Jon Shepherd of Safety Awareness For Everyone tells residents how to efficiently report crime at Tuesday's community meeting

A rundown of crime trends and statistics, announcements about upcoming events and a public comments session — that’s usually what monthly community meetings are about at the Mission police station. Tuesday’s agenda was similar, but a woman who attends regularly inadvertently revealed the officers’ soft sides.

“There she is,” an officer said as the woman walked into the room, grabbed a cookie and two muffins from a table in the back, and sat down with other residents.

“I’m going to have some coffee. Coffee is good when you’re investigating murder,” the woman said a few minutes later.

A half-empty bottle of fruit punch and an umbrella sat on the floor by her chair.

“I’m going to LA next month to go to detective school,” the woman told an officer. “In LA, when you go to meetings, you get a badge,” she said.

The officers on hand smiled when she addressed them.

“Hello everybody, thank you for braving the rain,” Captain Robert Moser said to the 20 residents in the room.

“I’m going to miss the rain in LA. It rains only three times a year, in the fall,” the woman said.

“Only three?” an officer replied, smiling.

“Yes, only three times. Then it gets to 135 degrees or something outside,” the woman said.

Regulars like the woman at Tuesday’s meeting often come to have a little food and coffee, officer Matthew Friedman had explained at a previous meeting.

Undisturbed by the unusual chit-chat, Moser began the meeting by announcing that an arrest had been made in the February homicide on Julian Avenue, and that three people were recently arrested for vandalism at Dolores Park.

Violent crimes were down by 4 percent from last month and property crimes were down 13 percent, Moser said. Robberies were 30 percent higher.

Arrests made in connection with robberies, on the other hand, were up 600 percent compared to last month, Moser quickly added before introducing the next part of the meeting.

Prompted by the murder of Richard Sprague in February, when Sprague lay unconscious in the street for hours after being robbed and strangled before someone called police, Moser said the station was hosting a presentation on effective ways to report emergencies.

“What’s an emergency?” rhetorically asked Jon Shepherd, the public safety coordinator for Safety Awareness For Everyone, an organization that helps residents create neighborhood watch groups. “It’s an immediate threat to your life or major property,” he explained.

Knowing how to report what’s happening when calling emergency services can help police respond more quickly, Shepherd said.

The woman who had talked about going to Los Angeles for her detective badge got up for more cookies and coffee.

There are three categories of emergency, Shepherd explained: something that’s happening right now, something that’s about to happen at any moment and something that just happened and could happen again.

Shepherd said that once a dispatcher understands the type of situation a person is dealing with, an emergency protocol begins. Depending on the urgency, dispatchers can send out help within a few minutes of receiving the call.

In cases where the incident has just happened, the dispatcher can help the caller stay away from danger, take control of weapons or preserve evidence, he said.

As an example, Shepherd said that if you call and say there’s “a jerk putting lumber in his pickup truck,” the emergency responder might think you’re just annoyed with the late-night noise.

Mention that there’s a construction site across the street and the vehicle is near it, and “bingo, the dispatcher changes it to an emergency call,” Shepherd said, explaining that construction sites attract burglars.

“Always try to get a CAD number [from the dispatcher] — that’s computer-assisted dispatch,” he said. When residents report something like gunshots, he explained, the case is given a CAD number. If someone else calls with the same report, the call is added to that CAD number.

“Little things have led to big arrests,” Moser said, encouraging residents to call police even if they’re not sure a situation warrants it.

Police officers are used to dealing with people who are lost and confused, Shepherd said, but practicing reporting crime means you’re ready and more helpful to authorities if something happens.

“I’m going to have a cookie now,” Shepherd joked after wrapping up his presentation.

As Moser stood up, residents started sharing complaints.

Tacolicious restaurant on Valencia Street has brought a lot more noise and public drunkenness to the area, a resident said.

“They’re running the restaurant like a nightclub,” another said.

Moser and a resident in the back of the room suggested speaking to the Department of Public Health regarding noise and to their district supervisor about the issue in general.

In an alley near 25th Street, more and more people are smoking crack, a resident said.

Moser asked what time people are usually seen smoking crack, and promised to send officers to address the issue.

As the meeting wrapped up and residents started to leave, an officer accompanying Moser walked to the table in the back. The woman who said she was going to Los Angeles also made her way to the table with the snacks.

The officer picked up the rest of the cookies and muffins and handed them to her.

Hélène Goupil

Hélène Goupil is an editor at Mission Local and a lecturer at U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. She's the co-author of "San Francisco: The Unknown City." In 2008, she helped start Mission...

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