Mirkarimi pushes for police foot patrols in high-crime neighborhoods
By Daniel Powell
August 8, 2006
The traditional image of a neighborhood "beat cop"
walking the streets may become a regular sight in the violence-plagued
Western Addition if a pilot project meets with board approval.
Sponsored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the proposed
ordinance would assign two officers a day, one during the
afternoon and one at night, to patrol high-crime areas on foot.
During Monday's meeting of the Select Committee on Ending Gun
and Gang Violence, Mirkarimi stressed that he hoped the yearlong
program would eventually spread citywide.
"Supervisor [Tom] Ammiano said he supports this legislation
but would also like his own version of it," Mirkarimi said.
"I want to see this in his district, in your district, in
Community members attending the meeting expressed praise for
the legislation, saying that it was the first step in building
trust between the residents of the Western Addition and the officers
who regularly patrol it. But some felt the program, which would
only affect District 5, is too limited.
"We believe there should be at least two or three communities
in which this is initially dispatched," said Richard Hobson,
a leader with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform
Now. "If you take just one sample you cannot come to an effective
conclusion of what works and what doesn't work."
Deputy Chief David Shinn of the San Francisco Police Department
also expressed his support for the heightened foot and beat patrols,
but warned that with current officer levels well below the city-charter
mandated level of 1,971, the SFPD's ability to respond quickly
to emergencies could suffer.
"If I have an officer on foot who is responding quite a
distance away for a violent crime, that becomes a problem for
us," he said. "That becomes a safety issue not only
for the citizen, but also for the officers responding to that
when there is inadequate backup."
Mirkarimi acknowledged the potential strain on the understaffed
department saying he believed the foot and beat patrols themselves
would help to alleviate the problem.
"I can't think of a better ambassador program than having
officers on the street, building trust, and in return having the
community coming out and requiring that we are hiring more officers,"
he said at the close of the meeting. "It's a win-win, and
I believe that this is the tipping point that helps make it happen."