The Police Department’s growing reliance on community groups is part of the reason crime is dropping in San Francisco.
Now, Chief George Gascón is looking to take the energy of those groups and aim it at some of The City’s more vexing crime problems.
On Saturday, members of the relatively new Community Police Advisory Boards for San Francisco’s 10 district stations gathered for the first time to discuss some of those problems, like graffiti, gang problems and prostitution.
For example, said David Delp, one of the advisory board members, in 2008 the Mission district was rocked by violence, with eight murders occurring in about one month. Delp lived in the center of that violence, at 23rd and Capp streets, where the territories of rival gangs Norteños and Sureños collide.
“In 2008, if you were to tell anyone that [you lived there], you’d get this, ‘Ooooh,’” he said.
The killings spread fear throughout the neighborhood, and no children came out for Halloween. Then, Delp and his neighbors decided to take back their neighborhood. They installed more lights. They paid attention to their surroundings and got to know each other.
By the next Halloween, there were 300-400 kids trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. That success spawned other successful new ideas, such as a movie night in the park for local families. How did it all happen?
“Start with one issue, and follow through to the end,” Delp said.
On Thursday, Gascón released statistics touting a 9 percent drop in crime, crediting the Police Department’s ability to track crime statistics and use them to predict where crime will happen. The continuing decline in crime was especially powerful considering the department is losing officers to retirement without anyone to replace them.
Gascón sees the loosely structured advisory boards — there’s no fixed number of members, but there are monthly meetings — as a way to spread citizen-police involvement throughout the 10 district stations.
“The vision here is really about community policing, working together to achieve the best results with what we have,” Gascón said.
In another case of such cooperation, residents along Polk Street earlier this year complained about prostitution in the area, and three different neighborhood groups joined to help solve the problem.
Police netted 51 arrests in a one-month crackdown, and Gascón even floated the idea of shaming sex customers by posting their pictures online. The problem has abated thanks to help from the community, said Capt. Ann Mannix, who coordinated the effort.
“Collectively, we’re willing to do more,” Mannix said.
Gascón and the captains of the 10 district stations are looking for more people to get involved. Anyone interested in becoming part of a Community Police Advisory Board is encouraged to contact their district station.