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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.

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Nick Sucharski

Nick Sucharski is the current transportation reporter for Mission Loc@l.

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  1. Hire and train Transit Police from the competent Transit Fare Inspectors. That way you get fare checkers AND cops wrapped up in one neat package.

    We had Transit Police in the 70’s. Bring’em back. And this time don’t let SFPD politically eliminate their rival Transit Police like they did in the early 80’s.

  2. Ideas:

    * Deputize all Muni office workers and inspectors, make them ride buses and detain suspects until SFPD arrives.
    * Add the SF Sheriff’s office to list of departments assigned to help MUNI reduce crime.
    * Give MUNI drivers a bulletproof shield around their seat. I know I’d be more afraid to confront criminals if I was in such a vulnerable position with nothing between me and the public.
    * Make the cameras live networked cameras, where SFPD dispatch can “patch in” to view any bus camera at any time. Maybe down the road officer’s car computers will be able to do the same thing.
    * No more back doors on buses. Double the width of front door, so all passengers must go by drivers and pay fare, and exit the same way.
    * Create a way for SFPD officers to contact MUNI drivers directly via radio, and ask that they stop and wait.

  3. Maybe they should start with eliminating the failed Compstat Program. It failed in NY, it failed in LA. It does nothing except create another layer of beauracracy in a police department where beauracracy was the biggest problem. Secondly, maybe MUNI should start looking into the criminals that drive the buses, and thirdly, there should be serious ramifications for those drivers who see incidents, but don’t report them, which happens constantly.