San Francisco police are being forced to turn to confidential informants — as they work to arrest those responsible for the recent Mission district violence — since there have not been any credible leads from the community.
“All of our information is coming from informants, and absolutely nothing from the public,” Gang Task Force Lt. Jim Miller told command staff at a public meeting Wednesday detailing recent crime trends in various districts.
The Mission has seen a spike in violence between the warring Norteño and Sureño gangs in recent weeks, including five shootings and two stabbings. One man, believed to have been a Sureño gang member, was killed.
The most recent incident was Monday, in which five men were shot outside a bar on 16th Street in what is believed to have been a gang-related incident, though none of the victims are gang members, according to police.
Miller clarified after the meeting that police were not getting any “solid” information from the public.
“What we need is anonymous tips,” he said. “That’s huge. We understand they’re afraid, we understand they might not want to come forward.”
Community leaders have often lamented that there are issues of trust between residents and police, especially with undocumented immigrants who fear they or their families could be deported if they come forward with information.
“People are scared, especially if they feel vulnerable interacting with law enforcement,” said Angela Chan, a police commissioner and also an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus who has worked on immigration issues with Mission residents.
Chan specifically mentioned a federal policy active in San Francisco in which the fingerprints of arrestees are transmitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a 2008 San Francisco policy in which youth arrested for felonies are reported to ICE. She said the policies have had “a dramatic chilling effect” on victims of crime coming forward to police.
Supervisor David Campos, whose district includes the Mission, agreed that community members have fears about retaliation or deportation if they come forward to police. But he also said police have reached out to residents and to violence prevention workers in the community.
“I think that this chief (Godown) gets that,” Campos said. “I’m comfortable that they’re doing everything that can be done.” He did add that he’d like to see more foot patrols, particularly on 16th and 24th streets, as a “preventative measure” against further violence.
Police have also been doing “proactive enforcement” in the community, meeting with local youth, as well as parents, teachers and school principals, to talk about the violence, Mission gang investigator Sgt. Mario Molina said.
That comes in addition to a greater police presence in the past few weeks in known gang areas in the district, and the seizures of several guns, police said.
In Monday’s 11 p.m. shooting outside the El Tin Tan bar at 3065 16th St., police said witnesses described two possible suspects, Hispanic males in their early 20s, and two possible suspects vehicles, a red Trans Am and a Chevy Caprice station wagon.
Miller said information about license plate numbers, descriptions of the suspects or their names – or even their nicknames or street names – would be very valuable.
Those wishing to leave anonymous tips can call (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411.