Cops on the Plaza: Needed Patrol or Harassment?

Protesters marching down Mission Street on New Year’s Day railed against the amplified police presence at 16th and Mission. The marchers said the cops are a symptom of gentrification and have only displaced crime to surrounding blocks.

Mission Local takes a deeper look at the police’s attempt to clean up the plaza.

This story originally aired on California News Service on December 17, 2013.

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  1. marcos

    The community wants the cops, so there should be a presence. But we all know that the SFPD is not the solution to any law enforcement problem, much less social problem. How about all of those social services dollars being used to lift people out of poverty into stability instead of paying a layer of commuter nonprofit workers from Oakland to shame San Franciscans on how we don’t care about the poor?

    • John

      It is not SFPD’s job to solve social problems. It is SFPD’s job to enforce our laws. And that takes an aggressive presence and zero tolerance towards all criminal activity including nuisance crimes.

      • marcos

        Except that when social problems are not addressed increased enforcement just pushes the problems around to certain other places. It is only a problem if it is a problem for business, residents can fend for ourselves.

        • John

          I didn’t say we should try and provide some social services.

          I just said that is not SFPD’s job.

          If the voters approve more funding for social workers, then fine.

          • marcos

            Public policy of deploying the cops in the plaza without preparing to prevent the known consequences adjacent neighborhoods simply pushes the problem out of the plaza. That means that public policy prioritizes business’ need for order over residents’ needs for safety on the residential blocks.

          • John

            If your argument is to move them further away and out of the area altogether then, for once, we agree.

          • marcos

            My argument is that you seek mental health treatment from a mental health professional for your mental illness.

          • John

            And my argument is that claiming that your adversary is mentally ill simply shows the world that you cannot defeat the point being made, and so resort to insults.

            You claim to have once been a viable supervisor candidate. And now you spend your days claiming htat anyone who disagrees with you is mentally ill.

            How the mediocre have fallen.

          • landline

            You are a hypocrite. Yesterday, you said that I needed relaxation and counseling when we disagreed.

          • marcos

            Next, watch troll John inveigh against ad hominem.

          • John

            I suggested relaxation because you sounded angry, bitter, resentful and envious.

            I didn’t suggest relaxation because you held a different political view from me.

            That’s the difference between us. I can hear a different view without getting angry.

          • marcos

            I suggested mental health treatment by a mental health professional for your mental illness because you are unable to follow a thread without shooting wildly off topic and going ad hominem. You really need professional help.

          • landline

            “angry, bitter, resentful and envious”

            Speculation, personal attack and off topic. Hypocrite.

          • John

            I’m sorry but you come across as angry. It’s possible you are not angry but I doubt it. Almost every post you make is attacking me. Do you really have nothing better to do?

          • landline

            You are unavoidable. You comment on almost every article. You reply to almost every comment. You impose yourself on almost every conversation. I estimate you write 35% to 40% of all the comments on these comment pages just as you do or did on

          • John

            Not true, but if you respond to a post of mine with a personal attack, as you repeatedly do, then I will defend myself.

            Here is an idea. stop replying to me and then I can post less.

          • landline

            On this topic, you have written 15 or 48 comments, or 31%. On air quality, 6 of 14, 46%. On local’s corner, 22 of 80, or 28%. On the latino cultural corridor, 38 of 88, or 43%. This level of commentary goes on and on.

            Those are statistics.

          • John

            How obsessed would someone have to be to go counting individual posts like that?

            I’ve already told you how to get me to post less and you ignore it, choosing instead to make repeated allegations that I then have to defend myself from.

            Take a few breaths, go out for a walk, smell some flowers and find a new hobby.

          • marcos

            Clearly, enumerating the obsession of a troll is worse to the troll than the troll’s obsession in the first instance. The troll should really seek mental health treatment from a mental health professional for his mental illness.

          • John

            If you think someone here is a troll, why would you endlessly respond to him, thereby ensuring ever more posts by that troll?

            Stalking is worse than trolling.

