Four foot beat officers, dispatched from the San Francisco Police Department’s Bayview Station, are working to improve the quality life in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch. Officer Eric Lau walks and rides a bicycle in the two neighborhoods from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Officers Matt Reiter, Sher Khan and Leo Bernstein monitor Third Street by bike at the same time. Another set of officers perambulate and pedal patrol from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“The community out here has been very supportive,” Lau said. According to the officers, people have consistently expressed appreciation for their presence, with Dogpatch residents in particular often thanking them. The gratitude may be due to the passion the officers show for their work. All of them wanted to be assigned to Bayview Station. And each asked to be on a foot beat, a position that requires approval from at least one supervisor. “It’s a choice,” Lau said.
Lau’s the newest member of the foot beat team. Reiter has four years of experience with the patrol practice; Bernstein started in 2014; Sher began four months ago. According to Lau, the officers are a diverse group, with Asian-, European-, African-American and Filipino ethnicities among them. “It’s kind of nice,” Lau said. Some people feel more comfortable talking to one officer more than another, he said.
The team has a combined 30 years with SFPD. Lau’s been with the department for seven years, including a year at Bayview Station. Khan has eight years in, Bernstein five and Reiter 10, nine of which have been at Bayview. Bernstein spent four and a half years with the Honolulu Police Department before coming to work in San Francisco.
Lau said homeless individuals and automobile burglaries pose the biggest challenges on his beat. A homeless woman allegedly attacked an officer at Third and 20th streets recently, when the cop attempted to escort her off a bus. Auto burglaries have been at the front of officers’ minds, Lau said. The police are trying to saturate the area to stop the crimes. “I’m trying” Lau said. But he can’t be everywhere at once. Earlier this year a number of residents expressed the belief that police were leaving it to community members to deal with vehicle burglaries and break-ins.
Reiter said he and the other officers have taken ownership of their beats. They get to know residents by their first and last names. People flag them down to tell them about problems. Lau’s aim is to keep people safe when they’re outside their homes, particularly in areas such as at Esprit Park, near the Potrero Hill branch library, and along commercial corridors. Khan said it’s all about becoming part of the community. The four described themselves as “enthusiastic cops who want to be out here.”
Bayview Station is responsible for Potrero Hill and Dogpatch south of Mariposa Street, as well as Bayview and Hunters Point.