As their piece of The City’s push to reduce pedestrian fatalities, San Francisco police are ratcheting up enforcement, which shows in their traffic citation numbers that are up more than 50 percent since last year.
From January 2013 to January 2014, the Police Department reported 43 percent more citations citywide, and from January 2013 to preliminary numbers for last month there was a 54 percent increase, Police Chief Greg Suhr said.
“All the stations are up. Across the board, they are writing more tickets,” Suhr said. “Whereas we might have been exercising more discretion and some sort of counseling, now there’s less counseling and more citation issuing.”
Catching traffic violators has become highly emphasized at all 10 police stations, regardless of what other individual issues they face, said Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
“In every unit, every officer has been given the directive that transit safety is a priority,” he said.
Of the 10,989 total citations in February, the Ingleside station, which covers the south-central part of The City, issued the most at 1,208. The Richmond station in the northwestern part of San Francisco had the most citations per officer.
Richmond station Capt. Simon Silverman said one reason his district logged the most citations may be that the area is primarily residential and generally has a lower crime rate.
“We have the ability to focus time on that because we’re not dealing with problems other districts are,” he said.
The department, Suhr said, is working to log 50 percent more citations than last year for five traffic violations that are the leading causes of collisions: running a red light, failure to halt at a stop sign, violating a pedestrian right of way, failure to yield while making a left or U-turn, and speeding.
Officers from the Richmond station issued the most citations for speeding and failing to yield while making a left or U-turn, with 218 and 18 issued, respectively, in February. Mission station had the most citations, 96, for failure to yield to a pedestrian with the right of way. Tickets for failure to halt at a stop sign were issued the most by the Ingleside station, and the Northern station handed out the most citations for running red lights.
Capt. Greg McEachern of the Northern station, where three of this year’s five pedestrian fatalities have occurred, said the 90 citations made sense because his high-density district likely has the most red lights. His officers focused on seven busy corridors last month, and he was happy to share the focus of this month: Polk, Chestnut, Gough and Fillmore streets and Van Ness Avenue.
“My goal ultimately is to stop the collisions from occurring,” McEachern said. “If it helps them either walk or drive or bicycle in a safe manner, then I’ve accomplished what we’re trying to do.”
The increase in citations was not limited to drivers. Pedestrian and bicyclist offenses were also up, with the most issued by the Tenderloin Station — 351 and 42, respectively.
Last year, about 98 percent of citations were issued to drivers and 2 percent to pedestrians and bicyclists, but this year the breakdown so far is roughly 94 percent drivers and 6 percent pedestrians and bicyclists, Suhr said.
The citations issued may also continue to increase as 300 more officers are going to replenish the department’s depleted force by June 2018, bringing the count to the charter mandated minimum of 1,971, Suhr said.
“They’re all going to write tickets,” he said. “So it’s going to go up a lot.”
Traffic violation citations issued for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists in February 2014.*
Traffic company**: 1,975
Tactical unit**: 445
** Roving citations not assigned to a specific police station