Angry SF Residents Face Off With Police on Crime

Mission Station. File photo.

Some 30 Mission residents who crowded into a monthly police meeting held Tuesday grilled the neighborhood’s police captain and supervisor about their plans to address what residents described as a clear increase in criminal activity on their streets that has left them fearful.

The group blamed the police and city officials for being ineffective in prosecuting sex workers and dismantling homeless tent encampments that have cropped up on the Mission’s sidewalks. It was one of the largest monthly meetings in the last year.

“It’s never been this bad, I’ve never felt this fearful,” said one attendee, who has lived at her home near 20th and Capp streets for some 50 years and said that police have done little to discourage prostitutes from working on her block.

“The ladies out there are getting much more aggressive – isn’t prostitution [illegal] still?” the woman wanted to know. 

While prostitutes and homeless campers are not new to the Mission, many of the neighbors alleged that their presence has increased notably in recent months and is conducive to criminal activity.

Mission Police Captain Daniel Perea and the Mission’s supervisor, David Campos, assured residents that every available resource was being used to ensure the community’s safety – still, Tuesday’s meeting ended with much frustration and few solutions.

“At every meeting, we are told the same things,” said David Hall, who co-owns the bar Shotwell’s, located at the corner of 20th and Shotwell streets.

Hall said that in the last three weeks, prostitution on his block has spiked “to the highest I’ve seen in the 10 years I’ve been here,” and that the surge has impacted his business negatively.

Others also described  “a line of 20 to 40 prostitutes” who surface on “every night of the week” to work the poorly lit sections along Capp Street and Shotwell Street.  The women attract customers that “triple daytime traffic” on those streets, one neighbor said.

Residents wanted to know why more arrests weren’t being made, and pointed to a lack of foot patrol officers assigned to comb residential corridors.  

Perea said police were focusing on the clients of the prostitutes and are responding to upticks of “crime and violence” in the neighborhood with “organized operations and focused enforcement.” Earlier this month, Perea said that a DUI checkpoint was erected at South Van Ness and 20th streets in an effort to deter would-be Johns.

“These people should not have to be afraid in their own homes,” said Perea.

Other residents said that the increasing visibility of tent encampments in their neighborhood made them uncomfortable.  “I walk down Folsom Street everyday to work, and everyday I see drug use,” said one Mission resident. “Why is that allowed to exist?”

Both Campos and Perea told residents that unless a crime was being committed, more policing would not solve issues such as homelessness.  The root causes, they said, need to be properly addressed.

“You have to understand what’s happening citywide and why the Mission becomes basically the dumping place, ground zero,” said Campos.  “You can’t just put people in jail, because they get out and get back onto the streets. You need to give them options and that’s what we are working on.”

The city’s efforts earlier this year to relocate its homeless population away from Super Bowl festivities and a sweep of a major encampment on Division Street in February placed some 100 homeless people in shelters and ushered dozens of others to other areas.

Earlier this year, Campos introduced legislation to open six more Navigation Centers, or full-service homeless shelters, citywide.

Campos turned to Perea as he explained that his office is not in charge of patrolling the neighborhood for criminal activity, but to ensure that the police department “has the resources it needs.”

“The first question I ask the captain every single time I talk to him is, ‘do you have enough resources?’” He said. “I’m open to passing whatever law is needed.”

But Perea said that inadequate resources aren’t the issue.

“I have a boss and if I need something I ask him for it and I get it,” he said.

To attendees who asked for more foot patrol officers, Perea said that officers must be paired up, and that expending those resources is indeed a challenge.

“We can’t just have one officer. We need two out together given what’s going on in the country right now,” he said, calling it a “safety issue.”

But Campos sided with the neighbors in calling for more beat officers in his district.

“I think it’s better to have [officers] walking a beat than in the car,” he said, adding that his office has backed Mission Police Station financially in support of foot patrols.

And that money is being put to use, said Perea. “We have foot beat officers out at 16th and Mission [streets],” he said.  “A lot of that is over-time money that the supervisor is speaking about, and that is being used. But it goes fast.”

That didn’t appease the community members.

They asked for speed bumps to be installed on streets frequented by sex workers and for the prosecution of homeless campers who are visibly breaking the law.

“There are people who won’t go to [Jose Coronado Park] because there are so many bad people there,” said Dolores Reyes, owner of the restaurant San Jalisco, at 20th and South Van Ness.  “These people are outside with music, bottles…I have seen the police go by and they don’t do anything.”

Others said they were ready to depart from the Mission.

