The corner where the attempted abduction occurred. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Shotwell Street has always been a hotbed of prostitution and homelessness, but now attempted kidnapping can be added to the list: On June 5 at around 9 p.m., 29-year-old Jeremias Gomez Hernandez allegedly double-parked his white pickup on the corner of 21st and Shotwell and drunkenly walked up to three children sitting on a neighbor’s stoop. He asked them to come with him.

“My nieces were outside playing when he [the suspect] approached them and said ‘Can I take you?’” said Sandra Rosillo, the aunt of the children and the person who called the police. “My niece then grabbed the kids and started running away.”

The children – a 12-year-old girl, a 5-year boy, and a 4-year-old girl – went to their uncle Solomon Rosillo, who was around the corner with a friend, and told him what happened.

Rosillo says that her brother Solomon then approached the man and asked him what he was doing, grabbing his keys to make sure he didn’t drive away. Meanwhile his sister called the police.

San Francisco police said they arrived on the scene at 9:41 p.m. and arrested Gomez Hernandez for “vicious acts towards a child.”

“There was one person who was booked,” said spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan. “He was booked for contacting a minor with the intent to commit a felony and being drunk in public.”

Though the police can only release limited information in cases involving minors, Officer Gatpandan said Gomez Hernandez was a San Francisco resident, and Rosillo thought he lived nearby on 24th Street.

(Alex Bastian, assistant district attorney at the District Attorney’s Office, confirmed that Gomez Hernandez had been charged but said he posted bail on June 8 to the tune of $15,000 and that the case was currently under investigation. No court date has been set.)

But this is not an isolated incident: Neighbors have been complaining to Supervisor David Campos and the police department of an upswing in prostitution, homeless encampments, and the resulting filth to their sidewalks and stoops, but nothing is being done, they said.

“There’s urine everywhere, literally a sea of urine,” said Debolina Dutta, who lives on Shotwell near Jose Coronado Park. “I mean my son calls it ‘Pee-pee park.’ And there’s human feces, like a lot of feces, on Shotwell Street.”

Dutta says the prostitution situation has also become untenable.

“It’s gotten so ridiculous that the johns think that every female walking down the street is a prostitute,” Dutta said. “I was pregnant earlier this year and I have to wake up early because I’m a teacher, and some guy rolled up really slowly and said ‘Hey, do you want to come for a ride?”

Dutta was shocked.

“I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ and told him to go away,” she said. “It was my tone and total look of disgust, though I don’t know how he didn’t figure it out with the crazy amounts of bags I had and non-prostitution-like clothing.”

While these issues aren’t new, they’re more significant for the neighborhood now that there are families with children, Dutta says.

“The things that were merely annoying before are now a pretty huge nuisance,” she said. “Now that we have kids, it’s dangerous.”

Dutta cited the attempted kidnapping on June 5 as the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Dutta and other residents have petitioned the city as the Central Mission Neighborhood Group. They have reached out to Campos, Mission Police Captain Daniel Perea, and “every department you can think of” but have gotten no meaningful response, they say.

“Everyone seems sympathetic,” said Dutta, “but there are no changes.”

And they’re not the only ones complaining. Connie Ramirez Weber, who is not a member of the Central Mission Neighborhood Group and moved to her spot near 26th and Shotwell some 80 years ago, says she’s never seen it this bad.

“We have so many day laborers, derelicts – it’s gotten so terrible,” she said. “They’re blocking the sidewalk, throwing garbage, urinating in the alley. I once caught a homeless lady doing her business, leaving a big pile right in front of my garage.”

Ramirez Weber, who was the subject of a Department of Public Works street sweeping campaign back in 2008, says she’s spoken to Campos, Perea, and the mayor’s “homeless czar” Bevan Dufty about the problem, but has gotten nothing back.

“Something has to be done to let us leave the building in peace,” she said. “I’ve worked hard all my life for this, but I’m 94 now. What can be done?”

Connie Ramirez Weber still fighting the good fight in a DPW street sweeping campaign back in 2008. The first photo, of the same spot, was taken in 1975. 

