Mission District business owners along 24th Street said the police chief’s decision to quadruple the number of foot patrols in the next week will be a welcome change — especially after what many say has been a multi-year absence of foot patrols. Even near the 16th Street BART plaza, where merchants have had more recent interaction with police, business owners were primed for more.
Ahmed Alkableny, who has worked at a small smoke shop at 16th and Mission for five years, said that he has seen beat officers pass by every day, multiple times a day. He said officers check into the shop and say hi regularly. “We’re even kind of friends,” Alkableny said.
Told about the increased foot patrols, Alkableny said, “Oh, hell yes. That’s good. That’s what I like to see.”
On 24th Street, however, merchants said that foot patrols have not been around for a while, and they looked forward to seeing them again. Residents who attend the police district’s community meetings often ask for foot patrols.
“It would be nice, safer,” said Angela Lopez, owner of De Todo Un Poco, a clothing store on 24th Street.
Lopez said that when she opened her store in 2009, she would often see beat cops.
Others on 24th Street agreed, and while the last time store owners saw a regular foot patrol varied from store to store, they all said that they now rarely see officers. They welcomed the news that this will soon change.
“It could create more trust to have the faces and names of officers,” Lopez said.
Police Chief William “Bill” Scott announced Thursday that the department will double the number of beat cops citywide to “more than 100” on Sept. 9. The Mission District will receive the highest number of new foot patrols, but no numbers have been released.
The change was triggered by skyrocketing car break-ins across the city, with the biggest increase in the Mission District. To man the patrols, the city is disbanding the patrol bureau task force, an investigative unit composed of some 19 officers who targeted car burglaries and thefts. Scott also said the department will draw officers from its narcotics unit. The officers will be redeployed to district stations.
Alice Gutierrez, who works at La Reyna Bakery, said the last time she remembers regular beat cops was 10 to 15 years ago. She remembers one officer in particular checking in and greeting her, although she couldn’t remember his name.
“He would come in and say hi, and would interact with you,” she said. “It was positive, because if you had a problem, you could tell him.”
Denise Gonzalez, owner of Luz De Luna, a Mexican crafts store on 24th Street, said an officer would frequently check in on her when she ran her shop on 25th Street. But since moving to 24th Street in 2012, she has rarely seen any beat cops.
“It made a difference, knowing they were around,” she said, explaining that she frequently deals with shoplifters, and that the heightened police presence might prevent trouble in her store.
“It’s good for the neighborhood,” Gonzalez added. “Let’s hope they keep us safe.”
Morena Martinez, owner of Morena’s Fashion on 24th Street, close to the 24th and Mission BART station, said she saw officers regularly pass by as recently as six months ago, but lately they haven’t been around. Like other store owners, Martinez was more at ease when police patrolled the streets on foot.
“I felt safer then because there are gangs across the street, and I feel afraid,” she said. “[The foot patrols] are good news for me.”
But some were more skeptical.
Edgardo Campos, who has owned J.J. Jewelers for 30 years, said he’s rarely seen foot patrols. In recent years, he’s dealt with a couple of armed robberies — but with little support from the police.
“I don’t think more cops will help,” he said.
Days before the police department announced the increase in foot patrols, Erick Arguello of Calle 24, a merchants association for the 24th Street corridor, told Mission Local that for seven years 24th Street had a regular police officer who everyone knew. That officer was re-assigned “a few years ago.”
Since then, he said, the foot patrols have been inconsistent. “We would like to see more community policing,” he said. “We are in a uptick in crime, not just in the Mission, but all over the city. There are lot more car break-ins, more invasions.”
Arguello cautioned, however, it’s important the police engage with store owners and community members, because “there’s a lot police animosity in neighborhood,” and police relations have been tense.
The Mission has been the scene of five police shootings since 2011. The was April 7, 2016, when officers shot and killed 45-year-old Luis Gongora Pat.
The San Francisco Police department declined to say where foot patrols would be assigned. At the Thursday press conference, Chief Scott said that officers would be sent to “known problem areas.”
In 2009, Officer Keith had been assigned to the 24th St. corridor for seven years, but he was the only permanent foot patrol officer there for a long time. In 2011, Mission Local reported that police had three regular foot patrols: one from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the 16th Street BART station, two 24-hour patrols on Mission between 16th and 24th streets, and one on 24th Street.
Then-District 9 Supervisor David Campos said that even then citywide foot patrols had “either been cut, completely eliminated in some places, and do not happen with the frequency that we want to see them.”
However, businesses near the 16th and Mission Bart station say they have seen a much more regular police foot presence over the years, but those businesses further south had less interaction with the police.
A grocery store owner who chose to remain anonymous said that he opened his store near 17th and Mission some eight years ago and began noticing beat cops three years ago. He said he frequently deals with shoplifters, and that even more beat cops would be good for his business.
“That would be good because a whole bunch of people will show more restraint with more police presence,” he said.
But just across 17th street, Huda Antelo, who has worked at One $ Store for two years, said beat cops never walk into the store, and have only followed up on her calls within the last couple of months. She said it has taken the police up to a week to follow up after a call.
“I would appreciate it if they stopped in,” she said. “People steal from here.”
Even further down Mission, Shadi Da, who has owned a smoke shop on 19th and Mission since 2002, said he never sees beat cops pass by, much less check in. “From 18th to 21st [streets], we don’t see cops,” he said.
A man who said he’s worked at Mission Comics and Art for two years, but who chose to remain anonymous, said he never sees foot patrols pass the shop. He said it’s hard to get the police to show up even when he calls.
“Everyone on this street deals with their own stuff,” he said.
Over on 19th and Mission, Paul Miller of the Royal Cuckoo, a grocery store and beer and wine bar, felt positive about the new foot patrols.
“A couple of cops walking around is better than them driving by really fast in their cars,” Miller said. “At least beat cops know people. They’re less fearsome when you know their names and they know yours.”
Phil Lesser, president of the Mission Merchants Association, agreed.
“It makes nothing but sense to have the police … be visible like we are, and known to people on the street,” he said. “It’s natural community policing, something that’s really welcome.”