Late night bar-hoppers and clubgoers, put away your smart phone when you head home for the night.
That was the general message conveyed at the San Francisco Police Department’s bi-monthly CompStat meeting this past Wednesday.
Several police stations throughout the city, particularly the Central and Southern stations (which house the Broadway corridor and the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to China Basin, respectively) noted an uptick in aggravated assaults, burglary and property crime over the past month.
For example, the Central station, which houses the Broadway corridor, reported that robberies are up 12% and aggravated assaults by 9% in the past 28 days. While these numbers varied depending on the district and some areas of San Francisco, such as the Mission district, actually saw a decrease in violent crime, most station representatives acknowledged that they have noticed an increased prevalence of criminals preying on people walking around late at night with electronic devices in plain sight.
“Sixty percent of our robberies are between midnight and 6 AM, so it’s a combination of people leaving the bar intoxicated and being vulnerable and people walking the streets in morning with no one around; these vultures are driving around looking for an isolated victim,” said Captain Greg Corrales of the Mission station.
Assistant Police Chief Jeff Godown, who spent two hours grilling police station representatives throughout San Francisco about the causes of–and possible solutions to-the spike in crime as of late, said that the technological age of the MP3 player and the cell phone now means that more people are carrying around a good deal of expensive personal belongings on a regular basis.
“People are walking around 24 hours a day coming from work, going to meetings, coming from restaurants, and they become easy prey…Most of these people have their face stuck in their iPhones and aren’t aware of their surroundings,” Godown said.
An officer from the Northern Police District, which encompasses geographical areas such as Pacific Heights and Russian Hill, exemplified Godown’s statement by citing the story of a 24-year-old man who was stabbed twice in the back while walking on Chestnut Street in the Marina District and talking on his BlackBerry.
“We need to do more crime prevention, victim awareness around thefts, particularly the robberies of iPhones and all that,” said one lieutenant from the Northern Station. “I don’t know if we need public service announcements, signs or placards telling people, ‘Remember to be diligent of your surroundings’…but I don’t think we do enough of that as a city.”
Central station Captain Anna Brown also added that her district is working on improving communication with local club and bar owners in the area in light of this pattern of crime outside these types of establishments, such as the well-publicized early-morning homicide of a man outside the Pier 50 dance cafÃ© Jelly’s earlier this month .
“A good percentage of aggravated assaults have been in the Broadway corridor around Geary and Sutter…and I think we’re doing a pretty good job there with our steady 1800 watch working Wednesday through Saturday to have more people working in and around that area,” Brown said. “We’ve done a lot of outreach to clubs in areas and owners and have good communication there so they will call us when they see something and give us information on what they see out there.”
Tenderloin Captain John Joseph Garrity closed the meeting by succinctly echoing the sentiments of his fellow SFPD officers regarding the increase theft of electronic items.
“With these robberies of these iPhones and iPods, it’s a whole new ballgame,” Garrity said.
The CompStat meetings are open to the public and are held every other Wednesday at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in San Francisco. The SF Examiner also reported on this week’s meeting, you can see their story here. For previous CompStat reports broken down by each police department and the city as a whole, click here.