Photo by Becky Stern

Regardless, the crime units program is coming to a police station near you

The San Francisco Police Department claims that auto-burglaries are down 14 percent in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year — but burglaries have actually risen 6 percent in the Mission and Castro districts.

The SFPD presented these numbers on Wednesday morning to the Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee. The hearing was called to answer one big question: Are the neighborhood-specific property crime units currently being piloted in the Mission and Taraval police districts actually working?

The cops’ short answer: yes. The answer regarding the Mission specifically? As always, it’s complicated.

Regardless, the SFPD will be introducing the so-called Neighborhood Property Crime Units to the other eight district stations come November, as the first nine months of 2018 saw a 12-percent reduction in citywide property crime — burglary, theft, auto burglary, auto theft, bicycle theft — compared to the same period in 2017.

The Board of Supervisors last November passed a resolution urging Chief Bill Scott to come up with a plan that included establishing units at each district station to focus on reducing property crime based on the districts’ specific needs. In addition to forming strategies based on each stations’ needs, each district station would have one “liaison” officer dedicated to coordinating with the department’s centralized crime units.

And yet, despite the specifically tailored strategies at each station, the Taraval and Mission Districts experienced completely different results. Since starting the pilot in January, Taraval saw an overall reduction in property crime (except for a 44-percent jump in bicycle thefts — but that was a small sample size; only 13 bikes have been swiped in the Taraval compared to nine at this point last year).

The district did see a 26-percent reduction in smash-and-grabs — a drop from 1,362 to 1,080.

The Mission, on the other hand, suffered increases in property crime: a 6 percent rise in smash-and-grabs, a 14-percent increase in theft, and a 22 percent jump in bicycle theft (this despite a 23-percent citywide reduction in bicycle theft).

“I’m still wanting an answer on … why focused attention is working in Taraval and not in the Mission,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who sits on the committee and introduced the resolution last year with Supervisor Norman Yee.

Deputy Chief Michael Redmond explained that the Mission is simply a more complicated district: There are more calls for service and more events here — and the district has more violent crime than the Taraval.

Ronen was not satisfied with his answer. These are things everyone knew going into this exercise, or should have. She explained that she and Yee introduced the legislation to experiment with a more focused analysis of a district’s individual needs. “We need you to tell us with more specificity, what is the analysis?” Ronen continued, asking also how she and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman could help, as the Mission police station covers both of their districts.

Redmond said that one feature in the Mission that could use a more attention are the roughly seven retail parking lots in the neighborhood, where they see a high rate of car break-ins. He said more work could be done with coordinating with merchants and bar owners to strategize on how to prevent the break-ins from happening.

Chief Scott then jumped in and explained that the units may have made some progress, but it could be too soon to tell. He said between 2016 and 2017 the district saw an 80 percent spike in car break-ins, as opposed to a mere 6 percent increase this year.

“There is some success there,” Scott said. “It isn’t where we’d like it to be, but there is success in the Mission.”

And now this program is coming to the rest of the city.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. The mission district problem is a result of it’s own miss decisions. Try taking the time to communicate with the non problematic homeless before calling 911 making false accusations.

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  2. No one wants to mention that there are trouble makers in the Mission who make it their business to break into cars on a regular basis because they have no respect for the property of others and because it gives them a malicious thrill to smash someone’s window even if the take is as little as a Mars bar? Oh, wait. That’s not the popular narrative which states that some poor desperate starving soul did it out of dire need after struggling over their decision for a nano second, and is wandering the streets with their head down in deep shame as they count their rosary beads.

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