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

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

Hyphen hosts a group show at Space Gallery in San Francisco in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Albert Law/Pork Belly Studio)
What’s in a name? Asian American magazine fights to keep its identity

An investor-backed media group laid claim to the moniker of SF’s long-running Hyphen magazine, sparking a conversation about writing over community history

A warning notice sits under the windshield wiper of a recreational vehicle belonging to a homeless man named David as it sits parked on De Wolf Street near Alemany Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. A proposed SF Municipal Transportation Agency law would make it illegal for overnight parking on the side street for vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over ‘poverty tows’ heats up

‘What can we do to ensure the vehicle stays in the hands of the owner?’

Crab fisherman Skip Ward of Marysville casts his crab net out off a pier near Fort Point. (Craig Lee/Special to The	Examiner)
San Francisco came back to life, and we captured it all

Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic, the bestselling authors… Continue reading

Revelers at Madrone Art Bar in the early hours of June 15, 2021 (Courtesy Power Quevedo).
No social distancing at Motown-themed dance party

‘I don’t care how anyone feels, I just want to dance!’

Most Read