An “uptick” in violence in San Francisco’s Western Addition and Lower Haight neighborhoods has a city supervisor concerned that efforts in recent years to build relations between police and the community are unraveling.
On Friday morning, 53-year-old Anthony Jones, of San Francisco, was fatally stabbed during a fight in the 500 block of Page Street, according to police.
Early this morning, the body of a female was found inside a burned car in the 400 block of Rose Street, about a block away, police said.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the Western Addition and Lower Haight neighborhoods, said today the community has had four or five major incidents in recent weeks.
“There’s been an uptick of violence in our area,” he said this afternoon. “I’m very concerned and troubled by it.”
He said that while some of the crimes are isolated incidents, others “are exchanges between different gangs that have an aggregated impact on our overall community.”
Mirkarimi has been an outspoken critic of former police Chief George Gascon for what Mirkarimi deems an overemphasis by the Police Department on statistical analysis of crime trends to the detriment of “community policing,” a catch-all term that can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
Mirkarimi said he’d like to see more foot patrols, police working more closely with adult and juvenile probation to prevent recidivism, and more recruiting of officers from within San Francisco “so you have people that understand San Francisco, understand the neighborhoods.”
His proposal to mandate foot patrols by police, which Gascon opposed, was defeated at the polls by San Francisco voters last November.
Gascon had said the Police Department already conducts foot patrols, and recommended that the decision on how to allocate its resources should be left to the department. Gascon also supported a sit-lie initiative, opposed by Mirkarimi, that voters approved.
Gascon is now district attorney. His former second-in-command, Jeff Godown, is acting police chief while the city conducts a search for a permanent chief.
Godown said today that he met with Mirkarimi on Saturday to discuss the violence and looks forward to working with him on the issue.
“I agree with him,” Godown said. “Community policing is the basis of policing. The problem right now is personnel, and how many people we can put into the field.”
Recent budget cuts and reductions in overtime have affected police staffing, as well as the training of new officers.
“There are foot beats in all 10 (police) districts,” Godown said.
“Maybe not as many as I would like to see, but we have foot beats.”
Mirkarimi said today that the rotating of district captains to other districts, and the reassigning of rank-and-file officers in certain neighborhoods, had “dismantled the synergy” between police and the community.
Further uncertainty about who will be the next police chief is only adding to the disconnect, he said.
“You can’t have any interruption in that level of continuity, it’s bad for neighborhoods, really bad,” he said.
Godown is in discussions with Mirkarimi’s office to set up a community meeting for the Western Addition and Lower Haight to discuss residents’ concerns.
Mirkarimi said he hopes to secure a venue by the first or second week in February.
Police are still investigating whether there may be any links between the two recent incidents.
Godown said it is not even certain yet whether the person found in the burned car had died there, or in another location and been brought to the neighborhood in the car.
Someone reported the burning car at 3:18 a.m., police said. Firefighters and police arrived to find a gray, two-door Pontiac engulfed in flames.
After the blaze was extinguished, the body was found in the car’s passenger seat.
Because of the condition of the body, her identity was not immediately able to be determined, police said.
The car had been parked illegally in front of a home on the northern side of the one-way street, according to police.
Officers from the homicide and arson units are investigating the case, and a cause of death has not yet been determined.
In Friday’s murder, the man killed, Jones, had allegedly struck another man in his 40s with a shovel and was then stabbed by the man. The fight was reported at about 10:50 a.m.
Both men were taken to a hospital, where Jones died, police said.
The suspected stabber, whose name has not been released, was later arrested. Police and prosecutors are now trying to sort out whether the stabber was defending himself and the case was justifiable homicide.
There were numerous witnesses to the fight, according to police.
Northern Station Capt. Ann Mannix said she hadn’t seen anything recently in the area that indicated there would be trouble. Both incidents happened in or around low-income housing developments.
“Nothing that rises to that level, in any way,” Mannix said. She said gangs do operate in the area, but neither incident is believed to be gang-related.
Mannix said there are violence reduction foot patrols as well as officers that patrol the housing units. She added that neighborhood groups are active in the area, she said.
“And up until these two events, it had been, relatively speaking, pretty peaceful,” Mannix said.
Ari Burack, Bay City News