By CAITLIN ESCH

Fed up with crime and homelessness dragging down business, Mission merchants gathered Tuesday to voice concerns to local police.

Captain Stephen Tacchini told merchants police would “target robberies first, burglaries second, and then auto break-ins and assaults.”

“Everyone is acutely aware of violence in the District,” Tacchini said, adding that the four crimes are “off the hook, citywide.” Crime in the Mission is up 12.5 percent from the same time last year, he said.

Tacchini addressed a crowd of about two dozen business owners last week at Mission Station, where he and Mayor’s office liaison Alfredo Pedroza served as guest speakers during the Mission Merchants Association’s monthly meeting.

Also off the hook are Mission Station phones, the captain said. This year, the station received an average of 1,000 more calls per month from residents reporting crime than last year.

Association President Anita Correa, owner of the 16th Street Victoria Theater, said she fears word of mouth surrounding recent violence will dissuade would-be theatergoers and Mission patrons from venturing down the 16th Street corridor.

Furthermore, the obvious presence of homeless could be bad for business, she said.

The station has a team of four officers assigned to deal with problems stemming from homelessness. Tacchini said he would like to clear Capp Street of homeless, but to do so would require resources and social services currently unavailable.

The Mission attracts drifters and homeless because the neighborhood provides services for such populations, according to Pedroza.

“We have dealt with a lot of individuals who want to get off the streets,” said Pedroza. “Now we’re dealing with those who don’t—those with mental health issues and drug addictions… A lot of these individuals have been through the system, and we can’t force health care.”

Some business owners said they’d like to see the city assume a tougher position with drifters responsible for public urination and park pollution.

A homeless man bedding down at 9 p.m. Lola Chávez

A homeless man bedding down at 9 p.m. Lola Chávez

“The fundamental problem is that the city is very permissive and embraces homelessness,” said Mission District bar owner Ricci Cornell. “All the SROs [Single Room Occupancies] are here, criminals are released from jail here; it’s no wonder we have this problem.”

According to San Francisco’s 2007 Homeless Count, District 9—which includes the Mission District, Bernal Heights and Portola neighborhoods—housed more than 7 percent of the city’s homeless population, ranking fifth out of eleven districts citywide.

Cornell suggested the city implement a work-assistance program for those struggling to survive, and said it was irresponsible for the city to say to homeless, “take our services, take our checks and go about your business.”

When Tacchini left his post as an officer in the Mission District in 1986, 150 officers were assigned to the area. Twenty-two years later, Mission Station averages between 105 and 120 officers. As of Tuesday, 119 officers were assigned to the Mission.

Tacchini urged merchants to call local representatives and demand more resources for Mission Station.

“We get a lot of complaints about 16th Street,” Tacchini said. “Thirty years ago, 16th was the busiest crime corridor in the city, and not much has changed. We’ll throw whatever resources we have at it.”