Blame SFPD’s Bloated Southern Station for Market Street Crime

by on March 13, 2018

San Francisco Public Safety Building Architects - HOK / Mark Cavagnero Associates

In 2015, former SFPD Chief Greg Suhr made a fateful decision that haunts San Francisco to this day: he approved a redistricting of Tenderloin and Southern Police Stations that took all of the high-crime areas away from Southern Station and put them in the Tenderloin police district (See “SFPD Redistricting Plan Fails the Tenderloin,” December 15, 2014)

Suhr inexplicably shifted the high-crime areas of Market Street, 6th Street and the Westfield Center—the shoplifting capital of America—into a Tenderloin Station already challenged to stop public drug dealing in the Tenderloin. Tenderloin activists argued, pleaded and begged Suhr not to go through with a plan that we were convinced would increase Tenderloin crime. But the former chief would not be moved.

Last week I learned that Suhr’s redistricting plan was even more insidious. After trying unsuccessfully to get the Southern Station police staffing numbers (a top secret subject at the SFPD), an inside source got me the facts.

Southern Police Station (whose beautiful new building accompanies this article) serves one of the city’s highest income districts. Yet it has 148 staff. That’s only roughly twenty less than the low-income Tenderloin Station.

For perspective, the Tenderloin Station alone allocates 36 officers to Market Street. That’s one of the high-crime areas that Suhr took away from Southern Station. Without those 36 officers Southern Station has more staffing than the Tenderloin, despite the Tenderloin Station also picking up 6th Street and the Westfield Center.

The result is that Southern Station has too many staff while the Tenderloin Station is grossly understaffed. Arts groups “decrying the miserable state of Mid-Market” as the SF Chronicle’s Heather Knight put it in a recent story now understand why they are having so many problems: Southern Station has staff that should be in the Tenderloin district.

Only 90 of Southern Station’s staff are patrol officers.  A whopping 58 are in management or investigations.

What could they possibly be investigating? And what are all those managers managing?

All of the hotspots for serious crime have been removed from Southern Station. Yet its patrol and command structure remains.

To be clear, Southern Station leadership and its officers are very popular in the district. Nobody blames Southern Station for former Chief Suhr’s redistricting decisions or his misallocation of staff at the expense of the Tenderloin Station.

This is a structural problem. One that Chief Scott must correct if we are ever going to significantly reduce problems in Mid-Market and the Tenderloin.

Chief Scott Must Intervene

Chief Scott inherited Suhr’s misguided redistricting.  He can remedy the worst impacts of that action by reallocating officers to reflect neighborhood crime patterns.

Scott should start by allocating Southern Station patrol officers to Market Street. This will address concerns raised by ACT-Strand and art groups, and release some of the pressure on Tenderloin Station.

Scott should also shift officers from Southern to Tenderloin Station. While police arrests for drug dealing have increased in recent months, the fact remains that the Tenderloin had less drug dealing in 2015 than it does today.

The redistricting that took effect in 2015 have made things worse ever since.  Suhr wrongly expanded a station designed to target the high-crime Tenderloin neighborhood into a Central City Station—and Tenderloin residents and workers are paying the price.

If Scott won’t act it is time for our Police Commission to start showing it cares about the Tenderloin. The Time is Now.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He is the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.

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Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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