Vivid balloons mark the incidents: 12 assaults on Dolores between 18th and 19th streets, including the stabbing that occurred early this past Saturday; one at 20th and Church; two at 18th and Dolores. All in the last three months.
This is according to the website crimemapping.org, updated daily by the San Francisco Police Department.
The balloons make crime-mapping look cheery — like a gumball machine of crime. There’s the violet ski mask of armed robbery, the traffic-cone-orange bonfire of arson, the hot pink syringe of drug/alcohol violations. The latter cluster around 21st and Van Ness, while the canary-yellow exclamation points that mark “Disturbing the Peace” appear just about everywhere. Disturbing the peace knows few boundaries except uphill — the exclamations thin out as the Mission slopes up into the Castro.
Seen in context, the crime map’s gumball balloons reveal a Dolores Park that is sparsely criminal — definitely safer than it was 15 years ago, when it was Norteño territory and its primary reputation was as a place to buy heroin. Mapped today, the park is much safer than both the 16th (32 assaults) and 24th (26 assaults) Street BART stops. Market Street and the Tenderloin are such a bright swath they make the Mission look like a collection of nunneries.
Mission Police Captain Greg Corrales recommends looking at the situation temporally. The Mission has a cyclical window of risk that opens every night between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m., mostly outside of bars, where people spill out to fight, mug or be mugged.
“Any intoxicated person seems like easy prey,” said Corrales. “And any neighborhood at 2 a.m. can be problematic.”
Corrales’ own perception of Dolores Park is one of a web of quality-of-life complaints — especially regarding rising drug sales. “There have not been that many violent assaults,” he said. “This is the first violent crime that we’ve seen at the park in a long time.”
Few police officers remember the Dolores Park of 15 years ago. “Everyone who’s been around that long is retired now,” he said.
These days, plainclothes officers wander the park looking for drugs to buy, and every team patrolling the Mission is required to spend 15 minutes walking through the park. A squad car does an endless loop between Dolores, Garfield and Franklin parks.
Crimemapping.org doesn’t take much of a long view — the system can only process a very small wedge of information, and so the crimes of the past vanish to make room for the crimes of the future. Three months at a time is all we get of the nefariousness afoot in San Francisco. For more time, special requests need to be made. It’s a small window into one aspect of our neighborhood. But it’s what we’ve got.