By SHALWAH EVANS
M.P.R. Howard pointed to the bullet hole in the Mission Education Project’s building Wednesday night as yet another sign of the increase in crime among neighborhood youth.
“The majority of victims and perpetrators are people under the age of 30, but once the bullet leaves the barrel it doesn’t matter who the target is–it can hit anybody,” Howard said at the Mission Merchants Association meeting.
In less than a month, there have been six murders in the Mission, adding to a city-wide total of 77 so far this year–also adding to the belief that it will surpass last year’s high of 98. Robberies too are up to almost 400 so far this year. This year’s number will probably pass last year’s 600 by a slight margin.
Fed up with the violence, more than 50 people packed into the small room on the corner of 24th and Treat streets to hear from police Captain Stephen Tacchini. Only hours earlier, Hells Angels San Francisco chapter president Mark Guardado was murdered about a block away.
“The pressure upon the youth and the immigrants is intensifying and that’s what we’re feeling,” yelled one woman who declined to give her name.
While one worried resident compared the area to a third world country, Captain Tacchini explained that the police were taking measures to “prevent another four murders from happening in three weeks.”
“We need to focus on where we’re seeing these crimes,” he said. “We need to get ahead of it.” To do that, he asked for their help in passing on tips. “You could be the crucial piece we need to put the puzzle together,” he said.
As the meeting wore on, residents were told to make room for more seats in a room hot from bodies and anger.
Tacchini said the violence stemmed from a generational change in which youth don’t engage in fistfights, but now rely on weapons instead. He said the number of youth-related crimes is consistent with previous years, but youth tend to be involved in trouble at higher rates than adults.
“We need more coverage in the day when kids are getting off from school,” said Erick Arguello, president of the 24th Street Merchant’s Association, referring to the number of officers assigned to foot patrol.
But Captain Tacchini said that with only 105 officers on staff, it’s difficult to add more foot officers. They try to put as many as possible in the Mission during peak hours.
Alfredo Pedrosa from the mayor’s office explained that the administration is looking at violence as a health problem, and has begun implementing programs whose progress will take some time to measure. San Francisco School Volunteers, a nonprofit organization in the city, was cited as one solution for keeping kids out of trouble. Tacchini said the police would like to work with the organization to create positive youth programs.
“Admin in, admin out, nothing seems to happen,” shouted Pat, a second generation resident who attended the meeting with her elderly mother.