“I’m ready to shut down my freaking bar,” said Hall, although Shotwell’s other owner did not corroborate this statement.

Another female attendee echoed his concerns. “I’m ready to sell my house,” she said.

The evening also offered a confrontation between District 9 supervisorial candidate Joshua Arce and Campos, whose seat Arce is vying to win.

“No disrespect to Supervisor Campos, but for the past eight years he and his staff have been a disaster for the Mission,” said Arce, who handed out his business cards and invited the attendees to further discuss their concerns with him. “We are meeting and planning for what we are going to do in January to change things up at City Hall,” he said.
But Campos fought back. “It’s one thing to talk about it and another thing to do it,” he said and called Arce “the mayor’s candidate.”  “We have actually passed laws to force this administration to do something.”

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27 Comments

  1. Benicio El Toro

    Campos has done nothing for crime in the mission as it spirals out of control. His term out will be the single best thing to happen to the mission in almost a decade!

    • Robert Ray

      couldn’t agree more. Where did this guy come from again? Did he ever attend a school here? The guy used the Mission to make a name for himself and no doubt he did in certain circles. Campos represents all that is bad about big-city, liberal Democratic politics. His time has come and gone.

  2. Geraldo Garcia

    @Kaepernick7 is right. These police think they are gods or something. They need to police in pairs? WTFing bs is that !!

    Likes its okay for normal people to walk by themselves, but these trained dudes with heavy guns need to work in pair. fvk the police union and the captains that go along with them

  3. Dan

    It is truly ridiculous that there is not more foot patrol policing in the Mission. We are talking about an area 1 mile by 1 mile. It’s such a small area they shouldn’t even have cars. Maybe 1 car for the entire station. Cars just serve to isolate them from the community. Get out and walk! Talk to the residents! Maybe get some bicycles!

  4. Bob Evans

    This is the end result of alleged “PROGRESSIVE” values.

  5. What! Campos finally showed up to one of the meetings? What took him so long? Business as usual here in District 9 I guess…

    We are so fed up with his administration, his recommendations and political endorsements for supervisor.

    As a neighbor, I ask that you please don’t choose to give us another 2 years of nothing, instead vote for change.

  6. Alex Conrad

    I attended this meeting and remember a lot what’s reported here. But some notable events from the meeting are missing from this article.

    Many attendees (maybe 60% by my guess) booed at Campos on several occasions. Specifically, a lot of people booed and shouted when Campos suggested that the police clearing encampments periodically “would not solve the problem.” I heard several people shout “Yes it would.”

    Campos either does not understand or is willfully avoiding his constituents’ view of what “THE problem” is. Homelessness is indeed A problem. But the neighborhood didn’t pack a police community meeting because there is homelessness in the city. We are not that stupid. We turned out for a police community meeting to address the sudden spike in street prostitution, related shootings, and property crime in the area around Van Ness to Bryant & 16th to 24th.

    SFPD putting pressure on tent dwellers–by asking them to disassemble their structures and making arrests for drug dealing, drug use, and stolen property in the tents–won’t end homelessness. But it will reduce property crime in the neighborhood right away. Any of the dozens of locals who have found their stolen bikes or power tools in a tent on Harrison can tell you that.

    It don’t really believe that Campos missed what people were saying. He’s not that stupid either. He is dodging us because he lacks the skill, courage, or both to navigate potential tensions between his progressive ideology & allegiances (on one side) and respect for law and order (on the other). These two are not necessarily in conflict. Campos is just disappointing.

    Good thing we will get someone new in November! Let’s hope it not Campos-junior.

    • Richard

      Wish I could have been there to boo Campos as well.

    • Tom Carlisle

      Alex, Thankyou for commenting. I am in total disbelief that mission local elected to omit commentary regarding the complete disdain of locals for supervisor Campos.

      This is the most passionate & unified voice I’ve ever heard from a local community.

      Same again next week… This voice needs to demand to be heard.

    • Dmitri S.

      Uh…90% of what I see SFPD doing on any given day is harassing tent-dwellers and making them relocate. (That is, when they are not pulling over some minority.) The tent towns are constantly getting dismantled, all their stuff gets thrown away, etc. I never see the same tent in the same place twice. The folks just pack up whatever they have left and move elsewhere. But even though it inconveniences all street-dwellers, it doesn’t seem to have any impact on their street presence. And of course – you clear up a tent-town, but where are they gonna go?? The tragedy is that the homeless folks who aren’t total degenerates end up getting the shaft even more – their ID, medication, and other valuables can easily get tossed out indiscriminately in these early morning “sweeps”.

