Police Commander Jeffery Godown said Thursday that the San Francisco Police Department is “understaffed to handle Muni crimes.”
Godown grilled various station captains during the latest CompStat meeting on what they’re doing to curb crime in their districts despite being shorthanded.
“I want to know how you’re going to make people on MUNI safe,” Godown said to Captain Teri Barrett of the Park Police Station.
Barrett had few answers and said that part of the reason police have been unsuccessful is that although officers are supposed to ride on Muni twice during a ten-hour shift, they only have to stay on for 10 to 15 minutes.
Moreover, by the time someone reports a Muni crime, the suspect is often in an entirely different district– creating confusion between dispatchers and police, Barrett said. He added that suspects often simply get off the bus and walk away, which makes locating them even harder.
Suspects are “using Muni as their getaway car,” Barrett said.
CompStat, which collects crime data and shows trends, are reviewed at citywide meetings to build an awareness between police districts and to illustrate where to increase patrols and better allocate the city’s resources, Godown said.
Godown added that while CompStat works well for crimes such as assault and burglary, it is not a cure for Muni crimes. “Resources get stretched too thin,” to handle all the crime on buses, he said.
“[Muni riders] want us to be there right when the crime happens,” he said. “It’s something we’re working on.”
Godown demanded that police captains include what they’re doing to control MUNI crime during CompStat’s scheduled 11 p.m. debriefing conference call every day.
He said that communication between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority and the police needs to be stronger and more effective.
“The bus driver calls his dispatcher, who then calls one of our dispatchers, giving the suspect more time,” he said. “It’s a big-time officer safety issue.”
Tilly Chang, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Agency, also agreed that improved communication between dispatchers is essential in locating suspects, but that it doesn’t provide the same security as riding officer.
“I would feel safer if I knew there was a cop on every bus,” she said.