A man with two dogs has been having a full-blown episode on my doorstep for the last two hours. I think he may hurt himself. I called the police more than an hour ago, but they haven’t shown up yet. My kids are terrified.”
A friend from Pacific Heights sent me that message recently, but the basic contours of her story are familiar to so many families across San Francisco — especially lately, since we have been sheltering in place and contending with Covid-19.
Some in city government have hailed the recent drop in car break-ins as reason to celebrate. Indeed, there are fewer tourist cars to break into these days. But while the crime of the moment may have changed, it is clearer than ever that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to addressing the crisis on our streets.
It’s not just petty crime. We know — anecdotally and empirically — that hot prowls and residential burglaries are up as much as 90 percent in the areas surrounding the Van Ness Avenue and Union Street corridors. Make no mistake, this is targeted, organized crime. We’ve had gunshots in Pacific Heights and the Marina, and many other disturbing incidents that are driving families out of San Francisco.
This is no joke.
CITY HALL FAILING
Frankly, I am furious that it has been allowed to get this bad. As a mother and longtime gun violence prevention advocate, this is not something I can or will accept.
The primary responsibility of local government is supposed to be providing residents with safety and peace of mind, but City Hall is clearly failing in that regard. The status quo policies that have allowed bad behavior to continue unchecked cannot remain in place. We can be compassionate without tolerating the behavior we have seen recently. These goals are not, in fact, mutually exclusive.
To gain a fuller understanding of how the city is caring for our homeless population during this difficult time, I signed up to serve as a disaster service worker in one of our community’s shelter-in-place hotels. These sites — three in District 2 — are staffed with security and social workers, and the temporary residents are provided with around-the-clock supervision. Although some have attributed these hotels to the uptick in crime, we have not seen concrete evidence to that effect. By immersing myself in one of these sites, I plan to find out whether that’s the case.
Over the past several months, I have also been meeting (virtually) with the new commanding officer at Northern Station, Captain Paul Yep, and groups of neighbors who have been directly affected by crime to hear their stories and to chart a path forward.
Back in July, before we even started to see shootings in our neighborhoods, I demanded a report detailing how the police department and the district attorney’s office are handling gun-related crimes, because we have seen an increase in these crimes throughout the city since the spring, and this spike has cost too many young people their lives.
If that study shows that any policies of the SFPD or the district attorney need to change to be more effective in preventing violence on our streets, you can be sure I am going to be pushing for those changes.
As supervisor, I have been unafraid to stand up for families and working people in our city. I was the sole supervisor to vote against shutting down County Jail 4 or Juvenile Hall without a forward-thinking plan in place. I was the sole supervisor to vote against an outright ban on facial recognition technology in San Francisco. I was the sole supervisor to support Mayor Breed’s nomination of former candidate for district attorney Nancy Tung to serve on the Police Commission. And, most recently, I was the sole supervisor to stand up against a city budget proposal that was fiscally irresponsible and that would not provide an acceptable level of services for the money we are spending.
Of course, as one of 11 supervisors, I alone cannot enact all of the policies that I would like to see. But here’s where I would start: Taking gun cases seriously; bringing more lawsuits against known drug dealers, like those the city attorney announced in September; ensuring the availability of recovery services and stable housing for individuals suffering from addiction on our streets — and making sure the voices of people in recovery are at the table; and expanding conservatorship and access to mental health beds.
If you want to see a change in how San Francisco deals with issues of neighborhood safety, help me make sure our neighbors in odd-numbered supervisorial districts know that they have an opportunity to choose their representatives this year. Ballots will be mailed out this month, and this election could not be more important.