      Similarly, good luck arresting drug users and peddlers from among the homeless. You will simply burden the system with people for whom the experience of jail is more or less a meaningless afterthought in the grand scheme of their sad, fractured lives. There’s just no way to choke off the drug supply – those who function as community suppliers are too widely dispersed among the population.

      For petty crimes like theft, persecuting those who just don’t give a damn anymore isn’t gonna have much results either. And good luck even getting the cops to care – a friend had an iPad stolen, and using the GPS tracker on it, he managed to find out where the thief works and lives. He gave the cops all this info, and…nothing whatsoever happened. No followup. Nothing. And that’s basically with the thief handed to them on a platter. Even when it’s that easy, it’s just not worth their time. How can they possibly expect to get your power drill back from some homeless thief – what, are they gonna go tent-to-tent looking for the culprit?? It’s way more worthwhile (i.e. lucrative) for the department to ignore all that crap and just extract revenue through traffic stops, etc.

      I am not a fan of the situation by any means. I don’t like biking through entire blocks that stink like alcoholic piss. And no, I have no solutions – other than to adjust my own PERSONAL EXPECTATIONS of what it means to live in a gritty, bum-infested urban area. (E.g. don’t leave your shit around for them to steal, lock up your bikes with heavy-duty locks, don’t walk around at night with earbuds on playing Pokemon like it’s the suburbs and you’re a goddamned moron, don’t leave any possessions visible in your car – or better yet, don’t own a car at all…)

      But I am smart enough to recognize that a “law and order” replacement for Campos is not gonna fix this, and telling the cops to be more heavy-handed is just gonna lead to more tragedies where minorities and other disadvantaged folks get shot in cold blood for little to no reason. As long as you have flocks of mentally unstable, drug-addicted, and all-around desperate people circulating throughout the neighborhood, you are gonna have rampant drug use and theft. You can’t solve one without the other – or at least without draconian control measures, like fingerprinting, photographing, and “cataloging” every single homeless man, woman, and child living on the streets of SF.

  7. Desmond Bernstein

    Lol. “No offense but you’ve been a disaster”. That guys tight. Funny how Campos says he’s down to give cops resources but Suhr asked for a few tasers and the “absolutely not” thrown back at him sealed the fate of at least one person shot by SFPD since that veto. How about the immediate support you gave Avalos’s call to just stop paying SFPD until they “do better”. What an articulate idea. Cutting funding-taking money away from stuff-typically makes stuff work worse guys, worse. Hate to drag you even further back to the real world but both SFPD and the fire department literally hate you. You said it looked like SFFD appeared to be “just letting fires burn” so low income residents would move away. You said that as they ran in and out of an inferno at Cole Hardware. You were probably giggling about a new bow-tie or something. This was pretty funny too in a “is this really happening” kind of way. Campos-“It doesn’t work just putting people in jail. Cause after jail, they’re gonna be back out on the street”. Really amazing stuff. That’s why Capp & Shotwell turn totally awful after dark. Because our elected officials dont believe in jailing criminals as a concept. He literally said it.

    • Xander Boone

      If inadequate resources isnt the issue then get the officers off their ass and walk the streets of Mission especially Capp and Shotwell every night between 9pm and 6 am and ask the tent folks that there is a nice plot in front of campos resident to shoot up where they would be welcome with cookies and tea. What are these guys getting paid to do? If they are unwilling to do it, bring in some folks who are more than willing to get paid overtime. If overtime pay eats into to Campos precious coffer… the better.

  8. Richard Puig

    Live on s van ness and 15th for 7 yeats. Campos is really the epitome of a politcal bloodsucker that drives a city down. Hopefully Arce can force the police to behave like men on the streets of Mission than chickenshit. I’m ready for some Giuliani type leadership to reduce crime in this part of town. My wife does not need to be carrying a gun walking the streets everyday.

  9. Dana Wolf

    I’m a social worker and have lived in and served the Mission for over a decade. The spike in crime near 16th and Folsom has gotten so bad that I may need to leave my home. I literally can’t afford the property damage. I’ve had 6 tires slashed since Monday of this week (and it’s only Thursday). Last month, it was broken car windows. There are needles in the gutters and regular fights in the streets.

