All the celebrities showed up at last night’s much-anticipated Community Safety Meeting: an SFPD captain, three Supervisors, and an angry, overflow crowd of Bernal Heights residents who want to know what the City will do to help make our streets secure again.
Interest ran very high. The Bernal Heights Neighborhood center estimates that 200 Bernal neighbors jammed inside the building, with another 100 turned away outside. That was important unto itself, because the high attendance sent a powerful signal to City officials that our community is watching closely, very energized, and deeply engaged. Major kudos to BHNC, for making it happen.
Yet by the standard of “what the City will do to help make our streets secure again,” many Bernalese left feeling disappointed by what they heard. A neighbor provided this summary:
Here is my summary of the meeting:
- In my 20+ years in Bernal that is the largest turnout I have ever seen. I am sure there were 100s of folks there, and a bad mike/sound system
- The structure of the meeting was Supervisors and the Captain. No Sergeants were present; there were a few officers and a detective (plainclothed).
- Lots of supervisor rhetoric. Necessary political concerns expressed, but not much problem-solving
- Captain Falvey was in the hot seat, and he did remarkably well. He answered questions, but it was limited because the police are still filling out reports, etc.
- Then came questions from the public. Not much time was left for this, and the questions were written down. The questions were condensed because they were a lot of repeat questions. They was a lot of talk of not displaying victim behavior etc etc, Call when you see suspicious behavior etc.
That’s consistent with what we heard from other Bernal Heights civilians. Neighbor R writes:
Loads of people. Standing room only and then some.
IMO, maybe 5 minutes of the hour plus meeting was about the recent muggings. Lots of talk about not showing anyone you have a phone, lots of supervisors talking about educational initiatives and Newtown and federal gun control.
No talk about preventing future muggings, equipping police with technology to track phones, stopping the very active and open fence market on Market (where they found the guys last night).
Count me very disappointed.
Neighbor Laura adds a second:
I agree with R’s overall sentiments about the meeting. I left not feeling any safer and was very disappointed that we didn’t actually focus on the issues at hand. I was hoping for more of an open forum where we could all ask our questions and have them answered, not the sorting and selection process of the questions that happened.
You get the idea… the reviews of last night’s meeting have been consistent.
Bernalwood is told that planning for additional meetings with the SFPD is underway, with the goal of using future sessions to focus more concretely on question-and-answers, updates, and crime-prevention strategies. That’s great.
Today, however, Bernalwood offers this visual summary of current neighborhood sentiment:
UPDATE: 1/31 2:30 pm Neighbor Edie, who regularly writes those invaluable notes from the SFPD Ingleside monthly meeting, comes through with detailed notes on last night’s meeting:
Bernal Heights Community Safety Forum
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center
Speakers: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center Executive Director Rachel Eboria and Director of Community Engagement Ailed Paningbatan
San Francisco Police Department Captain Timothy Falvey, Ingleside District
Supervisors David Campos-District 9, John Avalos-District 11, and Scott Wiener-District 8
San Francisco SAFE Program Director Irina Chatsova.
Sister Eve Volution and Sister Pat N Leather, The sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
Attendees: Over 250 crowded into the BHNC main meeting room, the balcony, and stairs. More went home, unable to fit in through the doors.
SFPD Ingleside Captain Timothy Falvey: In Bernal Heights recently there has been an increase in robberies involving firearms. The latest was Tuesday night in the 200 block of Bocana. Three neighbors chatting in front of a house were approached by three men with a gun, who stole an iPhone with “Find My iPhone” GPS tracking app on it. A quick- thinking Bayview officer tracked the phone on his iPad, and radioed in that it (and the thieves) were in the Tenderloin, where electronics are commonly fenced. Tenderloin police spotted the car, but the suspects took off onto 101 south. After a chase, police apprehended the suspects. Now that they are in jail, police will ask the victims and witnesses of other crimes if they can identify them. They think there may be seven robberies in Ingleside connected to this group, and possibly more from other neighborhoods since these guys moved around (two robberies in Portola/Bayview area before they got to Bocana/Cortland).
They also are about to make an arrest in another robbery where the victim had a chance encounter a few days later with the person who mugged her and was able to identify him to the police.
Often an increase in similar crimes is caused by a small number of perpetrators. Once a few are arrested, the volume of crime decreases. Let’s hope that happens soon.
Falvey uses the “three E” approach to reduce and prevent crime, a focus on education, enforcement, and environment.
Education: Such as warning signs posted around the neighborhood, helps neighbors be aware of what’s going on and how not to be a target. For example, there have been at least 6 incidents at Balboa BART where thieves target i-phone users: drivers ask to borrow someone’s phone and then speed away onto 280 with it. Criminals have also been asking time or for directions to see if someone has a phone. Telling people makes them more aware and less likely to become another victim. Tips can be found in the Ingleside station newsletter.
Increase in recent trend of robberies and thefts in and around the Balboa BART Station and City College area. Be vigilant of suspicious vehicles pulling up and its occupants asking for directions and/or to use your phone and then fleeing the scene with your property.
Environment: Residents must be proactive and aware of their surroundings. In general, the neighborhood should notice street lights that are out and trim trees blocking street lights, clean up Residents should get motion sensors or leave their porch lights on, prune shrubbery, and notice who and what is around them.
Enforcement: Police patrols and undercover officers work with Violence Reduction Team (a plainclothes unit deployed to neighborhoods that are experiencing spikes in crime) to cover specific areas. Last night, from the time the call came in to the time the officer met with the victims was one minute 5 seconds because plainclothes officers were already nearby.
