By HÉLÈNE GOUPIL

Captain Stephen Tacchini walked into the community meeting at the Mission police station on Tuesday with grim news. Crime is up 12 percent compared to last year.

On the bright side, Tacchini said, service calls are also up 12 percent, which means officers are helping more people.

Although there is no connection between the two facts, Tacchini reminded residents of the importance of helping police. He urged the ten residents to take note of the two alleged gang-related homicides the last week in August, to continue to report on gang activity and to encourage other residents to do the same.

There have been nine homicides in the area so far this year compared to seven last year, and although armed robberies are down 22 percent, assaults are up, police said.

Most of the meeting focused on encouraging residents to call the police tip line. Tacchini also said that the Mission police newsletter will now also be sent in Spanish to reach out to more residents.

When the police get good information on alleged gang members loitering, drug trafficking, and vandalizing, the city attorney’s office gives the information to the judge as evidence for civil lawsuits allowed under a 2005 city law, said Michael Weiss, the deputy city attorney.

These lawsuits restrict alleged gang members from congregating in specific areas in a group of two or more, making it difficult for them to go about their business.

Those residents at the meeting said they deal with gang members daily.

A young man who refused to give his name spoke nervously. He lives on Balmy Alley and returns home every day to people betting on craps on his door step. He’s afraid if he calls the police the crapshooters will blame him.

Another resident, Margaret Spring, 32, lives near Valencia Gardens, a housing project at 15th and Valencia streets.

“Every day I see the same guy with four or five people,” Spring said. “I’ve called 911 but I was transferred for twenty minutes.”

Capt. Tacchini asked her to call the tip line instead. To the young man, Tacchini said he could e-mail him information on the crapshooters and advised him against taking photos of them as some residents suggested.

Sgt. Dion McDonnell, a plainclothes officer who works on the gang task force, explained that most of the men Spring sees in front of Valencia Gardens are, including a man with light blue eyes, gang members who don’t live in the area anymore.

“We know practically all of them,” McDonnell said, adding that they have been watching many of the same gang members for seven years. “They’re coming back to their territory because where they are living now, that’s not their territory.”

In the last week, there have been two homicides in the area. The latest killing took place on Aug. 25th at 23rd and Treat streets at approximately 1 a.m. Jorge Hurtado, 18, was shot by a teenager and pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital later that night.

Samuel Mitchell, 47, was this week’s second victim. He died from multiple gunshot wounds. The shooting happened at 26th and Folsom streets around 12:05 a.m. on Aug. 22.

These incidents followed a drive-by shooting that took place at 3560 18th Street on Aug. 16.

The police are investigating these cases. The anonymous tip line is 415-575-4444.