Fate works in mysterious ways. On Wednesday, September 27, 2023, I tweeted a video on X of a brazen smash and grab near San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, one of the most notorious tourist spots in the city for car break-ins. “10 a.m. today — SMASH & GRAB AT PALACE OF FINE ARTS: Hungarian tourists decided to stop before getting on plane home, now all their stuff is stolen. Waited an hour for police. Plates of thieves clearly visible but probably stolen,” I wrote above a video since viewed more than 536,000 times.
Days later, San Francisco police officers spotted a Kia wanted in connection with an armed robbery and auto burglaries, including the smash and grab at the Palace of Fine Arts. At around 4 a.m., officers tried to pull the car over, but the driver fled, losing control near the Paul Avenue offramp of Highway 101. Driver Marcellus Gayden, 26 was pronounced dead at the scene, while passenger Michael Humphrey, 27, was taken to the hospital and placed under arrest.
“Tragic end for car bippin’ crew,” the San Francisco Police union posted on X. “One dead, one critically injured. 2-person car burglary team spent day breaking into cars at the Palace of Fine Arts.” Bipping is slang for stealing from cars, which is so prevalent in San Francisco it earned the notorious nickname Bip City.
As if all of this wasn’t strange enough, I discovered that Gayden and Humphrey both went through a San Francisco street violence prevention program called “Interrupt, Predict, and Organize,” or IPO. Launched in 2012 by late Mayor Ed Lee, IPO is “intended to reduce family and street violence in San Francisco.” According to IPO’s city website, the mayor’s office is responsible for implementing the initiative.
MILLIONS FLOWING THROUGH YOUNG COMMUNITY DEVELOPERS
So who funds and runs IPO? Documents show that on June 18, 2021, the San Francisco Human Services Agency Department of Benefits and Family Support requested authorization “to enter to a new grant for the provision of the Community Jobs Program — The Interrupt, Predict and Organize (IPO) Program” with Arriba Juntos for the period of July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2024, in an amount of $2,653,860 plus a 10 percent contingency for a total amount not to exceed $2,919,246. The department also requested authorization for the exact same terms with Young Community Developers (YCD). The purpose is “to provide transitional employment services to participants in the Interrupt, Predict, and Organize program.” Total value of the grants for Fiscal Years 2022 through 2024 is an eye-popping $5,838,492.
Arriba Juntos says it promotes economic self-sufficiency for San Franciscans and their families through occupational training and employment opportunities. “Each client receives intensive case management, educational and skills advancement, vocational training, supportive services, work readiness instruction, and placement services,” its mission statement reads.
If YCD rings a bell, that’s because I’ve written about them multiple times in my ongoing City Hall corruption investigation. As a “non-profit community-based education, training, and employment placement service provider” to San Francisco’s underserved Bayview/Hunter’s Point community residents, YCD is the most prolific beneficiary of the Community Benefits Program pay-for-play scheme, where joint venture boards (JVBs), made up of firms seeking lucrative city contracts, were promised better scores for donating to favored nonprofits.
Those favored organizations just happened to line the pockets of cronies in and around the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), like longtime City Family member Dwayne Jones (recently arrested on fraud charges). Jones was the liaison between SFPUC management and the JVBs, making certain that his favored programs got the lion’s share of the “benefits.” Jones was YCD’s executive director from 1998 to 2003. His mentee Shamann Walton held the six-figure position from 2010 until he joined the Board of Supervisors in January 2019 — handpicked, of course, by disgraced former SFPUC head Harlan Kelly, recently convicted on 8 of 10 fraud charges, to head up District 10, where all those Community Benefits supposedly go (ask most residents and they’ll tell you the money doesn’t reach those who need it most).
Several San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) employees told me that YCD runs “scam classes” via various job training programs where they pay “the same kids to sit in the same classes over and over with their headphones on not paying attention so they can keep getting money.” Some participants, like Humphrey and Gayden, do eventually get city jobs. “DPW is like a prison yard,” one worker told me. “They need to keep certain guys apart because of their gang affiliations.”
Humphrey started with the city in 2011 and worked as a DPW public service trainee until 2019. Over the course of his DPW career, he earned $448,641 in salary and benefits.
Gayden in 2013, overlapping with Humphrey from 2013 until 2019. He worked for DPW from 2017 through 2022, earning $242,019 in salary and benefits.
CRIMINAL HISTORIES BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER CITY WORK
A search of their records reveals that, despite their young ages, Humphrey and Gayden had violent criminal backgrounds.
In April 2016, Gayden was arrested in Marin County for taking a person for prostitution without consent and selling a person for immoral purpose. He was also arrested twice in San Francisco in 2018 for attempted robbery and assault.
Humphrey was convicted of a 2019 robbery with a firearm in San Francisco and was released from jail in 2020. Other arrests between 2015 and 2019 included cruelty to a child by inflicting injury, battery on transportation personnel, petty theft, fraudulent use of access card, receiving stolen property, obstructing a police officer, grand theft, and multiple burglaries.
Sadly, Humphrey and Gayden aren’t the only IPO participants to continue their criminal behavior while earning city paychecks: In 2021, Elijah Dmitrius Ifopo was arrested after a number of auto burglaries and an armed robbery. Ifopo was booked on charges including being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a loaded firearm in public.
Inside sources, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told me that the DPW yard isn’t the only place they have problems with people from the IPO program. “We’ve had people targeted and killed,” one worker said.
In November 2016, 27-year-old Jermaine Jackson, Jr., a father of two, was fatally shot while cleaning the streets of the Mission District. Then DPW Director Mohammed Nuru (who is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for fraud) said Jackson had been a laborer apprentice since March 2015. He came through the IPO program and had earned his GED, Nuru said, describing Jackson as a “motivated, hard-working and well-liked employee.” One worker said Nuru paid for Jackson’s funeral, “Believe it or not, I think it was out of a shred of kindness in his shriveled little heart,” they said, “but I may be foolish for believing that.”
Both current and former DPW employees say the IPO program doesn’t work out for most. “I know a few who continued on, became permanent Civil Service, and actually turned their lives around, but that margin is very slim compared with how many have gone through this program,” one worker said. “There were many logistical problems … like they couldn’t be in certain neighborhoods, if it was territory of a rival gang. The participants are mainly all ‘former’ gang members. The shooting at Crocker-Amazon Park a few years ago involved IPO participants. The bad part is there are many different programs that utilize 9916 classification [DPW public service aide]. The majority of participants come through HSA and are tied to some form of public funding, but then the Mayor’s Office does programs like IPO that just tarnish the whole classification and make it appear they’re all involved in nefarious activities.”
Other departments besides DPW have hired employees from IPO. Some tried to discontinue their participation but were pressured by city officials to resume hiring. “For a while, the Parks Department discontinued employing 9916s but were pressured by City Hall to participate again in hiring IPO participants,” one city source said. “Nonprofits like YCD are supposed to be doing ‘soft skills’ and working with the participants to help them with résumé building and other issues, but some supervisors say they’ve gone by when the 9916s were supposed to be reporting and they weren’t there. One supervisor was concerned because he had to do the payroll and didn’t want to get in trouble paying them when they weren’t there. When he brought up his concern and the nonprofit called Nuru, the supervisor was told to ‘leave it alone and not go there anymore.’ IPO was always a mystery program. I can’t believe they highlight the ‘Summer Violence Prevention’ — even Nuru was done with that program. There were several shootings where journey level members that supervised the Mission Neighborhood Center participants were shot at, and Nuru said he wasn’t going to continue it. Maybe that’s why 9916 management staff are being issued bulletproof vests.”
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