An open letter to Mayor Mark Farrell:
San Franciscans need their mayor to address the daily nightmare we face with record-high property crime and car-break ins. As you determine the city's budget, please keep in mind that our police department needs funding for two equally important crime-fighting measures: community policing and centralized investigative capability.
Resources for community policing are effective. We even saw a recent dip in auto burglary compared to this time last year. The San Francisco Police Department attributes this respite to a doubling of officers on the street in each district together with a campaign of public education on crime prevention. This is community policing at its best. Crime is reduced through prevention, without need for mass incarceration.
Yet, community policing alone is not the solution. Please remember the need for centralized investigative capability when funding the SFPD.
Why is this is so important? In San Francisco, most of the car break-ins are done by professional, hardened criminals — the "high flyers" in police parlance. They're mobile, well-equipped, and in business with major fencing operations throughout the Bay Area. Only a disciplined, centralized force can apprehend these bad actors.
Chief Bill Scott recognizes this. That’s why last year he created the General Crimes Investigations (GCI) unit under Commander McEachren. However, only 10 officers are currently assigned to this unit — and these 10 officers must investigate nearly 3,000 reported residential and commercial burglaries plus high profile auto burglaries involving guns. There's no way a 10-person unit can take on the more than 30,000 auto burglaries reported each year.
The problem of understaffing is not new. The SFPD is down 70 investigators from the 2009 numbers, and it will lose another 100 to 150 officers this year through retirements. This is big trouble for a city whose population doubles each day through tourism and tech worker commuters.
Mayor Farrell, please make sure Chief Scott receives the budget required for community policing and a top notch investigative capability. The practice of daily calls with lieutenants in the stations may simulate a centralized approach but these measures are poor substitutes for a tight-knit centralized unit.
The goal will require long term planning that includes the following:
- Increase in police academy classes
- Promotion of at least 75 officers up to the sergeant level and hiring their replacements
- Hiring five or six sergeants and 28 officers to handle serial crime surveillance
- Hiring 15 or 20 sergeants for investigations
Successfully combating crime falls on City Hall and its willingness to fund the police department.
Dodd serves on the Stop Crime SF board of directors. The views in this letter are her own, as a resident of San Francisco.