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Neighborhood crime unit proposed for SFPD

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Proposition R on the November ballot is meant to ensure that police address property crimes as well as violent crimes, according to its supporters. (Cindy Chew/2006 S.F. Examiner)

A proposal to create a special neighborhood crime fighting unit within the San Francisco Police Department will go before voters in November.

Supporters say Proposition R will act as an accountability tool to make sure police are addressing property crimes as well as violent crimes.

“Prop. R is fundamentally a community policing measure,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, adding the measure will ensure the department commits resources to crimes such as vandalism, bike thefts, auto break-ins and burglaries.

Wiener, who sponsored Prop. R, said it will require that 3 percent of the department be assigned to such a unit.

“We insist that you push some of these officers into the neighborhoods to deal with some of these low level crimes,” he said.

While the language of the proposition admits that most crime is down, it notes that property crime remains an issue in many lower crime areas that don’t have as much police presence as areas with high crime.

Wiener said the measure would not micromanage police, with whom he worked on the measure’s language, but simply alters some staffing in the department and involves the community in creating plans to fight crime.

“With all respect to the Police Department, they don’t get to make all the decisions on public safety in San Francisco,” he said, noting that the police are responsible to the elected representatives of The City.

But not everyone thinks the measure would achieve what it sets out to address.

Jeremy Pollock, an aide to Supervisor John Avalos who both oppose the measure, has filed a lawsuit against the measure.

Pollock also wrote in a streetsblog.org editorial that the measure is poorly thought out and will not achieve its purported ends.

“[Prop. R] is a poorly conceived policy,” wrote Pollock. “I fully support SFPD increasing its focus on foot patrols and community policing. But Prop. R will assign 60 officers to what is called a ‘Neighborhood Crime Unit’ that won’t be assigned to neighborhood police stations  —  they would be a centralized unit based out of SFPD’s Mission Bay Headquarters.

He added, “It’s totally unrealistic to expect 60 cops (out of a department with nearly 2,000 officers) to do all that and walk foot patrols in every neighborhood!”

The measure needs at least 51 percent of the votes to pass.

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