          • landline

            How can simple mathematical calculations be described as a personal attack and “allegations” by a person whose response is a personal attack, which is standard operating procedure when evidence contradicts his position?

          • John

            How can it NOT be personal when you single out just one poster for such computations?

            I never denied that I am a vigorous and enthusiastic poster here. There is a lot of erroneous thinking and logic here that needs to be punctured.

            I feel sure that ML wants to see more debate and activity here. As long as it does not take the form of stalking, which this is starting to feel like.

          • marcos

            We here your dominant ideological prattle in most every media outlet. Must it dominate every possible internet discussion space? Seriously, you libertarians are worse than the christian preachers who are yelling their “good news” at everyone 16th BART right now.

          • John

            marcos, you spend a stunning amount of time saying the same thing over and over here and elsewhere.

            Pot, meet kettle.

          • marcos

            Libertarian prattle dominates whatever news venues its proponents can purchase. There are very few community not for profit media outlets. Mission Local is a not for profit community venue and yet you seek to dominate that as well. The SFBG is a for-profit community venue and you seek to dominate that. Why the constant need to dominate and out-shout any other comers who’d challenge the economic and political messaging that dominate every other venue?

          • John

            The fact that a publishing entity is a non-profit does not in any way mean that it should be a vehicle for anti-capitalist propaganda.

            My personal view is that ML should be politically neutral. But since several of the commentators here have extreme left-wing views that I know are not popular city-wide, there is a need for more diverse contributions.

            I feel sure that ML appreciate the balance that a more moderate and popular viewpoint can confer on the discussion.

          • marcos

            Those views are popular in the Mission, election results repeatedly confirm. Any imposition of libertarian propaganda drowns out the voice of our community.

          • John

            Your claim that moderate, centrist and popular viewpoints somehow pollute the debate is little more than a self-serving attempt to try and censor dissent and criticism – something that the socialist states of eastern Europe routinely engaged in to the point of having large secret police forces to enforce it.

            This may be the Mission but it is also America. Seeking to suppress free speech and pretending that there is nothing to the right of Lenin won’t wash.

            A confident and effective advocate of socialism would relish the opportunity to debate other value systems rather than seek to harass, stalk and deter those who hold a more diverse and populist world view.

          • marcos

            You are not commenting, you are commandeering.

          • John

            That’s your view. Others feel differently.

            What is it about free speech and critical thought that scares you?

          • Nobody is scared of you, John. People are just sick of your trolling and extremist, libertarian ideology being pushed in a manner that attempts to drown out all other voices.

            Your views are not even close to being popular, “moderate” or “centrist” in the city of San Francisco (one of the most liberal cities in the nation). The fact that you claim them to be is laughable and once again betrays the fact you obviously know almost nothing about San Francisco, despite your claims to be resident.

          • marcos

            We can read your perspective in every day’s Chronicle. Like the Christians at 16th BART, we’ve heard what you have to say, now you’re reduced to yelling at people to get your point across.

          • John

            Fyodor, I know for a fact my views are mainstream for SF because I supported Brown, Newsom and Lee for mayor, as did most voters of course, otherwise they would not have been elected mayor.

            The politics of Ammiano, Gonzales and Avalos were rejected by that same majority.

            it’s ridiculous to claim I am right-wing. I am a registered Democrat and voted for Obama in 2012. It’s just that you are so left-wing that almost everyone looks like a republican to you.

          • marcos

            You are way more libertarian than any of Brown, Newsom or Lee, off the political scale for The Mission.

          • John

            That you would think that, marcos, tells readers how extreme left you are. To you, almost everyone looks right-wing.

            I am a Jordan/Brown/Newsom/Lee moderate, as is a majority of this city.

            Believing that property rights are important and that government is too fat and happy are hardly policies of the hard right.

            Those guys who kicked your ass at high school in Texas for being queer are the ones you need to worry about.

          • landline

            Take this shit back to or get a room.

          • John

            SFBG comments are now back so hopefully marcos will be taking a break from here again.

        • John

          Speaking of which, why don’t the businesses around there pay for private security at 16th and Mission to augment formal SFPD presence.

