SF ballot measure targets ‘quality of life’ crimes

A November ballot measure announced Tuesday by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Scott Wiener would create a dedicated police unit targeting crimes such as home burglaries, automobile break-ins and automobile thefts.

The Neighborhood Crime Unit would track and investigate crimes such as robbery, burglary, vandalism and theft.

In addition, it would respond to “quality of life” issues related to the homeless, including complaints about obstruction of the sidewalk, aggressive panhandling and other unlawful street behavior, with a focus on transitioning people off the streets and into shelter, housing and services, officials said.

The unit will provide neighborhood foot patrols and help respond to 911 and 311 calls. Under the terms of the measure, no fewer than 3 percent of sworn personnel will be assigned to the new unit.

“We want residents to feel safe in their homes and their neighborhoods, and honing in on the very crimes that threaten this safety is the responsibility of this unit,” Lee said.

Police Chief Toney Chaplin said the unit would help the department build on its current efforts to combat street crime and auto burglaries:

“By increasing staffing levels, assigning more officers to foot beats, working with analysts from the Department’s Crime Analysis Unit, and improving communication through the sharing crime data, we will more effectively respond to 311 and 911 calls and proactively police areas of the City where neighborhood crime is prevalent.”

A civil grand jury report on automobile break-ins released earlier this week noted that a large portion of such crimes are committed by organized criminals that move from one neighborhood to another.

The report argued that dividing police investigations among different districts made it harder to track and enforce such organized crime, and recommended centralizing some investigative units.

The measure is also backed by Supervisors Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell and Katy Tang.