When attendees of Tuesday’s police community meeting complained to Mission Station Captain Thomas Harvey about a lack of police response to crime, he turned the question back to them.
“If you want more police officers … then we have to find people,” said Harvey, who was named to the top Mission Station post in April. “We all have to find people and refer them to the city we want to make better.”
The meeting began with introductions around the room, with a crowd that was more Noe and Dolores than Mission Street. Harvey gave an update on this month’s notable crimes, adding that police were still searching for suspects of the Sanchez Street carjacking. He also announced this year’s National Night Out event at Mission Playground on Aug. 1, when police officers will host a block-party-style party for the neighborhood.
He also responded to recent concerns from workers with the Department of Public Works, tasked with enforcement against illegal street vending at the BART plazas, that they faced violence, threats and harassment while checking for vendor permits.
Harvey said that, while officers continued to patrol the BART plazas and accompanied Public Works staff on their rounds, it would still be Public Works heading enforcement, informing vendors of violations, and confiscating items.
Two community members spoke out against overeager officers at the Dolores hill bomb arrests, when SFPD officers arrested 117 teenagers and young adults after the annual skateboarding event. One man, who said he had “always felt safe with police,” called the response “disproportionate” and said he saw people mistreated: A 13-year-old pushed to the ground by officers, an elderly woman running from the police, and a family dashing away from their picnic in the park.
Another frustrated community member said, about the mass arrests of skaters, “We don’t want more police officers, we want the appropriate response at the appropriate time.”
But most were there to complain about the opposite: A lack of sufficient crime enforcement.
One man, speaking of taggers, said there was a lackluster number of arrests: “The amount of arrests compared to the amount of graffiti is almost inconsequential.” He called for a task force of “dedicated citizens” to stop graffiti.
That was in line with Harvey’s own thinking.
“Our resources are at an all-time low. It affects our ability to do business, and to be in the places we need to be,” said Harvey. He suggested that community members step up and help one another fight nonviolent crimes, with measures like security cameras and volunteer graffiti-covering teams.
One woman said that, after being mugged in Noe Valley and filing a police report, she didn’t hear back for two weeks.
“No one told me to call 911, or what I should do next,” she said. “No one took a statement. I saw his face, I saw his license plate number. I wasn’t interviewed for two weeks.”
She also claimed that her son, who was “almost assaulted” in SoMa, approached police for help, but was told to “keep running.”
And a third decried a perception that City Hall is moving away from police responses for minor and non-violent crimes
“Our elected officials are driving down this path, which is, ‘We don’t want police to respond to non-injury accidents and property crimes,” they said, pushing for a course correction to re-emphasize law enforcement responses.
“We should speak up and ask for a change: That we still want police to respond to those crimes.”