabilitation for the “drunks.”
Mata said he knows most of them are from Central American and knows them by name now.
Still, Corrales said he would welcome the proposal because it would give their officers more tools to deal with complaints in the area.
Though many residents have seen anything from open drug deals in daylight to intoxicated people taken by ambulances, police crime data shows this corridor to have similar crime patterns to other corners over the past 30 days.
Wilson Scotto, an employee at Muzio’s, a nearby liquor store, said he would welcome the proposal but had doubts it would work.
“It’s always been like this,” he said.
The biggest concern for Nick Pagoulatos of Dolores Street Community Services is that police might use sit/lie to target the Latino homeless throughout the Mission, he said.
“We have seen instances where they have overcharging member of the community and it appears that it is based on their race,” he said. “They are being arrested and turned them over to ICE and sit/lie would basically give them another way of doing that.”
Corrales said only those committing crimes will be arrested.
Pagoulatos added that there are already existing laws that, if enforced, would eliminate the need for sit/lie.
Supervisor David Campos agrees.
“If you have the right kind of police presence and are connected to the community, you probably wouldn’t need sit and lie.” Campos said. He added that since Corrales began his new tenure last year, he has met with several community groups.
Neighbors for the most part said more policing has helped. Corrales said that he asks his officers to put an emphasis on this corner.
Irma Serrano, a volunteer at St. Martha Lutheran Church, gives food to some of the homeless people that hang out in the park.
“They don’t pose a threat,” she said. “I feel safe bringing my twin [girls].”
She added that like most neighbors, she would rather the “drunks” hang out elsewhere, but said if sit/lie is enforced the problem will migrate or come back later. For her, the biggest concern is the drug dealers and prostitutes near the liquor store.
Campos said an alternative to sit/lie would be foot patrols and beat cops and cites the Ingleside station as an example.
“It’s not surprising that the discussion about sit/lie is not happening in those parts of the city,” he said.