In San Francisco, every first and third Wednesday of each month is CompStat day – when the SFPD goes over crime trends in the city’s neighborhood districts. Two weeks ago, we broke down the goings-on in the Golden Gate Division, which encompasses the southern and western portions of the city. Metro Division statistics for the past month were under review this morning, offering some insight into the street life of neighborhoods such as the Tenderloin, SoMa and the Mission.
As usual, Assistant Chief Jeff Godown chaired the meeting, which was back at its typical location at the Scottish Rite Temple in the Sunset. Chief George Gascon, who was absent from the last CompStat session in the Bayview, was present and pressed his officers on both short and long-term crime fighting strategies.
For the Metro Division as a whole, there were 149 robberies in the past month, up nine percent from the previous week. Although robberies are down two percent for the year to date, Asst. Chief Godown still referred to street muggings as the department’s biggest challenge throughout the city. There have been 12 murders in Metro (including two since July 18), up from nine at this point in 2009. There have also been 55 rapes, up from 51 in 2009.
Before I get into the individual districts, here are some highlights from the meeting:
- Robberies are up in Metro division, particularly around nightclubs and bars. SFPD’s Robbery Abatement Teams are having success arresting suspects through decoy operations and car stops, particularly in the Mission, Northern and Southern Districts.
- According to SFPD officers from the Central, Southern and Mission Districts, many robbery suspects are coming over from the East Bay. Bayview officers mentioned a similar trend in during the CompStat meeting two weeks ago. Asst. Chief Godown said he is skeptical of that answer during CompStat meetings, adding that blaming all robberies in San Francisco on outsiders isn’t going to hold true. Chief Gascon spoke of working with other agencies around the Bay to apprehend such robbery crews, but it appears SFPD isn’t reaching out as of yet. On Monday, Oakland Deputy Chief Jeff Israel expressed surprise that robbery crews from the Town were targeting people in the city, and said SFPD have yet to reach out.
- Prescription drugs have started to outstrip heroin and cocaine (both powder and rock varieties) as the number one problem drug in the Tenderloin. Officers say pills are driving a wave of retail and personal theft. Local pharmacies and doctors have been cited as part of the problem, and will likely be the targets for SFPD and Drug Enforcement Administration investigations.
- A word to the wise – do not be late for future CompStat briefings. Asst. Chief Godown was visibly upset about the tardiness of several officers and twice reminded those gathered to arrive on time.
This area contains one of the busiest stretches of nightlife in Northern California, the Broadway strip. On a Friday or Saturday night, roughly six to ten thousand people patronize the bars and clubs in this area, outnumbering SFPD officers by at least 600-1.
The staggering influx of people to North Beach and other areas of Central District on the weekend also mean an uptick in opportunistic crimes like burglary (39 such incidents, up 15 percent) and car theft (16 vehicles stolen from July 18 through July 14). A broader look at the area’s trends reveals a sustained increase in robberies (173 in the area this year, up 16 percent from 2009).
District officers say many robbery suspects they arrest come from outside San Francisco, particularly the East Bay. Many of the incidents are taking place around parking lots or on the periphery of main streets in the hours after bars let out. When pressed on the low number of arrests for robbery cases (seven last month, 46 for the year), Central officers claimed they do not have sufficient manpower to provide officers in uniform on busy weekend night and commit sufficient resources to robbery abatement.
Part 1 crime was down almost a quarter last week in this area, which encompasses affluent neighborhoods such as Russian Hill and Pacific Heights as well as the Marina and portions of Western Addition. In keeping with citywide trends, robberies remained high, with 25 such incidents last week. In 2010 to date, there have been 246 robberies in Northern District, up nine percent from 2009.
Capt. Ann Mannix spoke at length about the proactive approach her officers have taken to combat robberies: frequent car stops (over 5,000 citations have been handed out by Northern officers this year), an effective robbery apprehension team and a “zoned” enforcement approach regarding robberies, which focuses on the Marina area. Ten robbery arrests were made in this area last week, and 67 for the year to date, a 24 percent annual increase.
