Frustration over chronic problems of prostitution, violence and trash-ridden streets — and the perceived lack of an effective official response — bubbled over at a meeting of the Central Mission Neighborhood Watch with District 9 Supervisor David Campos.
Campos encouraged residents to continue relying on city services that disappoint, even as quality-of-life issues persist.
“The thing I don’t understand is, [prostitution has] been here for 40 years. It’s not tolerated in Noe Valley,” said Don Henderson, a marketing professional who has lived in the neighborhood for almost four years.
Andy Oglesey, head of the watch group, told Campos, “The conclusion … we’ve all come to is that the pimps, prostitutes and johns are not from the Mission,” but that the Mission has experienced an uptick in prostitution due to increased enforcement in the Tenderloin and Oakland this year.
“This neighborhood is one of the top areas for prostitution in the Bay Area,” said Gregory Dicum, who is in charge of the group’s crime committee.
The watch group, an offshoot of San Francisco Safety Awareness for Everyone (SF SAFE), gathered at the Mission Neighborhood Center Tuesday night to vent about the Mission’s chronic quality-of-life issues. Campos, a featured guest at the monthly meeting, heard about members’ unhappiness over the flourishing local sex trade, over which authorities seem to have little or no control. The recently reelected supervisor insisted they meet with other city officials who can help.
Campos addressed the crowd of about 30 residents, many of whom have lived in the Mission for years, if not decades. The supervisor said his office has tried to address public safety by working with the police department’s Capt. Robert Moser to increase the staffing at Mission Station.
Campos explained that the department’s current shortage of officers is due to the number of retirees over the last three years. New recruits are being trained, he said, but will not be on the job for at least two more years.
Many of those new officers will need to come to the Mission to combat the chronic quality-of-life issues, Campos said. Currently Moser has approximately 125 officers on hand, but that’s not enough, he said.
Increasing the number of officers is only one component to helping alleviate gang-related crime, Campos said. Increasing the number of violence prevention workers, establishing more partnerships with former gang members and boosting community involvement are also important.
“There was a time when violence prevention workers and police were not working together. That is no longer the case,” Campos said.
Campos repeatedly emphasized that his office would continue to make public safety a top priority, assuring residents that when issues are brought to the attention of his office he will continue to notify Moser.
“I am here to listen,” he said.
Campos said he would set up a meeting with the Department of Public Works, PG&E, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Muni to figure out who is responsible for the various issues in the neighborhood, such as crime, overgrown trees and shrubbery, broken street lamps and the dilapidated Jose Coronado Park.
The supervisor reiterated that citizens who are upset about the sex trade should set up a meeting with Moser, and that trash on the streets is the city’s problem. But the watch group plans to take the trash issue into its own hands by gathering at 9 a.m. this Saturday at Jose Coronado Park to walk through the neighborhood and clean the streets.
“There are a lot of things you need to try,” Campos said, suggesting an increase in police officer foot patrols, more street lighting, traffic calming and enforcement.
Campos vowed he would return to meet with the group after conferring with other city officials to find potential solutions. “I can sense the frustration that’s here,” he said. “I want to make sure we get to actual results.”