More blockades to ‘Red Light’ streets coming to the Mission
The San Francisco Police Department’s pledge last fall to Capp Street residents to crack down on sex work has apparently proved insufficient. As a result, drivers will soon have limited access to Capp between 19th and 22nd streets.
Preliminary designs from Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s office, which spearheaded the plan, show that yellow “Dead End” signs will be posted at the north end of each block, warning anyone who turns onto Capp at 19th, 20th and 21st streets that they will encounter a barricade at the end of those blocks. Water-filled barriers at the south end of those blocks will force drivers to make a U-turn.
Ronen’s aide, Santiago Lerma, said that the plan targets those “cruising up and down the block,” soliciting sex workers, to “make it less convenient.”
Lerma added that SFPD Assistant Chief David Lazar promised to deploy motorcycle cops to Capp Street on Fridays and Saturdays. Until now, Lerma said that increased police deployment on Capp Street wasn’t happening on weekends, when it was most needed.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement that 14 people given citations for solicitation since November have been referred to neighborhood courts, an alternative to the criminal justice system for certain low-level infractions.
“Johns referred to neighborhood court are expected to abide by the agreements they make with community members, including going to john school and pledging to not repeat their behavior,” Jenkins said, referring to restorative justice programs where they discuss the impact of their crimes.
How long the motorcycle unit, with officers from across the city, will be deployed in the area on weekends is unclear.
Capp Street has long been known as a place frequented by sex workers and their clients after dark. Nearby Shotwell Street also had a similar reputation but, after a pandemic lull, the sex trade on Shotwell never quite came back — perhaps because Capp has better lighting, or because Shotwell became a Slow Street.
“The Capp Street resurgence began as we started to emerge from the pandemic,” Lerma said. “We were just looking for different solutions to try to disrupt the sex trade on Capp Street.”
Residents who have been frustrated with the situation on their block, Lerma said, are on board with the plan. He hopes the barriers will be erected this week.
Ambassador rollout delay
The dozen community ambassadors, promised to patrol the Mission District, aren’t coming as soon as previously thought.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s office announced around Thanksgiving that the new ambassadors — intended to make the community feel safer, answer questions, and usher along loitering drug users — would be rolled out by January.
Mission Local has learned that the Office of Economic and Workforce Development is still taking applications from organizations competing for the contract to run the ambassador program.
The request for proposals went out in late January, and proposals are due on Feb. 22, according to the project’s timeline. The program is expected to begin on or after April 1.
For now, police officers and workers from Public Works and the Department of Public Health continue to patrol the plazas to ensure compliance with a new street vending permit system.
Since permitting went into effect last fall, Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon told Mission Local that 21 notices of violation have been issued between 16th and 24th streets. And last week, the SFPD’s Burglary Unit arrested individuals allegedly selling stolen goods at 16th and Mission streets.
While the unpermitted vendors leave when officers or DPH workers are in the area, they return once officials have left.
Sheriff’s oversight board moves forward
After an ongoing impasse at the sheriff’s oversight board regarding how to hire their future chief investigator culminated last month in two board members deciding they would begin recruitment themselves, the board finally decided on Friday to move forward with the city’s human resources department.
Since the launch of the new civilian oversight board in August, 2022, its members have been conflicted over whether to contract a recruiter or use the city’s human resources department to recruit and hire the inspector. Tensions rose among board members but no real movement was made on the issue until last week.
Board members Xóchitl Carrión and Julie Soo, in early January, proposed they would write up their own job description for the Inspector General position, to get the ball rolling on a stalled process. Late last month, they held a one-and-a-half-hour special session to hear public comment on “community qualification considerations” for the job.
No one called in.
At last week’s meeting, the board finally voted unanimously to send the draft job description to the HR department, which will now take over the recruitment process.
Five-O fallout continues
Something strange has been happening between San Francisco’s two law enforcement agencies since a social media spat last month. Even if you don’t follow law enforcement in your spare time, you may have seen the ads from the sheriff’s department union, calling for more police officers in the city.
What does one have to do with the other, you may ask?
The crux of the feud lies in who gets to work the airport. Currently, the SFPD Airport Bureau handles law enforcement at SFO. But, last month, the sheriff’s department union criticized the police department in a tweet for not accepting sheriffs to work at the airport, despite an SFPD staffing shortage.
The police union countered in a series of tweets that sheriffs do not have the right training to work at the airport, and that staffing shortages have also seriously impacted the sheriff’s department. They began with a post titled “Shedding Light on SFDSA’s Bizarre SFO Job Begging.”
An initial back-and-forth on Twitter and Facebook took place in mid-January but, in the February newsletter, police union president Tracy McCray penned a condescending “open letter” to the sheriff’s union president, Ken Lomba. In it, she suggests that police are more urgently needed than sheriffs, and that sheriffs could apply to become police officers. Emergency 911 calls, McCray wrote, are “higher priority than checking driver’s licenses” at the hospital.
“If you’re worried about getting through the training. Don’t,” McCray continued. “I am a Field Training Officer, and I would be honored to take you on and help you work your way to earning a SFPD star. All you have to do is ask.”
Ads paid for by the sheriffs’ union are still running. They include a petition to bring police from the airport to the city to “fight crime” and to “increase public safety” — and turn over the airport to the sheriff’s department.