San Francisco police opened a new center Wednesday where Chinatown residents who do not speak English can connect with bilingual officers twice a week.
Officers from Central Police Station will staff the center at the Portsmouth Square Clubhouse on Wednesdays and Fridays between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents Chinatown on the Board of Supervisors, announced the center at a press conference alongside Mayor London Breed and San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott.
“We don’t have enough reporting of crime that goes on,” Peskin said. “This is an opportunity for people in the community to come in, to speak in Cantonese about what’s happening on the streets, to report crime in real time.”
The center is one of several locations where police have recently stationed bilingual officers to encourage crime reporting. The department opened substations in Visitacion Valley and Portola this year.
Capt. Paul Yep said police decided to open the center amid a rise in property crime in the area, including an uptick in car break-ins on Kearny Street, Stockton Street and the side-streets of Chinatown.
“There has been a slight increase in auto burglaries which we haven’t seen in Chinatown in the past,” Yep told the San Francisco Examiner.
The most recent crime statistics from the end of October show a four percent increase in auto burglaries reported at Central Police Station compared with last year. The station also covers North Beach and the Financial District.
Yep attributed the uptick in part to auto burglary crews targeting Chinatown because of increased police enforcement in other neighborhoods. Also, Chinatown is a tourist area, and crews are known to target unsuspecting visitors who leave vehicles packed with luggage unattended.
“We’re really trying to get our finger on it,” Yep said.
Police have boosted foot patrols around San Francisco to combat property crimes, including auto burglaries. But Breed said at the press conference that “police presence alone can’t address some of the challenges that exist.”
“In particular in communities where people speak different languages there [is] oftentimes just a disconnect between the crimes that happen and their ability to report those crimes,” the mayor said.
Scott told reporters that the bilingual officers at the center will help residents feel comfortable enough to report crimes.
“We have to know about problems that are facing our city in order to problem solve and do something about it,” the chief said. “That impacts how we deploy, that impacts how our resources are deployed around The City.”
The SFPD has 490 officers who speak a combined total of more than 30 languages.
The Portsmouth Square Clubhouse is run by the Self-Help for the Elderly program.