Newsom announces plan
to increase federal housing foot patrols
Goal to rid area of trespassing loiterers
Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced a new plan to make housing
develepments safer for residents. Included in the plan are increased
foot patrols and trespass enforcement.
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
March 6, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - San Francisco officials announced
a new plan today to aggressively sweep federal housing projects
of loiterers who have compromised the safety of residents for
Speaking outside the Hayes Valley housing development, as residents
peeked out their balconies and windows, Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed
to create a relationship between local police and residents, and
in turn reduce gun and gang violence.
Citing billions of dollars in cuts to the federal housing programs
since 2001, Newsom said this new strategy would help pick up where
the federal government has "dropped the ball."
Local police were previously hamstrung by jurisdictional issues
that prevented officers from making arrests on federal housing
property, but police Chief Heather Fong said today that those
restrictions have been lifted in regards to penal code 602, trespassing
on housing authority property.
"The tenants who live in public housing, many are law-abiding
hard-working people, however, they have been impacted by people
who come into the development and engage in illegal activity,"
Police Chief Heather Fong
Police hope to target those with no legal business in the projects.
Examples include non residents hanging out on the streets, people
outside "playing dice," and those with criminal records.
Fong assured people that merely passing through a housing authority
site would not be grounds for an arrest.
"The goals of the officers working in the developments is
not just to walk up and down the sidewalk but to actually get
to know the community, to be engaged with the community and to
work to solve problems," Fong said.
"That's key in every community."
Police are expected to expand the reach of the 16 officers who
currently work the housing authority beat.
But with a current shortage of around 250 officers, many wonder
how the department can add to its enforcement area without spreading
Sgt. Mikail Ali with the department's gang task force currently
oversees the officers assigned to oversee the areas surrounding
the Sunnydale, Alice Griffith, Hunters View and Potrero developments.
Now the department plans to expand service to the Yerba Buena
Plaza East, Hayes Valley North and South, and Alemany developments.
Ali said he expects to see another sergeant and maybe two to
four officers added to the beat, but that a lack of resources
could be an issue.
"We've been drained for some time now and we're seriously
understaffed, and it's a matter of trying to catch up," Ali
said. "The officers are giving the best they got."
Sgt. Mikail Ali
Newsom also expressed concern over a shortage in the department,
but he pledged $6.7 million to recruit 250 officers, many of whom
would go straight to foot patrols.
For Western Addition resident Adrian Williams, anything would
be a welcome relief in a community where at least three murders
have occurred in the last month.
"I won't turn down anything," she said. "Unless
you start dealing with the root problem, economic disparity, you
can't expect the kids to feel safe going to school and playing
Across the street from the Hayes Valley development, a new playground
shined in the sun and a community center was available for meetings
and gatherings. The project was recently redeveloped through a
federal Hope VI grant, and it has gone from a blight to a fresh
But residents say the facilities often go unused because of the
violence surrounding them. Last month, a 13-year-old girl was
shot near the intersection of Grove and Laguna streets. Supervisor
Ross Mirkarimi, who represents the Western Addition and the Haight,
has been pushing the city to act.
Today's announcement seemed to mend the relationship of two politicians
who have been bandying over public safety for years. Both Newsom
and Mirkarimi, both elected in 2004, appeared to be on the same
page on this issue.
Mirkarimi, who has fought to send police into federal housing
projects since he was elected, said he was thrilled today that
police now had the tools to protect communities "besieged"
"I am absolutely proud of the way that the city family has
come together," he said. "It's awesome, quite frankly,
to see this display of resources and commitment that are being
pledged to a challenge that has been ongoing and has been invasive
to the city for years."
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
The newfound alliance on crime has caused some local politicians
to place blame on the federal government for dropping the ball.
According to Gregg Fortner, the city's Housing Authority head,
community-policing strategies were a priority in the 1990s, but
those priorities changed when George W. Bush took office.
"That grant money dried up in 2001 with the new administration,
and it started a disinvestment in public housing," Fortner
"It's very commendable that the city is actually funding
a program that was funded by the federal government in the past."
Supervisor Tom Ammiano
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