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SFPD opens bilingual police substation in Portola to deter crime

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People linger outside the new SFPD Portola Substation following a grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mounting safety concerns among Chinese residents and merchants in Portola prompted San Francisco police on Wednesday to open a new substation staffed with bilingual officers on San Bruno Avenue.

The substation, which will be open twice a week at Portola Family Connections community center at 2565 San Bruno Ave., is meant to deter crime along the busy commercial corridor and build ties between police and Chinese-speaking residents who may not otherwise report crimes to Bayview Police Station.

“There’s unspeakable crimes that just happen all day long and just the presence of the police in the last few years has gotten a little better,” Joe Lien, the owner of San Bruno Market, said at an opening ceremony for the substation. “I’m just glad there’s an eye on San Bruno Avenue.”

In the last four months, Bayview Capt. Steven Ford has increased the number of officers assigned to walk the foot beat on San Bruno Avenue from one to four, three of which speak Chinese. The corridor has had issues with car break-ins like much of San Francisco, as well as occasional robberies and aggravated assaults.

“We’ve had some situations where people will storm a business and take merchandise and things like that,” Ford said. “The whole crux behind this entire endeavor is to first and foremost create a sense of safety.”

The substation and foot beats also fit in to police Chief Bill Scott’s larger strategy for combating property crime and building police-community relations as recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice, which reviewed the San Francisco Police Department in the wake of controversial police shootings.

In response to rising car break-ins last year, which eventually totaled more than 30,000 by the end of 2017, Scott doubled foot beats around San Francisco. So far this year he has said that auto burglaries are down.

The substation will be the only of its kind to serve the Bayview Police District. The SFPD has had substations from time to time, such as the one that opened on Sixth Street in 2013, but they often close.

The substation itself will be housed behind the large glass windows at the front of Portola Family Connections and staffed with at least two foot beat officers on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Of the officers, one speaks Spanish, one Mandarin and two Cantonese.

“There is going to be an immediate connection between police officers and the community,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the neighborhood on the Board of Supervisors, said at the opening ceremony.

Among those who also supported the substation are Cmdr. David Lazar, Capt. John Sanford and District 10 supervisor candidate Shamann Walton.


Supervisor Hillary Ronen speaks at the grand opening of the new SFPD Portola Substation on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supervisor Hillary Ronen speaks at the grand opening of the new SFPD Portola Substation on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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