Supervisor David Campos: The City Supervisors are committed to providing all of the resources needed by community and police to make neighborhoods safer, and community policing involves police and citizens in enforcement and prevention. What can we do as individuals? Campos was a victim of a mugging five years ago; he made it easier for the criminal because he (Campos) was talking on his phone. Don’t get caught up in your phone and ignore the people or situations around you.
Supervisor John Avalos: Excelsior, OMI, Crocker-Amazon, and neighborhoods south of here have also suffered an uptick of violent crime – break-ins, robberies, and a murder, and Avalos shares concerns and strategies with Campos. This includes, first, providing adequate police resources, and there will be 3 police academy classes this year, and 8 new officers started this Saturday at Ingleside. Second, working within the community to increase communications among neighbors and with the police and develop neighborhood watch groups. Third, providing resources for people seeking alternatives to street life, such as youth development programs, high school alternatives, and workforce programs. Again – this uptick in crime is caused a small number of individuals. When we catch them all, the crime should go down.
Supervisor Scott Wiener represents many neighborhoods, and Glen Park and the Bernal Cut are at the southern end of his district. There has always been a problem of robberies in GP due to the placement of BART and easy access to the freeway. Thieves also travel easily between Glen Park and Bernal. Weiner hopes to continue the combined neighborhood and police focus on awareness and control.
Sister Eve Volution and Sister Pat N Leather: The sisters of Perpetual Indulgence focus on community service and have been spreading general street safety information for many years, initially in response to homophobic acts. They suggest you get a whistle, wear it on a chain, and blow it if you are concerned or attacked. Wearing the whistle increases safety awareness; blowing it when attacked may give you a brief moment to get away, scare away the criminals, and bring out the neighbors to help you. The Sisters will be on the corner of Cortland and Andover on Sunday Feb 3rd to hand out safety tip sheets and whistles. Facebook: Stop the Violence, web site: the sisters.org
Community Q&A (30 min):
1. What to do about lack of lighting on Richland? First, contact 311. 311 is a one-stop-shop city service for neighborhood concerns. They will either send requests to the appropriate city agency, or redirect the caller. ALWAYS get a tracking number to follow the response. The 311 calls advise the supervisors and therefore can affect the budget. Second, tell Ailed Panangbatan, BHNC, who is organizing a safety walk to review the areas that are dark, covered with graffiti, and where criminals gather.
2. The Ingleside newsletter: How often sent out and updated? Police try to do it daily, but the person who started it is retiring and someone new will replace him. Newsletter not only has crimes committed, but comments on crime trends, and safety tips to counteract crimes. The crime reports, safety tips, safety forms and information sheets can be found and downloaded from http://www.inglesidepolicestation.com/
3. The discussion about gun violence is in the foreground now. Can we track this and use it to control gun activity? Campos: Guns are a priority for all the Supervisors. Campos’ office is using their portion of the supervisors’ discretionary budget for a gun buyback program. Avalos: As a city we must prioritize jail time for criminals who use a gun. We must also focus on the national level: Plan for the city to divest any funds invested with companies what manufacture guns. Falvey: in Ingleside has made 10 gun arrests in the past month. If someone has a gun in their house, they can call the police to pick it up, but if a burglar enters and steals it, it will then be on the street and could be used to commit crimes.
4. Drug sales in the neighborhood: What can we do about street-level drug sales? Police have undercover officers on the streets, so call the police. They will get drug dealers off the street to stop drug sales and thereby prevent greater violence.
5. How to better spread the word about happenings in the neighborhood? What do block captains do? Chatsova: Neighborhood Watch block captains have lists of contact information for all their neighbors and learn to use phone trees in emergencies to help solve problems. They also have quarterly meetings for ongoing training and discussions.
6. What do you do if someone pulls a gun on you to get the best outcome? If someone pulls a gun, you must evaluate the situation and make an immediate decision about your long-term safety. Remember, your stuff can be replaced, but your life cannot. Look for ways to escape, and people around to help you. Know you can get through this, so try to make yourself a good witness. Notice height, weight, facial characteristics, and license plates. Remember, criminals often wear layers of clothing so they can strip one layer off and change their appearance, even as they run away. However, they won’t change haircuts, glasses, or shoes.
7. Holly Courts is losing their director, and the tenants need a Director who is more tenant minded; the tenants ask to be part of the process in selecting that new Director. Campos: violence and public safety are connected, so if the Holly Courts tenants are affected, so is the rest of the neighborhood. Campos has asked for an audit of the housing authority to determine why residents still don’t have key cards after several years.
Irina Chatsova, Director of SFSAFE: SF SAFE can help individuals and groups start a neighborhood watch group, perform residential or business security assessments, and conduct classes in home and personal safety (including basic self-defense) for your neighborhood or community group. Most of this is completely free. 415-673-SAFE or http://www.sfssafe.org
Ailed Paningbatan, BHNC:
Hot Spot Walk: Upcoming – date to be announced. The BHNC is organizing another Hot Spot Walk for city officials and community representatives. The Hot Spot form follows on the next page of these notes. Use it to indicate areas of concern due to overgrown vegetation, poor lighting, garbage dumping, graffiti, drug dealing, etc.
Safety Walks: Neighbors, BHNC staff and members, and police conduct occasional Safety walks in the neighborhood and pass out flyers with tips on subjects such as auto break-ins and personal safety. For more information, to participate, or to suggest an area that could use a safety walk, contact Ailed Paningbatan-Swan at (415)206.2140 x 130 firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTOS: Above, Top and bottom, Mark Johann. Center, Sam Burbank