          They could deal with many of the more minor nuisance issues that so contaminate that area?

          The new project slated for that area will help too.

          • tacho

            Why should they, the citizens of San Francisco pay for these police and they have a large police station a block away. We want police to patrol the neighborhood and not have them come out only when someone is shot two blocks away and then in their police cruisers. This is their job, assign rookies to do this.

          • John

            Tacho, I support zero tolerance policing in the Mission. But I also see how private security guards can contribute towards that.

          • marcos

            It is no coincidence that the SFPD cop shop is at 17th and Valencia while the major heroin dealership is on Mission between 17th and 18th. We pay the cops big money and they respond by avoiding doing their job when the trade off is putting themselves in danger so that we are kept safe. Best we get is piss and poo monitors.

          • John

            I disagree. SFPD do a great job in difficult circumstances. Heck, even some of the community they serve and protect look for any excuse to undermine them.

            What they need is more political support and funding. It’s the one part of the city government that most people are willing to pay more taxes to fund.

          • marcos

            So why is there an ongoing heroin dealership one block from the cop shop that the SFPD can’t be bothered to police?

  2. SFSquee

    I can’t believe there’s even a debate about more cops at 16th street BART. This isn’t about people simply hanging out in a plaza. Just look at the number of robberies, assaults, drug dealing arrests and shootings around 16th street. Any group that supports these activities as good for a neighborhood is crazy. The plaza has improved but still has a long way to go. Thank you SFPD for finally showing up.

    • ThatGuy

      Exactly. Why the fuck is this even a debate!?

    • How come there’s still been three shootings at the plaza even with the “constant” police presence?

      Look this all about making commuters feel safe and giving out tickets to the homeless to enhance “quality of life.” They haven’t made the plaza any safer in the least bit. It’s just window dressing.

  3. community

    I’ve been wondering for a decade why there isn’t a 24/7 police presence at the Bart plaza. I’m very very glad that they are finally making a serious effort at making it a safe place to be for everyone.

    Anyone who looks at increased police presence there as “harassment” is probably someone who has been part of the problem for the last decade and is upset that they can no longer urinate and sell and shoot up drugs in public without risk of “harassment” by the cops.

    thank you SFPD for your hard work to make this city safe for everyone.

    • pete

      Well said!

    • At the same time there’s been three shootings at the plaza since the police presence was established. They’re obviously not there to do anything more than ticket the homeless and provide window dressing to make commuters feel safer.

  4. joshuatree

    It’s clear that the situation is more complex than there just being two possible solutions for 16th & Mission. Crime and drugs aren’t good for any neighborhood, and efforts should be made to manage crime. Everyone deserves to feel safe on their block. This is why having police in the square is good for the short term. However, dehumanizing the homeless is no way to rehabilitate them back into society. We need long term goals and plans that get to the root of the issue. I think it surely must be possible to clean up the square, make it safe for everyone, and still be compassionate.

  5. John

    Only one thing works in these situations: Zero tolerance.

    Times Square in NYC, which has similar but bigger and worse problems 20 years ago, is now so clean and safe you can let your kid eat off the sidewalk.

    Well, not quite, but the point is that a place where you never would have taken your kids in 1993 is a family destination in 2012.

    And credit goes to the “broken window” theory of LE. By arresting and citing for every petty infraction, even the worse neighborhood can be raised.

    It needs political will and commitment, but it works like nothing else. “Hug a thug” programs do not work – just look at Oakland.

  6. Shannon

    Very happy about police presence at 16th and Mission BART. The difference has been night and day. From toilet to pleasant city plaza.

  7. Unknown

    I don’t believe in cops after last night. They harassed me and my friends after we got shot at last night as if we where the criminals. And had to get on thier line about catching the shooters because they was just acting like nothing happend.?

  8. The SFPD placed a kiosk on the BART Plaza in 1990 to deter crime, put there after a kid was killed with a baseball bat in early evening at Wells ATM. Apparently the kiosk did such a good job of scaring off the thugs no police presence was needed for over twenty years.

