Police pledge more Mission patrols

Police Chief Heather Fong and other law enforcement officials at a community meeting Tuesday night in the Mission district said they would continue to beef up patrols in an effort to combat the spike in gun violence and homicides, but some residents criticized the approach as heavy-handed, ineffectual and wasteful.

Since August 22, seven people have been fatally shot in the Mission, which much of the violence being gang-related, according to police.

In response, about 150 residents packed a meeting in the Mission Recreation Center Tuesday night, many in support of a stronger police presence.

Mission Police Station Capt. Stephen Tacchini Police told the group that police have responded by doubling and tripling patrols between Mission and Treat streets and between 20th and Cesar Chavez streets.

Fong said additional police would be sent to the Mission station to help combat crime, over-and-above the increases already deployed.

But Mission-based community- and youth-workers warned of a growing “police state” in their neighborhood and said the violence could be better tackled by funding their programs using money that is being spent on the increased the police presence.

Henry Morales, a case manager with the Mission-based Central American Resource Center, was particularly critical of the canine- and SWAT-units stationed in the neighborhood over the weekend.

“We don't really need that,” Morales said. “If we had a war going on out here with AK47s and it was like Tijuana Mexico and there was a drug war right now, I could understand that, but that's not going on in our community. It's lower-level crime – there are a lot of murders but it's lower level crime We do not need humongous amounts of patrol out there.”

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who represents the part of the Mission plagued by recent violence, has helped push for increased patrols. An increase in security cameras should be considered, he added.

“This is no time for philosophical arguments,” Ammiano said. “Let's make people feel reassured – let's put everything on the table that might be practical.”

No arrests have been made in relation to last week's rash of homicides, which took the lives of Giovanni Lechado, 28, Noel Espinoza, 19, Matthew Solomon, 23, Mark Guardado, 45, Marcelino Canul-Castro, 24, and left at least two others with life-threatening injuries.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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