She even looks to the tech nouveau riche with a degree of hope.

“Maybe this gentrification will help change the Mission. We want it clean – I don’t care what nationality you are, as long as it’s clean,” she said.

The solutions sought by the Central Mission Neighborhood Group are modest.

“At a minimum what we want is a restroom available to them ,” Dutta said. “We’re not going to cure them of their disease, but we want a port-a-potty on the corner – that’d be fine. We’ve even brainstormed at our meetings about paying for it.”

She added that the homeless are harmless. “I’ve talked to a lot of the guys and they’re nice enough,” she said.

But so far they have been told that because the sidewalks are in front of their homes, as residents they are responsible for cleaning the accumulated feces and urine. And the city has a well-known aversion to providing public restrooms for the homeless, citing the possibility of drug use and sex in such a private space.

The neighborhood association also understands that a heightened police presence won’t solve the issue. Dutta says that whenever squad cars do roll by, the derelicts simply put their bottles away and avoid eye contact, and that the prostitutes are adept at spotting and avoiding unmarked cars.

She doesn’t have an answer, but then again no one seems to.

“Campos’s response is really disappointing,” she said. “I voted for him and am really disappointed with it. The email I sent him didn’t get a response, and I emailed his two assistants – nothing.”

For their part, Campos’s office says they’re working on long-term solutions like permanent housing and regular cleaning by the Department of Public Works and pointed to the opening of Jazzie’s Place at 1050 South Van Ness, the first adult LGBT shelter in the country. They also said that when they heard of the attempted kidnapping, they were very alarmed.

“That was something that was very concerning and scary for us and Campos immediately called the captain and said ‘We want to stay updated on this,’” said Hillary Ronen, a Campos aide. “That was a whole other level of concern.”

Ronen stressed that if residents felt unsafe, they should call the police, and that homelessness and prostitution are larger social issues that require a permanent solution.

“It’s really about providing healthcare services and counseling to sex workers,” she said. “In terms of the homeless encampments, we have a housing crisis and inequality crisis in this city, and the fact that families are sleeping on the streets is completely awful and we are working day and night to build affordable housing.”

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13 Comments

  1. I’m very disappointed in Supervisor Campos too. There’s definitely been more homeless in the Mission lately. The response from Campos and City departments including SFPD, DPW, and homeless outreach groups has been incredibly poor. When you do get a response it is usually something like “there’s nothing we can do”. That’s BS! There’s no reason why anyone anywhere in the Mission should tolerate this (literal) crap.

  2. Perhaps the good supervisor would be kind enough to provide us with maps which show exactly which areas are zoned for “sex work”.

  3. “Shotwell Street has always been a hotbed of prostitution and homelessness.”

    With all due respect. This lead into the story is false. Prostitution and homelessness has not “always” been a characteristic of 21st and Shotwell and making such inaccurate statements creates stereotypes and misinformed the public at large. I would appreciate a retraction.

    My mom, now sisters home is on the corner of 21st and Shotwell in front of the park. I grew up in that house and live on 21st and Shotwell above Muzio’s.

    I am a 50 year resident and accurate facts need to be promoted in journalism.

    Thank you.
    Rudy Padilla

  4. After living on Capp (close, but not Shotwell) for 10 years, I feel comfortable saying that most of the prostitutes working that area are not really “sex workers” in the sense that they see this a viable career goal, but are in fact women trapped in what is essentially slavery. They often have serious mental health and substance abuse issues and are almost always controlled by some pimp. While in principal I’m supportive of police not focusing on “victimless crimes” it seems pretty clear to me that by ignoring the needs of these women, we are enabling the worst kind of abuse. The article mentions healthcare and “counseling” – I hope that means getting these poor people out of that lifestyle.

  5. Things indeed seem to be getting worse and worse in the Mission and elsewhere in the city, with extremely dirty streets and deranged zombie homeless people/addicts. My wife was with her 70-something parents and our one-year old daughter on Valencia between 16th and 17th last week when she was physically attacked by a crazed homeless woman. Fortunately she didn’t get hurt and the woman went away after they stood their ground and strongly told her to get away. I also have a friend from work who was waiting for BART (Montgomery St.) when she was grabbed by the hair choked by a homeless woman who then tried to throw her on the tracks. This is not a gentrification issue. No one should have to live in fear of assault in broad daylight by tormented aggressive people who have no control over themselves.

