Community policing at work

On Oct. 16, the San Francisco Police Department held a meeting that is indicative of the way things have changed in the department. The meeting was attended by Chief Gascón and many of his senior management, as well as many members of the public. The subject of the meeting was Community Police Advisory Boards (CPABs) and the involvement of the neighborhoods in working with the SFPD.

There is a CPAB in each police district consisting of a group of civilian volunteers from the neighborhoods. Their role is to advise the local police captain about crime and quality of life issues affecting their communities. The CPAB meets monthly with the captain and gets a briefing about current crime trends and specific projects being undertaken.

SFPD Northern Station covers an area from the Marina in the north to Market Street in the south, and from Larkin Street in the east to Lyon Street in the northwest and Steiner Street in the southwest. That area has a wide variety of neighborhoods with very different crime issues. The CPAB for Northern Station has representatives from the Marina, Russian Hill, Larkin and Polk Streets, the Western Addition, Japantown, Lower Haight, and Hayes Valley.

Because of the wide range of problems in these areas, the CPAB decided first to tackle a problem that was common to all neighborhoods – car break-ins. In the first nine months of 2009, there were over 1,700 car break-ins in the district covered by Northern Station. The figure so far this year is a little over 1,050. The CPAB realized that the car break-in rate could be reduced if the public could be educated not to leave items such as cell phones, laptop computers and GPS systems in plain view in their cars.

Local schoolchildren were invited to the police station to participate in an art project to design a decal that can be placed on street signs, lampposts and parking meters. The winning design will be chosen soon and it is hoped that Muni and the Department of Public Works will cooperate in a trial to test the effectiveness of the decals.

The plan to involve the community in the policing of the neighborhood is a welcome development, and an important function of the CPAB is to bring the concerns of the neighborhood to the attention of SFPD. This can only happen if neighbors let their concerns be known. You can do this by sending a note to your neighborhood community association.

Alan Silverman is a Marina resident and a board member of the Marina Community Association. E-mail: