It was a tough room for Captain Greg Corrales at Tuesday night’s community meeting as he tried to calm Mission residents upset about five recent shootings — three of them fatal.
“The district has been flooded with officers” to keep Missionites safe, Corrales said.
The 25 or so residents who came to ask questions, get involved and blow off steam wanted more reassurance.
“I had to cover my two 7-month old twins because gunfire was happening outside my window,” said Greg, who lives near Valencia Gardens, where a shooting occurred on Sept. 19.
The rest of the room fell silent as Greg recounted tagging, knife fights and other criminal behaviors that, he said, have escalated for months. The police crime maps show mixed trends over the past five months — a slight uptick in reported vandalism and assaults, fewer robberies — within a one-block radius of 14th and Guerrero.
“I’m a homeowner and a taxpayer, and I need to understand how you’re going to keep my children safe,” Greg said.
“And that’s a very legitimate concern,” said Corrales.
Greg cut him off: “It’s terrifying!”
Many of the residents attending were new to the monthly meeting that is generally filled with Corrales supporters, and they demanded an action plan.
Corrales told them that the Mission has already been given extra officers, both in uniform and plain clothes, to address possible gang retaliation from incidents at the end of August.
The recent gun violence, such as the incident on Guerrero in front of Valencia Gardens, wasn’t gang warfare, he said.
Then he recounted the case of mistaken identity that led to the “heinous” murder of Gaspar Puch-Tzek outside of Hog & Rocks.
“Wow!” one resident said.
Corrales couldn’t say how long the extra police units would patrol Mission streets. The district has 126 officers, the second highest number in the city. That is more than enough to ensure residents’ safety, he said.
“What can we do?” asked Katie, voicing a sentiment common among the group.
Jon Shepard had the answer: a neighborhood watch group near 14th and Guerrero.
“I’ve been waiting to resuscitate one there,” Shepard said exuberantly.
Everyone laughed, caught off guard by his demeanor.
“Jon’s the best!” said an older woman.
Shepard works with Safety Awareness for Everyone (SAFE), helping people create neighborhood watch groups. In no time he was handing out fliers and business cards.
Corrales encouraged residents to call him and come see him at his office regarding recurring problems. Don’t wait for next month’s meeting, he said. “It’s my job to deal with that situation.”
Eventually, Corrales managed to lighten the mood — just in time for the raffle. Latecomers and newbies rushed to get their names in for the monumental door prizes: police station pens, a mug and two Giants tickets.
“Can I borrow your pen?” one man asked the winner of a Mission Station pen.
“I came just in time for door prizes!” said DJ Brown, who later won the tickets.
Before handing out the prizes, however, Corrales got serious, explaining the frustrating persistence of the criminals and gang members who congregate outside of Valencia Gardens.
Such grouping is tricky to prevent, though it often precedes violence. It’s not illegal to hang out in a group. If they are not engaging in illegal activities, there’s little the police can do.
“I will promise you that you’ll see more police presence in the area,” he said.
Corrales asked Greg to return next month to either “raise hell” or say, “Keep up the good work,” depending on what he sees.
“I appreciate that, and I’ll take you up on that offer,” said Greg with a relaxed smile.