SFPD issues 7,000 fewer traffic citations than last year so far, but pulls ahead on safety

San Francisco police officers are citing fewer traffic scofflaws than in years past, while at the same time gaining ground on citing drivers for their most dangerous practices.

Officers issued 7,668 fewer traffic citations across The City in 2016 than in 2015 for a total of 34,147 citations, according to the latest San Francisco Police Department data.

But the data also show the percentage of those citations that focus on preventing five deadliest driving behaviors — and subsequently prevent traffic deaths — is up.

In raw numbers, that means SFPD issued roughly 2,000 more citations to date in 2016 than they did in 2015 in the “Focus on Five” category, totaling 12,904 such citations this year.

Citing scofflaws for the five most dangerous driving behaviors is what the SFPD calls its “Focus on Five” effort, whereby the department pledged 50 percent of its traffic citations would be for speeding, running red lights, failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, failing to yield while making a left or U-turn and failing to fully stop at stop signs.

Last month’s numbers show 39 percent of citywide citations were in the Focus on Five category, which is part of The City’s “Vision Zero” goal to end all traffic fatalities — of pedestrians, autos, cyclists, anyone — by 2024.

At a monthly SFPD Compstat meeting May 18, police captains of district stations described challenges to meeting their goals.

“The overall numbers being down, I attribute a lot of that to our staffing numbers being low,” said Captain John Sanford of Park Station.

Deputy Chief of Operations Michael Redmond wasn’t keen on that answer.

“One of the questions I have is, what’re your sergeants and lieutenants doing?” Redmond told the assembled captains, “We’ve all sat behind the desk as lieutenants.”

He added, “staffing is not an excuse for anything.”

Park Station’s Focus on Five percentage remained steady at 39 percent since February, but its overall citations in February and March were lower than 2015’s goals by hundreds of citations.

Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix told the San Francisco Examiner the drop in citations is also partly due to a number of high profile demonstrations requiring police to be diverted from regular duty.

At the beginning of this year, “nobody did any traffic enforcement,” she said, “in preparation and [because of] daily staffing for the Super Bowl.”

Richmond Station exceeded its Focus on Five goal, with 61 percent of its traffic citations in those categories. Tenderloin Station lags furthest behind, with 13 percent of its citations from the Focus on Five.

Tenderloin Captain Teresa Ewins told Mannix, “I have to pick my priorities” and cited a need to address robberies on Market street.

Taraval Station’s Focus on Five citations were 53 percent for April 2016, versus 33 percent in April 2015. In real world numbers, that’s 548 citations in April this year, versus 456 in April last year.

“I will personally go up to an officer in the lunchroom and say, ‘hey, what about those citations,’” Taraval Captain Denise Flaherty told Mannix.

Some stations operate in districts where SFPD’s traffic company issues more citations — like Central Station and Tenderloin Station — Mannix said, which may lower station numbers somewhat. However, she said, the extent to which stations rely on traffic company may soon change.

Now, she said, deputy chief Redmond also wants patrol officers to do traffic enforcement “as a high priority.”

Nicole Ferrara, executive director of advocacy group Walk SF, said she was grateful for Redmond and Mannix’s leadership on increasing pedestrian safety — but was also wary of some captains’ commitment to curbing dangerous driving behaviors.

“If you have limited resources, make sure you’re applying them where they’re needed the most, to stop crashes from happening in the first place,” she said.

Overall traffic citations down

Traffic citations issued in San Francisco by the end of April in 2015: 41,815

Traffic citations issued in San Francisco by the end of April in 2016: 34,147

“Focus on Five” citations issued by the end of April in 2015: 10,850

“Focus on Five” citations issued by the end of April in 2016: 12,904

Number of Focus on Five citations, and percentages of total issued citations, by SFPD station in April, 2016….

Central 327, 21%

Southern 118, 22%

Bayview 222, 28%

Mission 270, 39%

Northern 165, 25%

Park 163, 39%

Richmond 351, 61%

Ingleside 410, 55%

Taraval 548, 53%

Tenderloin 57, 13%

Will Californians get more stimulus checks?

Newsom: ‘I’m very proud of the historic tax rebate’

By Soumya Karlamangla
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez