SFPD says mandated police beats in Western Addition would slow response times
As San Francisco’s homicide rate continues to climb, lawmakers are due to vote today on whether to pass a law that would mandate the staffing of police foot patrols as a pilot program in one district.
But police say the plan to have more officers walking city streets would require them to reassign officers from patrol cars, lengthening the Police Department’s response time for high-priority calls.
The legislation, introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, calls for at least one officer in District 5 to walk a foot beat during at least two of three daily watches — the day watch, the swing watch and the night watch. District Five, which includes the Western Addition, Fillmore, Haight, Japantown and Inner Sunset, is served by the Park and Northern stations.
At a charged meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Select Committee on Ending Gun and Gang Violence, in which a group of protesters held up signs calling for an end to political infighting, Allan Nance, head of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, said two weekend homicides had pushed The City’s 2006 homicide total to 69 as of Monday. At the same time last year there were 55.
On Saturday, 19-year-old Boris Albinder, of Pacifica, was stabbed at a party in the Richmond district, police reported. Also, on Sunday, Guy Rice II, 27, was shot while he drove his white pickup truck in the Excelsior district.
Community groups such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, whose representatives attended Monday’s meeting, have been pushing for a city-sponsored strategy to end the increasing violence.
The patrols, Mirkarimi said Monday, will bolster neighborhood safety and self-esteem and will help build trust between the community and law enforcement.
They would also reduce the number of officers driving patrol cars at each district station, police Chief Heather Fong said Monday, thereby increasing officers’ average response time.
But Mirkarimi contended that the effect of the foot patrols couldn’t be accurately measured until they had been implemented.
“I don’t think anybody really knows what the full benefit or advantages or disadvantages of foot patrols are until we have some sort of pilot study,” he said.
Fong said she believes in foot beats citywide, but that the understaffed department doesn’t have enough officers to staff those beats and keep the number of patrol cars it currently has rolling. The department is about 250 officers short of its minimum of 1,971, as mandated in a 1994 charter amendment.
“I’m a big believer in staffing beats if there’s enough officers to do so, but our No. 1 role is to respond to calls for service,” San Francisco Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes said.
“We should stop thinking of foot patrols as a luxury,” Mirkarimi said, indicating that they are a “tried and true” method of curbing violence and cultivating a relationship between police and the communities they serve.
SFPD explains impact of law
According to figures supplied by the San Francisco Police Department, mandated foot patrols will cause slower response times to calls for service.
In order to come up with the figures, the department’s crime analysis unit took the number of cars in operation at the two stations to be affected, the number of high-priority calls for service and the average response time to those calls. They then calculated the percentage each car represented of the cars working, then used that percentage to calculate the predicted effect on the average response time.
Both Park and Northern stations had five cars operating during the day shift on Monday, Sept. 11. The Northern Station received nine “priority A” calls, with an average response time of six minutes and 30 seconds. According to calculations done by the department, taking one car out of service would increase the response time to eight minutes and eight seconds.
For the swing, or evening shift, during which four cars responded to 17 calls for service, the average response time was four minutes, 27 seconds. That time would increase to five minutes, 56 seconds with the loss of one car, the department reported.
At the Park Station, where five cars worked the day shift, the average response time to four priority A calls was two minutes and 48 seconds. Eliminating one car pushed it to three minutes and 30 seconds, according to the department.
On the swing watch at Park Station, where four cars responded to eight service calls, the average response time was 19 minutes and 30 seconds. That would swell to 26 minutes with the loss of one car, the department reported.