At a gathering Saturday morning, first-year San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton told community members that this would be the first of a continuing series of discussions between city government officials and neighborhood residents regarding crime and safety.
Walton said that the purpose of the town-hall meeting in the Bayview was to discuss public safety issues and to incorporate community members’ opinions in the development of a district-wide safety plan. That document will guide policy on how police and city government should respond to community members’ public safety concerns.
Walton was insistent on the idea that his office will take action, as opposed to giving mere lip service to the issues, as many residents have criticized local government officials of doing in the past.
“Yes, I have ideas. Yes, my office has ideas, but we want to make sure that the things that we do, the things that we implement in community come from community, and so that’s why we brought everybody here today,” Walton told the audience of several dozen community members who attended the 10 a.m. meeting in the multipurpose room of the Willie L. Brown, Jr., Middle School.
Other government officials were present, including Bayview Police Captain Valerie Matthews, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services representative De’Anthony Jones and mayoral public safety advisor Mawuli Tugbenyoh and others, in addition to Walton.
When asked whether the Bayview station has made any recent changes to the way it conducts its daily operations, Captain Matthews said: “Absolutely. We’ve added more patrols, and then we’ve also gotten outside support from other districts to help us during high-crime periods.”
“Overall, the crime in the Bayview is down compared to previous years. However, I have been advising them to be present, to be proactive and be that visual deterrent,” she said, referring to the officers under her command in the Bayview district.
In December, Matthews took over for former Captain Steven Ford, a popular police leader who was abruptly transferred — a move that many criticized at the time. While Matthews is also highly regarded, residents said earlier this year that the constant shuffling of candidates made it hard on the community.
From the beginning of January 2018 through the end of February 2018, the Bayview district recorded 130 violent crimes, compared to 99 violent crimes during the same period this year — a decrease of about 24 percent, according to data from the San Francisco Police Department. This year, property crimes dropped by four percentage points in the first two months of the year (539 incidents) compared with the same period in 2018 (564 incidents).
Mission Peace Collaborative facilitator Valerie Tulier-Laiwa said that she would commit to getting answers to community members’ questions by April 22.
San Francisco SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone) Executive Director Kyra Worthy led one of three break-out discussion groups in which a volunteer wrote participants’ concerns on large pieces of paper. Attendees also had a chance to weigh in within the smaller group sessions on what they thought were the appropriate corrective actions to take.
Some community elders called for a bridge in the generation gap by suggesting that older community members act as mentors to young people. Other younger adults championed arts and education programs for at-risk youth as solutions.
A senior community organizer with the Young Women’s Freedom Center who preferred to be referred to as K.I said that the biggest public safety concern in her eyes was “gentrification and the lack of ability for black and brown folks to have economic opportunities to expand their businesses.”
She continued: “Our black and brown folks are losing its culture because of gentrification. It’s a beast. Then it falls down to all the other issues such as gun violence, things like that. Why should folks’ who just moved to the neighborhood issues be a priority first?”
Another community member told a reporter that speeding and automobile burglaries were of personal concern. Still others complained of RVs parking on the street while stringing wires between their vehicles and the houses adjacent.
Walton said that he plans to hold town halls like this one quarterly to address the public’s safety concerns and to modify his office’s responses to them accordingly.