A stretch of “problem hotels” along Lombard and Van Ness streets were discussed at length. Some of these facilities are still used by the parole and probation services to house ex-convicts. Consequently, Northern Station receives numerous calls about these establishments, including the notorious Bridge Hotel in the Marina.
Much of the narcotics activity in Northern centers around these hotels. While narcotics incidents are down for the year in Northern, officers are still making busts, including a 120 gram bust in a hotel last night that yielded six thousand dollars in cash.
Capt. Greg McEachern’s command saw a 31 percent rise in robberies (41 incidents) since mid-July, mostly concentrated along the 1st/2nd street or 10th/11th street corridors. However, the district earned praise from Asst. Chief Godown and Chief Gascon for high arrest numbers, including twelve in the past month.
Southern District received high marks for the work of its Robbery Abatement Team, a six-man unit devoted to arresting robbers by decoy operations or other means. RAT operations from August 8 through August 10 netted 7th arrests.
Although Southern has a significant number of nightclubs, Capt. McEachern’s area has seen drops in burglaries (24 percent) and robberies (eight percent) this year. McEachern said this is the result of cooperation between his Community Advisory Board and nightclub owners, who are given a list of “best practices” to abide by. Chief Gascon complimented McEachern for his efforts, but some think the district Captain is being heavy-handed with his nightlife enforcement.
San Francisco’s skid row has seen a sustained level of property crime this year (9 percent jump), which District Captain John Garrity says is driven by personal and retail theft by drug addicts and petty hustlers. Robberies (up two percent for the year, with 192 to date and 23 occurring in the past month) along Ellis Street are also a problem, but aggravated assaults are down roughly eleven percent.
Although narcotics arrests in the Tenderloin have decreased markedly since last year (953, down from 2701), Capt. Garrity believes those figures are skewed by the number of offenders sent to drug court or treatment programs. Tenderloin officers have also picked up on an alarming trend – prescription drugs are now the number one seller in the area, surpassing heroin and narcotics. Capt. Garrity told the CompStat panel that recent arrests of “traditional” street dealers have yielded Oxycontin pills as well as crack and heroin, and that the heroin dealers who relocated their operation from the Mission to High Street cannot compete with the volume of traffic pill dealers are getting on Leavenworth Street.
“We have a disproportionate number of people selling prescription drugs,” said Chief Gascon, who vowed to crack down on “problem” pharmacies and doctors that issue prescriptions liberally. Last week, SFPD assigned an officer to a Drug Enforcement Agency devoted to pharmaceutical drugs. Tenderloin officers are also working with the District Attorney’s office to step up misdemeanor citations.
Violent crime rose 12 percent in the Mission over the last month, including 42 robberies, 39 aggravated assaults and three shootings (four people were wounded). Robberies have been on the rise since late May, but the district’s RAT team has made 12 arrests in the past two weeks. Four of those arrested were part of an experienced robbery crew out of the East Bay, while two were members of the Sureno street gang. The six-man undercover team was present at the meeting, and was thoroughly questioned on their successful methods by Asst. Chief Godown and Chief Gascon.
The head of Mission District’s RAT team is Sgt. Healy, a slightly-built, unassuming man who acts as the team’s decoy. According to district Captain Gregory Corrales, Healy has been robbed over a thousand times during his career. Sgt. Healy attributed his unit’s success to close coordination with other patrol officers during daily briefings, as well as the following “old-fashioned” method of policing:
“throw the [robbery] victim in the back of the car and circle the area.”
According to the RAT team, fewer robberies are being committed by Nortenos along 24th Street. This was attributed to the Mission’s gang injunction, the incarceration of many members, disorganization and a drop in their numbers.
Godown and Gascon both congratulated the Mission RAT team. Godown wants their methods taught as best practices throughout SFPD. For his part, Gascon walked over and shook the hand of all six plainclothes officers.