  9. rk

    I’d rather have a safe environment. There will be an occasional incident where a cop oversteps their authority that you’ll hear about. That’s unfortunate, and they should be held accountable. We should support efforts to reduce crime at such locations that ultimately reflect on people’s perspective of the neighborhood. In time, it’ll be good to see some statistics of the impact.

  10. Jules

    Someone commented the other day that it seemed lately that this blog was trying to racially rabble-rouse, and I’m starting to wonder if that person was correct. The 16th St station was a sty. Beyond adding a police presence, they should rip out every one of the benches.

    • Whoa, who’s trying to make this racial (besides you)? And how is harassing private citizens sitting on benches legal or even constitutional?

  11. eddie

    The benches must stay. The BART Plaza is a public space, and for homeless people, SRO residents and other community members, one of the only places in that part of the Mission where we can sit down without fear of citation or arrest because of the sit/lie ordinance.

    Forcing people with various issues into other areas doesn’t address or solve their problems. One of people pictured in the video was subsequently murdered in Weise Alley. Had he been hanging out in his previous regular spot on the plaza, he might still be alive. Who knows?

    I know that fewer people have been eating at our weekly Food Not Bombs sharing. I suspect many of those people are intimidated by the police. So they are having to find other resources for their meal, especially now that the government has
    reduced food stamps.

    The police have mostly left FNB alone, but I have definitely seen them initiate and escalate situations with passers by they find suspicious.

    • John

      Eddie, if there were a better solution for the homeless, the city would have done it by now.

      The reality is that all you can do is more them on to a place where they can do less harm.

      That space is disgusting and the over-riding public interest and priority is to clean it up, whatever that takes.

      Personally I would close all the SRO’s around there and build a camp for them in Bayview or Oakland.

      • C. Russo

        Uh, we tried that, with Japanese-Americans.

      • That’s exactly why SF has such an extreme homeless problem; other cities around the country forcibly ship their homeless and psychologically impaired here. We’re better than stooping to a solution that just sweeps the problem under the rug.

        From the Matrix program, to Care Not Cash, “quality of life” courts and No Sit/Lie, the city has been trying draconian policies to the homeless problem for the last 20 years at least. It obviously hasn’t worked, so it’s the definition of insanity to try more draconian policies and crack downs and expect it to have any effect. The city needs to do more to improve shelters and job programs to help the homeless get back on their feet and start cracking down on the other cities that give their homeless and psychologically disturbed citizens a one way ticket to SF.

        • John

          If SF’s homeless problem is that other cities send their homeless here (And I agree that they do) then the reason for that is obvious. It is because SF throws more help and money at these people than other places.

          The solution, therefore, is to make SF a much less welcome place for homeless people in the first place. And/or send many of these people back to where they were banished from.

          • landline

            Kill the poor. Use their organs for those more deserving. Soylent green tastes good.

          • Except that your “solution” is the same one politicians have been pursuing for the last couple decades. It hasn’t worked. Time to try something new.

          • John

            No, there is no zero tolerance policy in SF for this, else these problems would not happen. That is what zero tolerance means.

          • You never mentioned ‘zero-tolerance’ in this thread. You’re just moving the goal posts now that your “get tough on the homeless” argument has been exposed as the grade school fantasy that it is.

            But I’ll bite, what does the ML troll mean by “zero tolerance”?

        • landline

          There are homeless people in every American city. People from all backgrounds and positions in the socio-economic hierarchy immigrate to San Francisco. That fact is one of the cornerstones of this city’s identity. Otherwise, its name would still be Ramaytush.

          • John

            As long as SF gives more handouts to the homeless than other places, we will have more homeless than other places.

            I wasn’t suggesting genocide, only tough love.

          • Many cities’ “solution” to their homeless is to give them a one way bus ticket to San Francisco. Nevada was caught red handed shipping the overflow from their mental health facilities to San Francisco and LA. I agree that take care of everyone is part of San Francisco’s identity and I don’t suggest turning anyone away or making the city worse to try to prevent them from coming. But just as Dennis Herrera is taking Nevada to court, we should identify the other bad actors in this tragedy and force them to provide services themselves rather than sweeping their problems under a rug.

