City policies hamper SFPD at housing projects

San Francisco police officers seeking to enforce trespassing laws in The City’s crime-plagued public housing projects face a legal tangle that prevents many from approaching the issue for fear they may end up face with a civil rights lawsuit.

Confusing statutes and unclear city policy conspire to keep police officers from enforcing trespassing laws in public housing projects, and even to prevent some from entering the areas, according to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

Meanwhile, much of San Francisco’s crime happens in and around the troubled establishments. Three homicides have taken place this year near the intersection of Eddy and Laguna streets —the northeastern corner of Plaza East housing.

Much of the criminal activity in public housing projects comes from trespassers who loiter at the sites, Mirkarimi said in a hearing Monday at the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee. But police are tentative about enforcing trespassing laws because the laws are difficult to prosecute and arrests may backfire.

On March 6, Mayor Gavin Newsom, police Chief Heather Fong and other city officials held a news conference to announce an aggressive new patrol strategy that would focus on public housing sites.

Newsom and Fong announced that 28 beat officers would join 16 currently assigned to the “big four” San Francisco housing projects, which include Sunnydale, Potrero, Hunters Point and Alice Griffith, for a total of 44 cops patrolling projects citywide.

In a hearing before the Public Safety Committee, Officer John Hart, a department lawyer, said “more than mere presence” is required for a person to be breaking state trespassing laws. Police must prove criminal intent, destruction of no-trespassing signs or other specific acts in order to successfully bust trespassers.

Because of the vagaries of state trespassing laws, cities including Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles, have passed statutes addressing trespassing on public housing, Chief Assistant District Attorney Russ Giuntini said.

San Francisco lawmakers are considering a similar bill, but for now, only state laws apply.

amartin@examiner.com


How should police reduce crime at housing projects?

Share your comments below.

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

Epic Cleantec uses soil mixed with treated wastewater solids to plants at the company’s demonstration garden in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Epic Cleantec)
This startup watches what SF flushes – and grows food with it

Epic Cleantec saves millions of gallons of water a year, and helps companies adhere to drought regulations

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler congratulates San Francisco Giants first baseman Darin Ruf (33) in the dug out after hitting a home-run in the 5th inning against the Washington Nationals at Oracle Park on July 9, 2021. (Christopher Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

The Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in Japantown could become permanent supportive housing if The City can overcome neighborhood pushback. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco leaders must reject NIMBY discrimination against homeless housing

By San Francisco Examiner Editorial Board “We support supportive housing. But just… Continue reading

The 49ers, opening with a win against the Lions in week one, play the Eagles. (Courtesy 49ers)
NFL Week 2 predictions: Our picks against the spread

By Emmanuel Morgan New York Times Last-second field goals. Teams flooding the… Continue reading

“Ticket to Ride,” on view at RVCA’s Haight-Ashbury store, is made up of artistic renderings of Muni tickets. (Courtesy Optimist Williams)
Celebrating pre-tech SF through Muni transfer tickets

‘Ticket to Ride’ exhibit presents public transit as art and equalizer

Most Read