SFPD & Community Come Together for Citywide Public Safety Meeting

SF SAFE joined San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief William Scott and his command staff for a Virtual Citywide Public Safety Meeting Mon., Jan. 24 on Zoom. Held quarterly, the meetings offer the SFPD and community members an opportunity to discuss safety-centric topics relevant to San Francisco.

Chief Scott kicked things off by welcoming and thanking everyone who joined the meeting amid the challenges we’re collectively facing during the pandemic. “I hope that tonight is a great conversation [and] that we can take away from this a better understanding of what we need to know moving forward and answer your questions and continue to partner with you to make our city a safer city,” he said.

The chief then briefly turned the meeting over to Assistant Chief Mike Redmond and Deputy Chief David Lazar, who oversees the Field Operations Bureau that includes the

ten district stations. “We’re really excited to be here tonight and it’s really a great opportunity to meet our new captains, some of which begin their new commands this coming Saturday,” said Deputy Chief Lazar.

He added that the SFPD is watching as the 49ers are winning, “so we’re preparing for a really safe city as the celebrations continue,” and added that Lunar New Year is also approaching.

Later, Commanders Darryl Fong and Rachel Moran took turns introducing the new SFPD district station captains lineup: Captain Ng, Central; Captain Falvey, Southern; Captain Maron (also Acting Captain Ravano), Bayview; Captain McEachern, Mission (newly promoted); Captain Pedrini, Park; Captain Jackson, Northern (newly promoted);

Captain Caltagirone, Richmond; Captain Lew, Ingleside (newly promoted); Captain Vintero, Taraval (newly promoted); and Captain Canning, Tenderloin.

2021 Crime Stats

The chief returned to review some of the city’s crime statistics from 2021. Before getting into it, he reminded participants that “when we give the statistics to you all, we

can only give what is reported to us,” noting that the department knows “not everything is reported.” “We encourage everybody, particularly everybody on this call…please report if you have a crime that happens to you…It does help when you report, because we know where to put our resources,” he said.

With that, the chief gave a brief breakdown of the crime statistics as of year-end 2021 vs. 2020. Here’s a snapshot: 56 homicides, a 17 percent increase that follows a national trend in major cities; 200 sexual assaults, a 10 percent decrease; 2,200 robberies, a seven percent decrease; assaults (all types, esp. gun-related) up 9 percent, with 200 more crimes than the previous year; human trafficking, just over 30, up nearly 30 percent; and property crime burglaries were down nearly five percent. “Some of our strategies paid off, including identifying some of our more prolific burglars,” leading to arrests, said the chief.

The chief continued: Motor vehicle theft was almost flat from the year before at just over 5,900; arsons were just over 300, almost even with the previous year; larceny—the city’s largest number of crimes, including car break-ins, car burglaries—were up almost 20 percent, with 30,000 various types. He noted that, by the end of 2021, however, “we were significantly below where we were in 2017, 2018 and 2019,” further calling 2020 an “aberration” in comparison to 2021 due to COVID. In terms of part one crimes, “we ended up the year with a decrease of about almost 11 percent over the previous year in terms of our serious crimes,” said the chief.

Chief Scott also took time to address the holiday season looting at Union Square that gained national attention. He said the department deployed a lot of officers following the Union Square issue and “got through the holiday season without any other of those types of incidents, noting a significant decrease in crime in-and-around the area.”

Wrapping things up, the chief also talked about the department’s deployments in the Tenderloin, but acknowledged there’s a great challenge fueled by drug sales causing fentanyl deaths. “We have some good strategies in place and we appreciate everybody supporting Captain Canning,” he said.

Breakout Sessions

The Citywide meeting then broke into two Zoom breakout rooms, divided by the SFPD’s Golden Gate and Metro Divisions’ station captains and including community members.

Commander Fong, who moderated the Metro Division session, underscored that the breakouts offer “a great opportunity for us to really connect on conversations of concerns within the respective districts, connect you with your captains so that we can hopefully answer some of the questions that you may have.” He added that it’s also about everyone discussing how we can work together, “because at the heart of it, as we all know, is it’s about working together, community policing and resolving issues together.”

Questions from community members were submitted in advance and the respective commanders and captains directly addressed issues pertaining to their districts. Topics raised during the sessions included the number of community ambassadors being deployed, vandalism, homeless issues, burglaries, garage and car break-ins, property crimes, narcotics (especially fentanyl & meth use), shootings/gun crimes (also ghost guns) and foot patrols—to touch on some.

One general question inquired about how police are working with district supervisors, with various captains responding that they have frequent communications, do merchant walks, work collaboratively in various ways and keep each other updated on important news.

A snapshot of the community-police discussions included Commander Fong addressing burglaries and smash & grabs. Again mentioning the Union Square incidents in November, he said the SFPD did increase its visibility in the area and “prevented and deterred a lot of those crimes” not only there, but also other commercial corridors. He underscored that the department is putting out “high visibility presence for prevention and deterrence.”

Captain Canning of SFPD Tenderloin weighed in on homelessness and narcotics use. “One thing that I will say and that is important to point out is our officers are a finite resource. And as the commander alluded to being efficient, effective with deploying those resources, we are very mindful that enforcement action and physical presence do have impacts on small blocks, micro blocks or very specific areas of a district.”

He added, that “as we’re able to adopt more of a dual responder model as we do engage in our enforcement—and by that I mean we are mindful of issues that are probably much better addressed through mental health professionals or medical professionals for addiction related issues—that we’re able to really get folks that help that will reduce some of the impacts that are ongoing.”

An overriding response to questions raised, in the words of Captain Jackson of SFPD Northern, was that the police are “providing more resources using a data driven approach to pinpoint crime trends.” Many members of the command staff also echoed the chief’s earlier words to be vigilant about reporting crime so that the proper resources can be applied where needed.

In closing, Chief Scott said that the SFPD “will continue to try to do better and do our part and continue to move in the right direction—but we need your help. We need to work with you.” He added that between now and the next Citywide meeting, he “fully expects to have some progress on some of these issues” raised during Monday night’s meeting.

Until then, the chief encouraged community members to “speak up, speak out, be engaged.”

The next Citywide Public Safety Meeting will be held Mon., April 25 at 5:30 p.m. and will follow the same format. Follow @SFPD or @SFSAFE on social media to stay updated on community meetings and other safety-centric news.

-Kathy Chouteau