          • John

            We don’t need to take anyone to court. We just need to stop being a magnet for these people by offering superior benefits and help.

          • We are currently taking someone to court, and getting the city compensated for some of the additional costs Nevada has been saddling us with. This is a common sense approach that the majority of San Franciscans can agree with. Enforcing the law while maintaining our morals. Your approach consists of a radical change that goes against San Francisco’s whole temperament.

  12. lee doolan

    So at the end of the video there is a wonderfully ambiguous statement like: “…it will be a short while before 16th and Mission returns to normal”

  13. Mister Big

    People have been asking for more police presence for 20 years. The place is a cesspool with madness, drug dealing, intoxication, and defecation.

    So why is it happening now? My guess is Ed Lee is pushing the issue so those developers can build those big condos there. And Ed Lee’s favored techies who party in the nabe want to feel safer.

    Otherwise it would be status quo. But hey, they got rid of the chess players on Market Street as a bigger priority than cleaning up 16th St. BART station.

    • Old Mission Neighbor

      I disagree. The developers will want to build those condos regardless of the police presence. Buildings like Vara on 15th/Mission have quickly leased out without any increase in police activity around them.

      The residents of these buildings have made it clear that perceived crime isn’t a deterrent to moving in. This police activity is happening independent of that.

  14. FW

    “In the 1970s, BART construction threatened Mission families with eviction. But people banded together and stopped it. Then, like now, the cops tried to clear the streets. They targeted young people in low-riders with tickets and harassment. But people united, even forming a solidarity campaign, Los Siete de la Raza, around seven youths accused of killing an officer. Still, young people are targets of police bullets and brutality.”

  15. Pamela

    Finally! Good work, good luck SFPD! There needs to be a strong police presence not just at 16th St Plaza but at 24th St location as well, & Mission St through Districts 6, 9 & 11. Slowly but surely as upgrading businesses move in, condos built, the area will be greatly improved. Turning into another Valencia St would be good. Another big push is to shut down the SROs & non-profits which seem to attract vagrants, crime that are common in the area. Very funny w/the 2 street vendors [most likely selling stolen goods] complaining about being harassed by the police.

  16. ThatGuy

    If people aren’t doing anything wrong, what’s the problem?

  17. tacho

    I work a block from here, i am glad the powers that be are allowing the cops to do their job. San Francisco should not be a dumping ground for all these losers, move along now, don’t enable them. They need to go back from where they came from. And I am no stranger to this area-i went to grammar school at 16th and Dolores as a boy and had to transfer from the 14 mission to the 22 filmore when it was a skid row over 40 years ago. Stop enabling with rebuilding projects like Valencia Gardens- people need to sink or swim enough of taking care and tolerating a dispproportionate share of society’s losers.

  18. Vic

    The station is clean, safe and you don’t feel like you are going to get mug walking between drug dealers and street vendors. Keep the police presence, offer then a permanent post.

  19. two beers

    When all of the nearby units recently built or now in development have been sold or let, the bank/developer/landlord/realtor pressure on SFPD will cease, and the constant police presence will end.

  20. dogwalker

    It’s useful to look at crime data when thinking about the 16th and Mission BART Plaza. There is a clear cluster of violent crime at this location. Part of the solution is police presence. I live 1 block from the plaza currently and have used that BART station for about 12 years. The only time I have been mugged in SF was near there. I welcome police presence there. Here is the crime data:

  21. HoofHearted

    I think they should get rid of the cops and just play an endless loop of Justin Bieber over that area.

  22. WhiteFace

    Is no one going to comment on the storekeeper excited about seeing more white faces? That was hilarious.

  23. Roz

    I use this bart station for my daily commute, and i have to say, since the police left there are quite a few more pantless drug addicts running around. While the police were there they just hung out and shot up in front of my 15th st apartment. Mixed emotions.

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