Cops and yoga mix in very Mission moment

‘It’s fucking scary,’ Mission dweller tells police captain of 16th Street Plaza

At Tuesday night’s Mission Police Station community meeting, Captain Gaetano Caltagirone took questions and provided answers on the usual robbery and car break-in reports. But the 27 people attending would be feeling a bit more relaxed by the end of the evening, after the captain announced that additional officers would patrol along 16th and Mission along the BART stations.

But not just because of that news. Caltagirone also introduced a volunteer yoga instructor, Stephanie Snyder from Love Story Yoga, to lead the group in what he called “tactical breathing.”

The lights were dimmed, engulfing the room in the cerulean blue monochrome from the evening sky that lasted 10 minutes. A dog shuffled, whined, and then barked. But everyone took part.

And then, the lights clicked on and the meeting commenced. One resident, Kathy Miller, eventually asked Caltagirone: What is he doing about 16th and Mission?

“I feel like there needs to be more police officers,” she said. “People from all over the world come here and get off there. It’s fucking scary.”

Miller, who said she was no stranger to chaos after a career in photojournalism abroad, said the bad press the city gets is only spreading across the states.

“All you need are a couple of cops there during the day. That’s when all the shit happens anyways,” she said.

Caltagirone was quick to reply.

“You’re totally right, and I was just granted some more officers to put there,” Caltagirone said.

Caltagirone said he had received approval to add up to two additional police officers to patrol around the 16th and Mission areas, sometimes stretching down to 15th and Mission.

He noted that the additional police presence would be during commute hours in the mornings, midday hours, and evenings. At most, he said, two extra officers would be present. But sometimes it might be one.  

When asked when the additional patrols had commenced, Caltagirone replied “now.”

“There’s been a lot of narcotics sales in that area too, and we’re working on a project that will hopefully prevent that,” Caltagirone added.

He would not go into specifics, however, saying it’s an active investigation.

The BART plazas along 24th and 16th Streets are patrolled by both San Francisco Police and BART Police officers. Periodic attempts to “clean up” the plazas have been ongoing — including a deep cleaning. Some artists even added a ping-pong table.

Still, some were unfazed by the condition of 16th Street Plaza. Gavrilah Wells, a Noe Valley resident who has lived in the area for decades, wasn’t too worried about the corners on 16th and Mission. She still prefers the 24th Street station, given its safety, but recalls that her decades in the city the area was always more or less the same.

“I don’t feel afraid of the plaza nowadays,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like it’s changed that much. It’s pretty hairy but it’s always been that way.”

Some people, it seems, don’t need breathing exercises to be calm.