Police say The City’s new sit-lie law appears to have had an effect on Haight Street despite the misgivings of some, although a small but steadfast group of drunken loiterers remains.
One police official said last week that she thought the law banning sitting and lying on the sidewalk during daylight hours, which police began enforcing in March, had been largely ineffective. The law was spurred by complaints from merchants and residents about aggressive youths sitting on the sidewalk, harassing pedestrians and discouraging business.
But Park Station Capt. Denis O’Leary said this week that the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood has benefited from enforcement of sit-lie. He attributed the improvement to more officers walking the beat, but also to a move by police beginning in April from giving warnings to offenders to issuing actual citations.
O’Leary said a small group of people have been repeatedly cited under sit-lie or arrested for creating a public nuisance or being drunk in public, and remain undeterred. He’s even tried to get local liquor stores to stop selling to them, to some effect, but they still return, he said.
“It’s just small antisocial behavior,” said Rick Braun, co-owner of Positively Haight Street at Haight Street and Masonic Avenue. “Once they’ve had too much, they’re belligerent.”
O’Leary is now hoping that prosecutors will seek stay-away orders against repeat offenders.
“When it comes to changing their behavior I think that it’s in the court’s hands,” he said.
But their cases are still too new, and have not made their way through the court system, District Attorney’s Office spokesman Seth Steward said. He said the office was willing to work with police on the issue.
District Attorney George Gascón suggested that his reinvigorated neighborhood courts model, where they could receive community service or treatment, could be a “good vehicle” for chronic inebriates for whom the traditional court system does nothing to address the underlying problem.
Neighborhood courts are now only in the Bayview and Mission, but Gascón hopes to extend them citywide. But all the tools the criminal justice system can throw at the problem may still not change everyone, Braun said.
“Do any of these things make these guys disappear into thin air?” asked Braun. “They’re not going to Sea Cliff, they’re not going to San Diego.”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Everybody’s got to be somewhere.”
Sit-lie enforcement on Haight Street
March: 24 warnings, 6 citations
April: 17 warnings, 26 citations, 8 bookings
May: 6 warnings, 21 citations, 2 bookings