San Francisco’s Chinese community is deeply worried about crime, and Mayor London Breed took to the streets Monday morning to show she hears them.
The mayor, in a display of her easy charm, walked a block down Irving Street Monday to shake hands with merchants and talk safety. The event, short-lived as it was, was clearly meant to soothe the Chinese community, as Chinese-language press were the only media invited to tag along.
Somehow, some-when, this columnist heard about it too, so I decided hey, why not hear what she had to say?
It didn’t take long for Breed to tell one merchant her theory on why crime against the Chinese community has gone unaddressed: It’s the Board of Supervisors’ fault, dammit!
OK, she didn’t say “dammit,” but her frustration was palpable. That’s a good thing — our leaders should respond to their constituents.
But not everyone was happy with what they heard.
Let’s rewind just a bit: City Bay Urgent Care at 2131 Irving St. was Breed’s third stop on her five-merchant tour of Irving. That display of mayoral cordiality consisted of walking a grand total of one block, from Uncle Benny’s Donut & Bagel at 22nd and Irving Street to Guangdong Barbecue & Tea House on 23rd Avenue. The mayor was accompanied by a bevy of police, including Commander Daryl Fong and Taraval Station Capt. Nick Rainsford, presumably to project an air that all is well.
All is not well, however.
Though statistics don’t clearly reflect any increase in crime against the Chinese community, recent attacks against high-profile members of that community and shocking assaults have dominated headlines in Chinese-language media.
People are scared.
As I’ve reported in this column before, some Chinese community groups have started holding neighborhood meetings to educate seniors on gun rights, hoping to arm themselves, feeling the police aren’t doing their jobs.
(When World Journal reporter Portia Li asked the mayor on Monday to respond to this phenomenon of neighbors arming themselves, Breed said she was “unfamiliar” with the issue. So either she’s too busy to be briefed on what the World Journal is writing about the Chinese community — or she was disinterested in answering the question.)
Merchants, in particular, feel they have been besieged by robberies that might be less attention grabbing than, say, homicides, but create a culture of fear nonetheless.
On Monday, Steven Loi, CEO and co-founder of City Bay Urgent Care, asked Rainsford and Breed what they’re doing about it.
He mentioned a business nearby. “That place has been robbed constantly,” he said.
Breed answered that she’s tried to help. She even sought funding for additional police officers to staff up foot patrols in her budget proposal, she told Loi, but “unfortunately, at the end of the day, the officers were taken out of the budget by the supervisors in the budget process,” she said. “You need to contact your supervisors.”
“It didn’t have to get cut, but it did,” she said. “This is an area with a large senior population. They can become victims. It’s heartbreaking with the recent wave of crime.”
On a strictly factual basis, our esteemed mayor is correct: the supes did give a haircut to what they described loosely as an already mountainous police funding allocation.
This past June, as the Board of Supervisors deliberated on what ultimately became our $12.3 billion budget, Board of Supervisors Budget Analyst Harvey Rose recommended shaving $2.4 million in overtime spending from the cops’ budget.
That overtime was intended to beef up foot patrols. However, the San Francisco Police Department still had $19.9 million in overtime funding in its coffers, which was a bump up from its 2017-2018 overtime budget of $19.2 million.
Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the neighborhood the mayor toured today, the Sunset, took umbrage at her characterization.
“I’m deeply disappointed the Mayor would seek to politicize these tragedies and blame the Board for attacks on our community,” Mar told me in a statement.
Mar pointed out that SFPD’s beefier overtime budget resulted in 50 more officers on the street.
“Additionally, if SFPD, which reports to the mayor, more swifly implemented long-standing recommendations to civilianize additional administrative positions, more sworn officers could be freed up for foot patrols and other priority crime prevention strategies,” Mar said.
He also pointed out that it was the Board of Supervisors who sought $450,000 in surveillance cameras for The City.
Perhaps coincidentally, after she detailed her budget woes, Breed told more than one merchant that new security cameras would help keep Irving Street safe.
While the Mayor and board disagree on whether SFPD has enough resources, Mr. Loi at least, wasn’t convinced The City is doing enough.
When Breed and the bevy of cameras left, I asked him what he thought of her argument.
“Saying things is one thing, executing them is another,” he said.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter.