The remnants of a memorial dedicated to “Papa Frisco,” a Hell’s Angel killed on Treat Avenue

By CAITLIN ESCH

Tensions ran high in a one-room tutoring center last night, where a crowd of 24th Street merchants and residents met to discuss an escalating community crisis: murder in their streets.

Mission Station Captain Stephen Tacchini, the night’s keynote speaker, recounted recent homicides as he stood before a wall of children’s learning charts reading “bienvenidos” and “welcome” at Mission Educational Projects, Inc.

“Four murders in three weeks is unacceptable,” said Tacchini. The total has since risen to eight in less than a month.

The crowd of 85 spilled out the door and onto the sidewalk. Bystanders wrapped around Treat Avenue, less than a block away from the neighborhood’s most recent homicide: a Hells Angel gunned down late Tuesday night, according to police.

The room was abuzz with outraged residents.

“I haven’t seen this much violence in the Mission since the drug wars of the mid-eighties,” called out Pat Howard, a Mission District resident since 1982.

Tacchini said only 105 officers are stationed in the Mission District—fewer than he would like. The Mission is down 45 officers from the 150 assigned to the station in 1986, the last year Tacchini, who has been with the San Francisco Police Department for more than three decades, worked in this part of the city.

When the shooting occurred, 29 officers—responsible for almost 100 blocks—were on duty. Half of those officers were stationed around lower 24th Street.

In 2004, San Francisco had 2.98 officers per 1,000 people–less than the national average of 3.5, but more than most large California cities (Los Angeles had 2.42; San Jose had 1.54).

“The political powers decide where we put our resources,” Tacchini said. “I encourage you to call your supervisor, call the mayor’s office, and encourage them to put resources into this part of the city.”

Residents probed police for ways to make the streets safer. At one point, residents challenged officers to increase community outreach, get out of patrol cars and onto bikes, and avoid targeting youth of color. Along 24th Street, only two officers at a time patrol by foot.

Tacchini said no more officers could be spared to patrol by foot or bike, adding the department does not tolerate racial profiling.

The Lower 24th Street Merchant and Neighborhood Association, a coalition formed 10 years ago to combat crime and other community problems, organized the meeting to open communication between police and residents.

“Businesses are affected financially by crime in the neighborhood,” said group president Erick Arguello, owner of Café Arguello at Mission and 24th streets. “People don’t want to shop and spend money in the stores here.”

Folsolm at 9 p.m. Lola Chávez

Crime has increased 13.67 percent in the Mission District compared to the same time last year, Arguello said and police confirmed.

In the past two weeks alone, one theft, two aggravated assaults, four robberies, and five burglaries were reported in the neighborhood, according to the Mission Station Newsletter.

“Merchants don’t feel the city is able to protect them,” Arguello said. “The takeovers in Oakland scare them. Some merchants along 24th Street are talking about getting guns.”

The meeting broke after nearly two hours, yet neighbors remained congregated, plotting ways to make their voices heard by local representatives.

“We need to go to City Hall as a neighborhood,” Arguello said. “We need to all be on the same page because there’s a lot that needs to happen.”

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