Captain Greg Corrales reported Tuesday evening during the monthly community meeting at the Mission Police Station that “since our last meeting there has been no gang violence in the Mission district.”
He was referring to the spike in suspected gang violence in February and March that claimed one life and injured several other people.
Bayview has not been so lucky. At around 8:30 p.m. on Monday night, a 20-year-old man was shot near Keith Street and Thomas Avenue. It remains unclear if it was Norteño and Sureño violence at play.
According to his informants, Corrales said, the increased police presence in the Mission explained the drop in gang violence. At next month’s meeting, he is confident he will be able to say, “Still no gang violence.”
The audience clapped.
The news only got better. Homicides, robberies and aggressive assaults dropped across the board this month, Corrales said. Burglaries too declined significantly, with only 78 as of April 23, 2011, compared to 134 during the same period in 2010. Arrests generally rose, most notably in the case of robberies, where police detained only 28 people last year at this time; so far 63 arrests have been made this year.
Aggravated assault arrests also increased, with 93 suspects arrested as of April 23 compared to 80 such arrests last year.
“Why the increase in arrests?” asked one man in the audience.
“I have been racking my brain for an explanation that reflects favorably on me.” Corrales laughed, then got serious. “Apart from a higher visibility of police in all neighborhoods, I think we curbed crime because of our tactics to combat gang violence and assault.”
Police have staff on beats like prostitution and drug enforcement, but if something extraordinary occurs, the SFPD has decided to pool resources and strip these special beats away to focus on the crimes at hand.
Corrales also reviewed the incident on April 1 at the 16th and Mission BART station involving a 20-year-old transgender woman who was attacked by two men who verbally harassed her, grabbed her smartphone and then brutally beat her. “We caught the two guys and they were put in custody within minutes,” Corrales said.
The suspects have since been charged with robbery, conspiracy and aggravated assault, with an additional hate crime allegation. Their bail is set at $250,000 each.
A rally held to protest the attack on April 15 surprised Corrales. “I was dismayed at the rally,” he said. “We caught the crooks quickly and this district sees almost no other homophobic hate crimes.”
With only 10 minutes to go, the meeting was opened up for discussion. Gregory Cleaver, assistant district attorney, stood up to introduce the Community Courts, an experiment that District Attorney George Gascón hopes to introduce in the Mission and Bayview districts.
The courts aren’t a totally new concept. Politicians have promoted neighborhood-focused criminal justice centers since the late 1990s. The district attorney believes they could take some of the workload off the criminal court system and help minor offenders avoid jail terms.
“So what types of crimes will these courts handle?” one man in the audience asked.
“Urinating in public,” said Cleaver. The courts would also handle other misdemeanor crimes like petty gambling, graffiti, loitering, shoplifting, assault/battery, alcohol beverage control violations and lesser drug violations.
The courts are to be staffed by members of the community, who would determine a mix of community service or fines as penalties.
It is unclear when exactly these courts could start. At the next meeting, a special presentation will be held for community members to hear how they can apply to sit on community courts and speak justice in the neighborhood.