An audit of municipally-funded violence prevention services has prompted District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen to call for new measures to stem aggression in Bayview-Hunters Point, Potrero Hill, and Visitacion Valley. The audit, conducted by the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s office, revealed that the City and County of San Francisco has “no method in place to determine whether” its violence prevention efforts are effective, and no consistent approach to analyzing success.
According to her legislative aide, Mawuli Tugbenyoh, Cohen wants greater community involvement in violence prevention, and is calling for the 11 City departments involved in the activity – which includes the San Francisco Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, and Department of Public Health – to more effectively communicate with one another and coordinate their work. Tugbenyoh said the toughest violence prevention challenges are in Bayview, Visitacion Valley, Western Addition, the Mission and Potrero Hill. “Those are the areas that have the biggest challenges in our City,” he said, because of their history of lawbreaking and high crime rates.
Crime is frequent in the Potrero Annex-Terrace housing complex, even though four SFPD officers are assigned there. But wrongdoing is a concern among the Hill’s north slope residents too. Shortly before he took command of SFPD’s Golden Gate Division, former Bayview Police District captain Robert O’Sullivan pledged more Hill patrols after a March shooting at 19th and Pennsylvania streets, which sent one person to the hospital. Eight of this year’s 18 homicides have been in the Bayview District, which until recently included the Hill, Dogpatch and Mission Bay, the latter of which is now part of the Southern Police District.
According to Tugbenyoh, and as reported in last month’s View (“Better Lighting Installed; Transportation Changes Considered on the Southern Slope”), Cohen’s staff is working with the San Francisco Housing Authority to improve lighting and increase the number of surveillance cameras on the Hill. Cohen also may seek public funds to pay for a community event that’s successfully engaged the neighborhood’s north slope inhabitants with Annex-Terrace residents.
Tugbenyoh said that this year’s participatory budgeting process, in which District 10 residents selected projects to receive thousands of dollars of City discretionary funds, demonstrated that violence prevention is a priority for area residents. Six of the nine projects that garnered the most votes are oriented towards reducing crime, including a $15,000 initiative to install security cameras on both sides of Highway 101, at 16th and Utah streets and 16th and Vermont streets. “Video is huge,” O’Sullivan said. Video footage helps police identify suspects and bolsters prosecutorial cases, he said.
Cohen wants more municipal funding for a new program that rewards people for providing information about crimes. “People know who the shooters are,” Tugbenyoh said, as well as those involved in vehicle burglaries. “It’s been proven” that rewards programs work, he said.
Cohen is advocating for the establishment of a fatherhood program that teaches good parenting skills. According to Tugbenyoh, absent fathers have an incredibly negative impact on boys, far greater than absent mothers. Cohen’s office is working with the San Francisco Adult Probation Department and Department of Child Support Services to develop a program modeled after those active in Alameda and San Mateo counties, he said.
Bayview District captain Raj Vaswani, San Francisco SAFE and Cohen’s office are working to resurrect the Bayview Police District’s Community Police Advisory Board. According Tugbenyoh, such a board existed when Chief Greg Suhr was Bayview District captain between 2009 and 2011. It would consist of residents and business owners selected by Vaswani to help address crime and safety challenges and provide advice and ideas to police.
Cohen also wants additional funds to be directed to the San Francisco Wraparound Project, which, according to Tugbenyoh, is a national model for hospital-based violence prevention services. The project’s mission is to keep people from repeatedly getting hurt in violent crimes. Frequently, violence victims receive hospital treatment, and then look for revenge, Tugbenyoh said. The Wraparound Project attempts to stop that cycle. Dr. Rochelle Dicker, who directs the project, said that in the last 10 years her staff has been able to cut the rate of repeat injuries in half. Of greatest importance, she said, was access to affordable housing and mental health services provided by people who can relate to the survivor of violence. “That relatability is a real value,” Dicker said.