Police focus on crime-prone areas

A major strategy adjustment — the most significant change in the last four years, according to the San Francisco Police Department — is being made in an effort to address violent crime in The City, which last year recorded the highest homicide rate in more than a decade.

The plan, unveiled Wednesday night before The City’s Police Commission, concentrates police resources in the five geographic areas of San Francisco that have seen the most violent crime in recent years: Bayview-Hunters Point, the Mission, the Western Addition, the Tenderloin and Visitacion Valley.

In the past, the department has solely targeted individuals or groups believed to be responsible for a majority of the crimes, according to Cmdr. Kevin Cashman, who recently took over the field operations bureau of the department.

The new strategy will schedule officers from the SWAT team, narcotics division, gang task force and traffic — as well as state and federal agencies — to patrol the zones on a rotating basis. Officers will focus on drug busts, traffic stops and probation or warrant checks.

“Our zone-based strategy is a well thought-out, focused and determined attempt to place enforcement resources in the most needed areas, at the most appropriate times,” San Francisco police Chief Heather Fong told The Examiner on Thursday.

Violent crime is “extremely concentrated” in San Francisco according to a 2006 Harvard study cited by police that claims 45 percent to 50 percent of the violent crime in San Francisco occurs in less than 2 percent of the neighborhoods. The Bayview district, which tallied a quarter of the 98 homicides in 2007, will see the most presence, with three separate subzones.

Officers will not “randomly saturate neighborhoods” and there is no intention of straying from the more traditional tactic of targeting high-risk individuals, Cashman said. In the last three weeks, investigators put together a list of 60 offenders who are on a “need to be in jail list.” Fifteen are already in custody.

While the department is still hundreds of officers short of its charter-mandated force of 1,971 officers, Cashman said the new strategy will be based on redeployment and won’t strain resources.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district covers Bayview-Hunters Point, told The Examiner on Thursday that she hopes the strategy doesn’t lead to profiling residents.

“It’s like a campaign where you focus on certain areas, but at the same time the police have to follow certain procedures,” Maxwell said. “They can’t just patrol the streets and harass any black man they see.”

The plan is worth a try, said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, whose district includes the Mission, where police say violent crime is on the rise.

“When there’s a crisis in certain areas, police should provide relief,” Ammiano said.

bbegin@examiner.com

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