Prostitution has decreased over the last month say Mission residents who attended a community meeting at Mission Police Station on Tuesday evening. They credited the station’s captain with effectively addressing what they say has been a growing concern in the neighborhood.
“For the last few weeks, I have not called the non-emergency number once,” said a 50-year-resident of Capp Street who gave her name as Marla. “For the first time in a year, I have been able to have my windows open at night and keep them open without having ten ladies yell and scream with cars going by.”
The woman was one of dozens of Mission residents who attended a contentious meeting on August 30 and blamed police and city officials for failing to prosecute “lines of prostitutes” operating on stretches of Shotwell and Capp streets, and refusing to issue citations to homeless campers.
At that meeting, Mission Station Captain Daniel Perea told the frustrated neighbors that resources were being allocated to hotspot areas where sex workers tend to congregate. He then announced that he would be instructing his officers to focus on pursuing their clients.
But the neighbors had continued to press for more arrests and foot patrol officers.
On Tuesday, however, it seemed as though many felt that they had been heard. A majority of those who were worried about sex workers attracting violence to their neighborhood did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. Those who were there echoed Marla’s testimony.
“It’s not just one or two of us – I think we all really appreciate what’s been happening in the last month and the suddenness of it,” said one attendee.
Another woman, who said she lives on 22nd and Shotwell – one of several areas of concern – agreed.
“Last night we only had two working women and two pimps that I saw go by over the course of the evening, which is much lower than it has been,” she said.
Perea said increased police presence has acted as a deterrent for would-be Johns as well as prostitutes and other “criminal elements.”
Perea says he’s also heeded the neighbors’ calls for more enforcement and arrests by running organized enforcement operations in hotspot areas on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Those operations include DUI checkpoints and vehicle theft abatement.
“We have cops looking for stolen cars, and there are some that have been recovered,” he said.
Still, the resident at 22nd and Shotwell wanted to know what was being done to prevent future flare-ups of violence and crime such as neighbors say they witnessed this summer.
Perea said he plans on continuing the ramped up policing, specifically through the deployment of foot patrols.
“I would like to keep the effort going because not only does it address [prostitution], but it also addresses other crimes,” he said.
Perea indicated that human trafficking is of concern in the hot spot areas, and on Tuesday confirmed at least two minors had been taken into protective custody – one of the girls, he said, was taken to a shelter for runaway and homeless teens. The other was taken into custody “for her own safety,” said Perea.
Not all neighbors were content with the police’s efforts in recent weeks. Loitering at Jose Coronado Park continues, said Dolores Reyes, owner of the restaurant San Jalisco, at 20th Street and South Van Ness Avenue.
“The people that are there, to me they are not homeless – they are just drinking people that come with their chairs, they are comfortable, they are there all day and all night,” said Reyes, who also lives in the area. “That has to be clean, for the safety of the children going to that park.”
Other neighbors also complained about tents on their sidewalks, which they said is a health hazard and have linked to crime.
But Perea said that the issue of tent encampments is being dealt with in an ongoing effort by various city agencies, including the police department.
“There’s an area identified now and [the departments] are going to deploy resources… and give [campers] notice … that we are coming, this can’t be anymore, and we are here to get you to shelter,” he said. “That initial area is where we will start.”
Nonetheless, Reyes, the restaurateur, agreed that prostitution has decreased near her business as well.
“I don’t know what you did, but magic came,” she said.
Perea said that prostitution will continue to remain a priority issue for his station, and that long-term solutions include connecting sex workers to resources.
“Are we solving prostitution? No, we are not solving it,” he said. “But we are making an effort to have an impact here.”