Crime Committee Formed by Boosters This Summer
When Jim Wilkins’ car was broken into last summer it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Connecticut Street resident said. Wilkins approached Potrero Boosters president J.R. Eppler, and the two agreed to start a crime and safety committee. Wilkins is particularly concerned about crime on Muni buses.
“It’s pretty appalling” that people can’t ride public transportation without getting ripped off, Wilkins said. Indeed, at the Boosters’ August meeting, Bayview Station Captain Robert O’Sullivan acknowledged residents’ concerns about Muni crimes, in which perpetrators have been targeting hand-held devices. The View reported on a Muni crime incident in last month’s column.
Eppler agreed to launch the crime and safety committee “because we had seen a lot of concern on Nextdoor Potrero” about public safety issues, particularly related to car burglaries. Eppler and Wilkins are gathering crime data to determine if there’s been an increase in criminal activity on the Hill. “The first step is making sure we have good data,” Eppler said.
At the Boosters meeting, O’Sullivan reported some “good news, bad news” crime statistics. He said the number of robberies is down, but automobile burglaries have increased significantly. Auto burglaries have risen 26 percent through July of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to O’Sullivan.
The committee wants to establish better communication with the police, and advocate for more police protection in the neighborhood. Wilkins said he thinks the community needs more police coverage because of the amount of crime in the area. He said O’Sullivan has told him that he’ll consider putting more officers in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill.
In addition to greater protection, Wilkins said they want to understand where the crime is coming from: is it from the Potrero Annex-Terrace housing complexes, nearby homeless encampments, or some other place? “We would like to try to understand that better,” Wilkins said. If it’s coming from the Annex-Terrace, Wilkins wants to know if the criminals live there, because there are rules for living in public housing.
According to O’Sullivan, at least one gang is active in Annex-Terrace. But he stressed that 99 percent of public housing residents are good people. And though gang members live in Annex-Terrace, “we know the vast majority of them,” O’Sullivan said.
O’Sullivan reported that burglaries had been emanating from a homeless encampment in the freeway near 22nd and Iowa streets. Homeless individuals had removed metal plates on the underside of the freeway — which had been installed when the structure was built so that engineers could examine it for earthquake damage — to create shelter. Police found baby strollers and bicycles in the freeway, which were associated with burglaries, O’Sullivan said. The California Department of Transportation recently filled the holes, which should act to reduce the number of burglaries in the area, but “is it going to disappear?” O’Sullivan asked rhetorically. “Absolutely not.”
According to Eppler, another committee goal is to examine the root causes of crime in the community, and advocate for programs that reduce criminal activity. “We won’t be able to arrest ourselves out of crime,” he said.
Wilkins said the committee wants to collaborate with the neighborhood’s 13 San Francisco SAFE groups. SF SAFE’s mission is to “build safer neighborhoods through crime prevention education and public safety services,” its website says.
“We welcome anyone in the neighborhood to participate in the group,” Wilkins said.
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