  10. Donald J. Rey

    Campos is too weak. “What do you need captain?” he asks. We need a politician to stand up to the police union, and like the former president did to the air traffic controllers, fire a boatload of these union lackeys. And Joshua Arce won’t be it, he’s already bought and owned with a receipt by the Police Union. San Francisco has the highest property crime rates, the highest paid police, and the strongest police union. They work the least hours. Kill people and there are no consequences. Don’t expect any improvement

  11. Paul Barwick

    I can well relate to the frustration. It has been getting worse for the past two or three years, to the point where a year ago I gave up the Mission district apartment i lived in for 30 years and moved out of California entirely. I hope that it gets better for you all sooner rather than later.

  12. Most newsworthy aspect here is Campos making himself available to hear the community’s concerns.

    During his disastrous 8 years as Supes, he’s been MIA on the eviction epidemic, luxury housing boom, displacement, never held open meetings in the Mission or Bernal to take Qs from folks and he didn’t get elected to Sacto.

    He’ll soon be working for MEDA or PODER or Causa Justa.

    In a related matter, cleaning up the pigeon poop health menace at BART’s 16th and 24th Street plaza is part of my platform, as a candidate for BART District 9 seat. See how gross the entrances are and ask yourself this question:

    What have Campos and his pals at MEDA, PODER, Causa Justa done to deal with the public health menace of diseases in bird shit?

    Shame on them for allowing the plazas to become disgusting.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSS3MJX7wro

  13. Maria Riley

    I was there too. It was bad for Campos. This is the first meeting in two years that he has actually joined. It was way more than 30 people because every seat was full and people were standing and spilling into the hallways. Campos couldnt get out of there quickly enough.

    My favorite line was after Campos grumpily sniffed that Arce is “the Mayor’s candidate,” Arce interrupted him to say “no sir, I’m the people’s candidate,” to even further applause. Campos/Ronin and their political machine are for sure going to trash Arce over and over until the election, as they have done all year, but my sense is Arce is our next Supervisor. No way are District 9 voters going to vote for more of the same.

  14. Several things residents can do that will have some effect (my block got together and did this and it’s working well).

    1. Install surveillance cameras aimed out on the street AND RECORD what’s going on. Make sure neighbors have them too and that cameras are pointed at each other so that, if someone destroys a camera, you can see who did it.

    2. When something illegal happens, PRINT OUT A STILL PICTURE of the perpetrator and put it on telephone poles around the neighborhood. For the prostitutes, put up pictures of the Johns–the prostitutes may not care but many of the Johns will.

    3. If homeless are in front of your house, there’s no law against watering your garden or washing your own sidewalk.

    4. Cactii around tree planters work pretty well at keeping dogs from crapping on your property.

    5. Bright, motion activated lights on the front of your homes. My block lights up like a Christmas tree at night when people walk down it. This also provides more safety.

    6. If you’re not afraid of a little confrontation (I’m definitely not), deliberately let the hookers, homeless, etc. see you photographing them. When they ask what you’re doing, tell them it’s for a web site of crime in the neighborhood.

  15. Georgio

    I live on the west side of Valencia, but was coming back from a friend’s place and at 19th and Shotwell was shocked to get propositioned. Felt like a throw back to a bad 80’s movie. And tents…tents everywhere. Didn’t know how bad things had gotten. How does Campos have a job?

  16. Emilia Gutierrez

    The Mission and the Castro and the whole area of Market that connects the two have become an absolute minefield of encampments, bike chop shops, and young homeless doing drugs in broad daylight, terrorizing neighbors, committing property crimes, and stealing from community businesses. There is no response from police and none from the Supervisors. I’m also ready for some tough Giuliani-style cleanup of our neighborhoods and I NEVER thought I’d say that, ever. But I’m sick and tired of fearing for my safety even in the middle of the day at the hands of someone who is on drugs and “out of it”.

    • Dmitri S.

      Yay, let’s turn all of SF into a West Coast version of Manhattan! I mean, it’s already 90% there – if only those pesky homeless would just disappear…

      By the way, if you live around here and you see someone who looks like they are “on drugs and out of it” start assaulting a random passerby – it’s your moral, ethical, and social OBLIGATION to do everything within your means to stop it. Even if you are 80 years old – go shout at the top of your lungs, alert someone in better physical shape nearby, etc. No one should have to be afraid for their safety if there are others around.

  17. Bonbon

    The meeting was on Tuesday, not Wednesday and there were a lot more than 30 in attendance. Laura were you at the meeting? When Captain Perea asked if media was presence no one raised their hand.

    • Laura Waxmann Post author

      Sure was! I walked in a few minutes late and may have missed that, but Captain Perea saw me as I took a seat in the front row. Thank you for your feedback, the date has been corrected.

  18. Adry

    I counted at least 75. People at the Mission Police Dept. Not 35

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