  6. I live at 21st and Shotwell, right across from the park. I get to watch daily from my home office the happenings that go on. I have made innumerable pleas to Campos’s office, the police, the Parks Dept, DPT, the HOT team etc. to try and get something to change. If I make enough of a stink (which takes hours of my time) a few things happen for a short while, but then nothing. I just don’t see how the people that have been elected and hired to maintain our city can be so uncaring, or so incompetent. I really don’t know which it is. I would love to see an outreach team out here EVERY DAY helping the homeless and mentally ill most of whom are not violent or mean but are very lost. I would like to see a cop WALK the perimeter of the park enforcing drinking laws etc. and getting to know those who hang out at the park. There are all types, not all of them are homeless. Some just visit to hang out and drink all day then leave to go home. Some even park their vehicles for days on end and sleep and drink in their vehicles. Of course, then there is the filth, human waste, prostitution etc. It is a bit ironic that one of the wealthiest cities in the country is not able to deal with any of these issues in a meaningful way. The only response we get in a meaningful way is the paramedics and ambulances. It is a shame I see them visit Jose Coronado Park more than I do outreach teams or the police dept.

    1. I agree. If they stationed a police officer there during the day, he’d be the busiest cop in the city for one or two days, then everything would be fine afterwards. The fact is, that park and the surrounding blocks have a lot going for it. And it would only take a little push to make it “ok” again.

      I agree with the other post that said that it’s not a child abduction. It’s a bunch of drunks who use the park as a living room, and one of them behaved drunkenly and offensively towards a group of very young girls and kids. He could barely stand. Nothing more than a typical dude doing typical things at that park. Scary and illegal.

      If I’d been the kids’ parents, I would have reacted the same way, tho. Maybe calling it an attempted child abduction is the only way to get the police down there to do their jobs.

  7. “…the fact that families are sleeping on the streets is completely awful and we are working day and night to build affordable housing.”

    No, Ms. Ronen, there are not “families” sleeping on Shotwell Street. There are, however, a growing number of drunk and belligerent vagrant men that have begun hanging out between 21st & 24th streets, harassing residents night and day and trashing our neighborhood. Repeated calls to police and other city departments have so far done nothing and we would expect our supervisor to help out. No amount of “affordable housing” is going to fix this issue.

  8. The writer’s lede is thoroughly inaccurate. “Shotwell Street has always been a hotbed of prostitution and homelessness.”

    Really? Maybe five or six blocks down. It’s not Shotwell. It’s the park.

    I’ve lived on this particular block for 28 years and it’s the best block in the Mission. Gorgeous houses and trees and a tight community. Long time owners and renters who all care deeply and have made the block a highlight for historic tours.

    The park, certainly, has huge problems that haven’t been addressed. Why? Supervisor Campos has been silent and awol when numerous residents have sought help in cleaning up that area.

    Sad thing is, we had accomplished a lot with that park in the past 15 years. It was getting better and kids were starting to use it. But specifically in the past 12-18 months, as he ran for higher office, Campos had his mind on other issues besides his district. Or programs got cut. Something has happened. The area has suffered. And yes, in fact, there are gross signs of human desperation everywhere as a result. But this is recent. And you see all of us out here in the mornings cleaning it up.

    It is a safe enough block for kids. The overnight clean up from bad folks who have passed through, however, is getting overwhelming. That’s a city problem that needs attention.

    This is really a story about alcoholics, and others desperately in need of city services and attention by law enforcement and mental health advocates.

  9. Campos does not care about these issues. He is wholly consumed with doing the bidding of Calle 24 to push for a moratorium to preserve the Mission in amber.

  10. How is Campos’ “opening the first adult LGBT shelter” a “Long-term solution” to THIS problem? Is he implying that LGBT people are pedophiles / potential child abductors?

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