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Inadequate police staffing led to tragedies

Sunnydale Housing Project widow Matasha Crosely mourns shooting death of husband Jaquain Williams she deems needless. Adequate police protection for Sunnydale residents would have prevented the tragedy, Crosley implored.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

April 4, 2006

By Aldrich M. Tan

City effort to craft community policing is slowed by understaffing of the San Francisco Police Department, department command officers told City officials Monday.

The number of police officers "is the bare minimum" and falls short of neighborhood expectations for crime suppression citywide, Captain Paul Chignell related.

Captain Paul Chignell

Chignell delivered that overview to the Select Committee on Gun and Gang Violence as committee members focused on four troubled Ingleside and Visitacion Valley housing projects.

And residents of the crime plagued sites who rely on San Francisco Housing Authority for police protection are left without coverage 12 hours a day, speakers complained.

Inadequate police coverage led to tragedies, emotional housing project residents recalled.

The shooting death of Jaquain Williams was preventable, his widow Matasha Crosley mourned.

Matasha Crosley is left with small son Jaquain Jr. to raise. Her apartment was vandalized on Mother's Day. The housing authority police were unavailable to help her when she called the office around 11:00 p.m. "Someone threw a bottle through the window and it narrowly missed my child. Where was the police when I needed them?"

To meet immediate need the Housing Authority Commission is considering reallocation of budgeted funds to pay for heightened San Francisco Police Department staffing, reported Housing Authority director Greg Fortner.

Housing Authority Greg Fortner details increase City policing proposal.

A total of 28 City officers will augment patrol the under the plan, Fortner stated. In part, the proposal requires Housing Commission approval to shift $1 million federal funding for housing project police services to compensate City police overtime expense.

Police Captain Albert Pardini said 11:00 p.m. is when Housing Authority police officers in the Bayview district go off duty after their 12-hour shifts. He said dialing 911, which Crosley did, will guarantee a police response.

"But the call responses vary especially on what is going on at the time," Pardini said.

Additional City policing drew skepticism from Committee Member Ross Mirkarimi. It may be "a backdoor means to increase police overtime," Mirkarimi told the Sentinel and spotlighted need for more police coverage in the Fillmore District.

"Whatever is being suppressed in one district could re-appear in another district," Mirkarimi said.

Committee member Ross Mirkarimi represents the Fillmore District,
heavy hit by violence too, he said.

Speakers joined committee members emphasizing crime prevention as essential to community policing.

"It's not just about the cops," he said. "The energy and focus of the issue needs to be expanded," echoed Committee Member Tom Ammiano.

Crime prevention must take an equal role with crime suppression,
Committee Member Tom Ammiano asserted.

The city put too much reliance on one public safety department to address a more complex situation, said Sharen Hewitt, executive leader of the Community Leadership Academy and Emergency Response Project.

Sharen Hewitt

"The police is only one of the key players in addressing the problem," she said, "but public safety cannot completely be dependent on police security."

Surveillance effectiveness varies by district, said Cäti A. Hawkins-Okorie, a case manager for the Critical Incident Response Team.

Cäti A. Hawkins-Okorie

"I often see the Hunters Point office closed with its shades shut," she said. "It's like the police officers are afraid to be there."

Hawkins-Okorie said she supports the community street worker program.

"The police only come when they are called," she said. "Prevention is the more effective solution."

Monday's discussion is valuable to shaping the city's annual budget, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said.

Committee Chair Sophie Maxwell

A recommendation to allocate the city's budget surplus of $6.8 million to violence prevention and intervention services is under consideration.

The committee took no action in its ongoing review of City crime prevention and suppression needs.

Aldrich M. Tan is an intern with fogcityjournal.com




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