Mayor Gavin Newsom defended a planned crackdown on low-level crimes committed by homeless people and others on the streets of San Francisco’s South of Market area, calling his program “more targeted” and “focused” than sweeping tactics attempted by previous mayors.
The program, called the “downtown outreach plan” in an internal memo sent last week from Newsom’s deputy chief of staff, Julian Potter, will use teams of police officers and social service staff in a 15-block area, from Third to Fifth streets and Market to ket to Harrison streets.
“Any person committing a crime (littering, encampment, trespassing, urinating, defecating, dumping, blocking sidewalk, intoxication, etc.), will be asked to cease the behavior and enter into services,” Potter wrote. “If the individual resists services, the officer will issue a citation.”
Supervisor Chris Daly, who released the memo to the media, said The City should not punish homeless people unless there are adequate shelter beds for everyone on the street. Daly announced Wednesday that he will reintroduce a $5 million budget appropriation, which was killed earlier this year, for more affordable housing for formerly homeless people.
Although the officers and social workers are called “Homeless Outreach Teams,” Newsom said most of the people The City will target are in need of services, but not homeless.
The “services or citation” approach will also be used within a new San Francisco court program Newsom’s office is developing, called the Community Justice Center.
The idea is modeled on the MidTown Manhattan Community Court in New York City, which requires most defendants to perform community service or attend a social service group within 24 hours of arraignment, or face jail time.
San Francisco plans to put its new court in the Tenderloin, and focus on such misdemeanor crimes as prostitution and drug dealing since a state law dictates that infractions can only carry a penalty fine.
Potter said the Community Justice Center won’t be launched until this spring.
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