David Campos talks to the neighborhood watch.


On a rainy Monday evening, more than 40 Mission District residents gathered for their block’s sixth neighborhood watch meeting and shared the same set of concerns: quality of life and safety.

The biggest impediment to both: prostitution.

“We need people to take our problem seriously,” said Andy Oglesby, part of the group’s Prostitution Abatement Committee.

The committee’s goal, he said later, is “not to reduce [prostitution], it’s to totally eliminate it in our area.”

District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who took the floor for most of the meeting, told the group that he is an advocate for the Mission, but his constituents wanted more than words—they want change.

The meeting, held at Ginger Rubio Salon, overflowed with neighbors and guests filling every available seat—sitting on the stairs, in the loft and on the floor—and a few stood along the walls. Some had been to every meeting, while others attended for the first time. Most lived within a few blocks of the salon at 20th and Shotwell. Others lived further away or came from other neighborhood watch groups.

At a meeting earlier this year, Mission Station police officers confirmed what residents already knew: The blocks between Folsom and Capp from 17th to 21st are known, by johns and police alike, for prostitution.

On Monday night, Captain Stephen Tacchini brought crime statistics that broke down the incidents within 1,000 feet of 500 Shotwell St. in March and April. In both months, prostitution topped the list. In March, there were 74 incidents, and in April, 35.

David Campos talks to the neighborhood watch.
David Campos talks to the neighborhood watch.

Oglesby presented Campos with a stack of 30 letters, in triplicate, from community members describing the impact that prostitution has on their lives and their neighborhood.

As one letter read, residents, “having been subject to a documented pattern of dangerous criminal behavior, do hereby call on you as our elected representative to come to our aid.”

In response, Campos said, “I think that the D.A. has to be part of the picture.”

There was an audible sigh from somewhere in the room. They had already heard from the district attorney’s office in March when David Burke and Paul Henderson spoke to them.

Lily Lam facilitated the meeting and co-founded the group with Oglesby.

She asked Campos, “How can we entice athletic leagues to use Jose Coronado playground?”

Lam said drug and alcohol users frequent the park at Folsom and 21st streets.

Campos, who has been on the job for four months, told the group that public safety is his first priority. While policing is important, he said other things impact public safety as well.

For that reason, Campos urged community members to attend the May 18 Public Safety Committee meeting. It will be the first time budget cuts are discussed.

“To be frank, if the Recreation and Park Department has its way, things are going to get worse.”

Dolores Reyes spoke up. Born and raised in the Mission, she took her kids out of the park because of those problems. Reyes owns Los Jarritos at the corner of Van Ness and 20th streets. She was hesitant to attend the neighborhood watch meeting.

“I knew the meeting was going on, but I gave up.”

She used to go to community meetings at Mission Station, but nothing ever changed.

While she voiced her frustration, another longtime resident brimmed with enthusiasm.

Reynaldo Apanicio has lived in the neighborhood since the early 1970s. He announced an upcoming neighborhood cleanup event that would be held in partnership with the Department of Public Works. On Saturday, June 6, volunteers will landscape, paint and remove graffiti and litter. Apanicio invited everyone, including Campos, who said he would be there.

“I would hope that we continue to do this on a periodic basis,” Campos said, thanking the neighbors for all their work.

After the meeting, neighbors mingled and talked. They hoped Campos would deliver on his promises, but their concerns still weighed on their minds.

“At 2:30 in the morning, this is bumper to bumper,” Mark Smigelski said, gesturing towards the intersection of Shotwell and 20th. He lives across the street and said loud stereos from cruising cars make sleeping through the night impossible.

“We call [the police] every weekend,” he said.

Police usually respond, he said, but not always to the first call. A few months ago, someone shot the windows out of the commercial space on the ground floor of his building.

“We think it’s retaliation from the pimps,” Smigelski said.

During the meeting, Tacchini praised the enthusiasm of the people who squeezed into the room.

“It took a lot of problems to get these people together,” said Oglesby.

Apanicio put it another way. During an election, he said, politicians take pictures of us.

But now, he said, “They’re going to listen to us because we’re going to hold them accountable.”

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  1. I attended this meeting — it was my first neighborhood watch meeting. I was impressed by the sincerity and energy of the neighbors who attended, and by the specificity of both Campos’ and Tacchini’s responses to questions. However I was troubled by the “us vs. them” attitude of the more outspoken neighbors in attendance. I live in this neighborhood too, and I deal with the issues of noise, filth, and disturbing behavior too. But I don’t think that the homeless and/or addicted people who also live in this neighborhood are the enemy, nor do I believe that the answer to our neighborhood’s problems are “to keep pushing them south toward Daly City” as one of the other people at the meeting suggested (jokingly, but still …). In addition to law enforcement, we also need accessible services so that people can get the help they need to improve their lives.

    In any event, I was grateful to learn about this group, and I plan to continue attending meetings and participating in activities. I wish this neighborhood watch group had a website so that others in the neighborhood could get information.

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  2. “How can we entice athletic leagues to use Jose Coronado playground?”… Any given night of the week Jose Coronado (also known as Folsom Park)is brimming with young and older men playing blacktop soccer. I hope the above said comment isn’t an invite for Rec & Park to rent the heck out of the space to more established leagues (money & access) at the expense of the local players who are tight on money but deep in talent.

    It would be great for Mission Local to interview some of the folks that are playing soccer out there on what there ideas are regarding issues at the park.

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