No crime-prevention data available

We freely admit it just drives us crazy that right here in the Bay Area — where high-tech was born — the San Francisco Police Department has not maximized computer technology for crime-fighting effectiveness.

As this space repeatedly points out, New York City pioneered the street-by-street crime mapping approach back in the ’90s — a change credited with playing a large role in reducing NYC violent crimes to a fraction of what they had been.

This technique was subsequently adopted in other high-crime American cities and proven widely successful.

But the SFPD brass and city officials apparently believe that what it is currently doing is good enough — even though last year’s murder count was The City’s highest in a decade.

San Francisco’s latest bad example of police obstructionism to change is revealed in an independent consulting firm’s evaluation of the first year of a foot-patrol pilot program approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2006.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, police Chief Heather Fong and the Police Officers Association all opposed the foot beats, arguing that only top police officials should decide officer deployment.

The research report did credit the SFPD for actually complying with the supervisors’ demand to assign a required number of officers to walk the beat.

Beginning in January 2007, a minimum of 20 officers in the eight highest-crime districts were required to walk foot beats within a 24-hour period.

Accordingly, there was an 86 percent increase in foot patrols from 2006 to 2007. Man-hours on the foot patrols doubled from approximately 45,000 to 83,000 during the first six months of 2007, present on the streets for an average of 20 hours daily.

More than three-quarters of the San Franciscans surveyed for the report said they felt safer since police foot patrols were implemented.

More than 2,000 city residents were asked if officers walking a beat made them feel safer; and 82 percent polled by phone and 73 percent responding to the written survey said “yes.” The majority of police officers surveyed also liked the program.

So far, all this is to the good.

But the researchers did uncover one major problem: The Police Department did not bother collecting specific crime statistics that could determine whether the foot patrols actually reduced crime.

The report blasted the SFPD for “antiquated and inefficient technology” and “lack of administrative oversight.”

This startling failure is not about spending millions of dollars for new computers and software.

It is about The City’s police administration finally accepting the necessity to collect meaningful performance measures and accountability controls, and then acting rapidly to shift manpower where it is most needed.

San Francisco needs a police establishment that no longer resists the 21st century.

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