Some 20 citizens filed into Bayview Station Wednesday, ahead of Captain David Maron’s monthly Community Safety meeting. It started with data, but ended with attendees mostly arguing about whether the issues were rooted in city inaction or community indifference.
The discussion erupted after Maron mentioned a nearby liquor store “that has been attracting open-air drug dealing, stunt driving, you name it.” Maron, who joined the department in 1996, paused, adding that this began “long before I got here.”
Those attending — a racially mixed group of residents ranging from 40 to 60 years old — had lots to say about groups of “suspicious” characters hanging out on the sidewalks.
One woman insisted that the characters simply played cards, to which several people responded in indignation.
“They’re not just playing bicycle cards,” said a woman, as a man shouted out at the same time, “they’re gangbangers!”
The same man continued.
“In 2024, we have to vote all the assholes out that made this mess. No one can sit here and say that Democrats are great,” he said, hands raised like a fervent preacher. “The schools suck, the streets suck, there’s shit on the streets.”
The others seated in the community room erupted, some arguing, others laughing.
It was then that a Samoan man in a beaded necklace, a large man with a gentle and steady voice, began to speak. He introduced himself as an educator. The room settled.
“How well do we look at where we live? How do you raise your children to value where they live?” He asked. “If you don’t raise them to love their home, they will go outside. And they won’t value the streets there.”
A child, some five or six years old, raised his hand sheepishly. Captain Maron called on him immediately.
He stuttered at first, with several at the meeting calling out encouragement. “You got this baby!” an elderly woman shouted.
“If you find a bad guy, do you bring someone? Just one person? Or the whole crew?” the young boy asked. The room broke into laughter, and Maron seemed to smile for the first time since the meeting began.
Maron said earlier that the department concentrated on preventing and solving robberies, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts.
“Not saying the others aren’t important,” he clarified. “Those are the ones I focus on, because those I get the most complaints and inquiries about.”
He went on to discuss silver linings, like the fact that burglary rates plunged by 30 percent in the district, as well as homicides, limited to “only” nine so far in 2023.
“However,” he added quickly, “one homicide is too many.”
Maron said that the department was actively hiring, as numbers among officers have dwindled.
“No one wants to be a cop,” a woman ventured aloud.
Maron addressed the comment. Recent activism, he said, had tarnished the appeal of a role in law enforcement: That and the less-than-compelling salary. According to SFPD’s website, the average annual salary of a new officer starts at $103,116.
“We’re in the Amazon, click-to-buy-now generation,” he said. “It doesn’t start that way. We start at the bottom and work our way up.”
A large portion of the meeting had been scheduled around an expected appearance by a representative from the District Attorney’s office, but Maron informed the room that the guest, whom he referred to as Renee, could not attend.
It was, according to Maron, a typical meeting where most residents come to air their grievances. Nonetheless, he said, “we have a great group of people here.”