Call for foot patrols in high-crime areas gains support

Requiring San Francisco police officers to conduct regular foot patrols is gaining support among supervisors looking to cut down on the high crime rate plaguing their districts.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has proposed legislation that would mandate for one year a police foot patrol program in his district, which includes one of The City’s highest-crime neighborhoods, the Western Addition.

After postponing a Board of Supervisors vote on the legislation in August, Mirkarimi has heard from at least two other city supervisors, who said they wanted to expand the pilot program to include their districts.

Supervisor Chris Daly submitted a memorandum to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday requesting an amendment to the legislation to require that the Tenderloin Police Station implement foot patrols on a regular basis. Supervisor Tom Ammiano said onTuesday that he also wants Mirkarimi to amend the legislation to include the Mission district.

Mirkarimi said he wants to figure out “how we can make [foot patrols] a citywide practice.”

Ammiano said he would like Mayor Gavin Newsom to step in and implement a mandated citywide foot patrol “so we don't have to go through all this” on the board.

The City suffered through a record number of homicides in 2005, when 96 people were slain, many in the Western Addition, the Mission and the Tenderloin. This year, there have been 66 recorded homicides in San Francisco, compared to 51 at the same point last year.

Police have said they support foot patrols only when there is enough staffing because officers on foot impede the department’s ability to respond quickly to violent crimes.

The Police Department is considered short-staffed, operating more than 200 officers below the voter-mandated level of 1,971 officers.

Daly said the short-staffing argument

shouldn’t apply in the Tenderloin.

“The [Tenderloin] station area represents The City’s smallest and densest police service areas, with the highest concentrations of drug-related crime and violence,” Daly said in the memo. “Because of its size, a walk around the station’s boundaries could be performed in under an hour.”

The Police Department does conduct foot patrols, but not on a regular basis, according to Mirkarimi.

“[Foot patrols] exist intermittently. They’re happening, but nothing is sustained,” he said.

Residents want foot patrols “but unfortunately due to the absence of political will it hasn’t happened,” Mirkarimi said. “So I am trying to do what folks have wanted to see done.”

The legislation returns to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Mirkarimi said it will be “an artful challenge” to figure out how to launch the pilot program whileaccommodating the requests of other supervisors.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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