Capt. Gaetano Caltagirone, who took over as Mission Station Captain on Saturday, promised the 20 residents who attended Thursday night’s community meeting a lot more engagement.
He said he will resume the station newsletter, establish a community policing advisory board — the Mission District remains the only police district without one — and reinstate monthly community meetings, which had been chiseled down to every other month under former Mission Station Captain Bill Griffin.
Moreover, the a 23-year department veteran, San Francisco native and father of four who grew up in North Beach, made it clear that he has had plenty of experience with foot beats and supports their return.
Still, he failed to avoid what has become almost a rite of passage for a new district Captain — hearing an earful about the Mission’s ongoing problems: car break-ins, prostitution, homelessness, gangs and all the other problems locals feel the district can’t shake.
Mission Station, in fact, had more than 90,000 calls for service in 2016, the most of any station.
“We’re tired of the crime, the homeless, and we’re tired of not feeling safe in the neighborhood,” said one community member. “I hope that you can work with us and be a people person.”
“You said the key word — work together,” said Caltagirone, speaks Italian, Sicilian and is brushing up on his Spanish. The Mission, he said, has some of the attributes of the North Beach of his youth — The Lucca Ravioli Company, for one.
He also seemed to have more direct answers for residents.
Caltagirone, who oversaw Market Street foot beats while at Tenderloin station and had walked a beat at Central Station, said that he’s poised to fulfill Chief Bill Scott’s August order to quadruple foot patrols in the Mission, although he has yet to draft a set schedule of where and when they’ll be operating, he said.
“Foot beats have been a part of my career for a long time, and I’m not going to put it by the wayside,” he said.
The new captain also said that he plans to double down on homeless outreach by adding two more homeless outreach officers to the existing two deployed from the station. He said those officers would be available seven days a week, and also at night until midnight.
“So that no days are missed [and there are] constant officers doing homeless outreach,” he said.
For additional support, he said he would also call on Commander David Lazar’s homeless outreach team, if needed.
“One question I always to try to understand is who to call and when,” said a Castro resident named Patrick, asking what the procedure is for notifying the station about “suspicious-looking” people near his home.
Caltagirone said residents should first call the station’s non-emergency line at 415-553-0123 if someone only looks suspicious and isn’t doing anything clearly illegal. But if someone seems like they’re going to break into a car, he said, call 911.
“If you can see what shoes they’re wearing, mention it,” the captain said. “Bad guys will take off their jackets, their hats, but they’ll never take off their shoes.”
“If someone is sleeping on my sidewalk, what do I do?” Patrick asked.
Caltagirone said that folks should first call homeless outreach at 415-355-7401, and then, if nothing happens after 30 minutes, call the station’s non-emergency line.
“And then, if there’s no action with that, you could always email me,” Caltagirone said, though he explained that he’s not always at his desk. He pointed to his email address on the whiteboard, Gaetano.Caltagirone@sfgov.org.
As a last resort, Caltagirone said, call the station’s front desk at 415-558-5400 and ask for a supervisor.
“Homeless problems are the least of our problems,” said Michael Alfaro, the president of the property management group that tends to the public areas at the Vida luxury apartments at 22nd and Bartlett.
He said residents there have been dealing with gangs, drug dealing and prostitution — and have even received rape and death threats. He said his company has spent upwards of $10,000 on private security.
“I mean, this is six blocks from here,” Alfaro said.
The captain said he has been made aware of the issue and wants to bolster his undercover unit. He also said he and his night captain have drafted plans to borrow officers from other districts to “attack” the area. He said that project would operate from midnight to 6 a.m.
He also had plans to ramp up DUI checkpoints and traffic stops in the area. “Because when the johns are driving around, they’re not thinking about using their blinkers,” he said.
“I think that’s gonna help,” he said.