Report: Foot patrols stomping out crime

One of last year’s most heated political debates — San Francisco’s move to increase the number of police officers walking the streets — is part of a nationwide trend that is reducing crime in cities and making people feel safer, according to a consultant’s report.

Cities that take a “modern approach” to foot patrols, deploying them based on crime data and results, “appear to be making significant differences in crime rates and the enhanced perceptions of safety,” said a report issued by Public Safety Strategies Group.

The City has hired the firm to evaluate a one-year foot-patrol pilot program approved by the Board of Supervisors last year. Under the program, which begins in January, a minimum of 20 officers must walk a foot beat within a

24-hour period.

Not until the consultant’s final report comes out in January 2008 will the extent to which the police walked the beats and the foot patrols’ impact be known.

Expanded foot patrols are a recent attempt by city officials to combat violent crime as San Francisco’s 2007 homicide tally nears a ten-year high of 96, set in 2005.

When SirMarcus Bibbs, 21, was shot to death in the Bayview on Nov. 2, police reported the official homicide total at 89 for 2007. Ronondo Johnson, 35, was fatally shot early Thanksgiving morning in the Portola neighborhood, but the SFPD has not yet ruled his death a homicide.

The consultant’s Nov. 19 report makes clear that foot patrols have become more of a focus of law enforcement in other cities in recent years. According to the report, Washington, D.C., increased foot-patrol officers by 300 earlier this year and Rochester, N.Y., decided to implement foot-beat officers permanently in February.

Boston, one of the cities examined by PSSG, has reported significant success from its foot-patrol

program.

Foot patrols were increased in December 2006 in Boston; in March 2007, they began targeting high-crime areas. In the first six months of 2007, homicides decreased by 14 percent, robberies by 12 percent and shootings by 31 percent compared with the same time frame in 2006, according to the report.

PSSG’s work on foot patrols has been folded into a top-to-bottom review of the San Francisco Police Department known as the San Francisco Police Effectiveness Review, which will conclude with a final report in July 2008.

The foot-patrol legislation, introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, was opposed last year by both Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Police Officers Association, who argued that the police chief, not elected officials, should dictate how officers should be deployed. But critics said the department lacked the resources to walk the foot beats without adversely affecting the officers’ response time to crimes.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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