SF supervisors ask police to explain connection between rising crime and staffing level

At least two supervisors are worried that there are not enough police patrolling The City's streets, especially as some violent and property crimes increase.

“You look day to day and you go into a neighborhood and you don't see a police officer,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said.

With such worries in mind, Supervisor Malia Cohen is joining Wiener next week to ask police to report on The City's “troubling crime trends” and explain in what ways the department's staffing levels are impacting policing efforts.

“Nonviolent and property crimes systematically degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods and foster an environment where low-level criminality is accepted,” Cohen said in a statement. “San Francisco cannot turn a blind eye to these types of crimes and we must ensure that our law enforcement agencies are adequately planning for and addressing these trends.”

The City Charter calls for a minimum staffing level of 1,971 officers. But in the past few decades, with budget cutbacks and a wave of retirements, that number dropped below the mandated level. Since 2012, the numbers have begun to climb back up, but some wonder if San Francisco's newly bursting population needs even more police to watch over it.

In the department's 2013 annual report, it noted that San Francisco is 300 officers below its mandated number.

During the past few decades, the supervisors noted, The City's population has grown by almost 100,000 people and is projected to continue increasing in the next several decades.

With that in mind, Cohen and Wiener have asked the City Controller's Office to determine an adequate number of police officers for the rate of growth in San Francisco.

The current inquiry, Wiener said, may be directly related to policing and population, but he does not necessarily equate crime rates to officer staffing.

“I am not suggesting that having X number of police is going to be the blanket solution to all policing in the department,” he said, adding that the department has work to do in terms of finding better ways to fight crime.

With a push for more Police Academy graduates, the department is set to reach 2,000 officers by 2018.

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