SFPD ramps up patrols to curb traffic injuries

San Francisco police deployed extra units onto the streets this week to combat traffic accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

As part of a Traffic Safety Enforcement Operation that started Apr. 3, officers were sent to areas the department has identified as having significant numbers of traffic-related collisions in an effort to prevent deaths and injuries.

Public Information Officer Giselle Talkoff told SFBay in an email:

“The operation took place in the Richmond District for about four hours. …  There were approximately 34 citations issued, which included cell phone and the Focus on the Five violations.”

The five violations focused on by police include driving at an unsafe speed; failure to stop at a limit line, crosswalk, or intersection at a red light; failure to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk; failure to yield while making a left or U-turn; and failure to stop before the limit line, crosswalk, or intersection at a stop sign. All have been apart of the Vision Zero campaign – to eliminate all traffic related deaths by 2024 – since its adoption in 2014.

Cathy DeLuca, Policy and Program Director, for Walk SF said having extra police on the streets is great, but police can’t be everywhere which in turns calls for other efforts to be made to prevent these types of accidents:

“We can’t have police on every city street catching these bad behaviors. … But we have great technology tools that are proven to work.”

According to SFPD data, in February the department reached its goal of 50 percent of traffic citations being a violation from these five offenses.  Compared to 37 percent from a year ago.

Chris Cassidy, Communications Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, told SFBay:

“The SFPD has committed to the Focus on the Five when they committed to Vision Zero. …  And almost all the stations are there, but there is still room for improvement.”

The City’s Controller’s Office released a report in March outlining recommendations to the SFPD on how they can improve traffic enforcement tactics on city streets. The report was commissioned by the SFMTA, the Department of Public Health and the SFPD.  It also coincides with a new two-year action strategy — created by Vision Zero and supported by Mayor Ed Lee — outlining safety improvements between 2017 and 2018.

The recommendations included modifying the Focus on the Five strategy so that it is better suited for each police district; continuing to advance the use of automated speed enforcement as a tool for encouraging people to drive at safe speeds; and seeking out opportunities to extend its enforcement presence beyond the High Injury Network.

Deluca said:

“We were disappointed that the report didn’t include one of the most effective enforcement strategies which is high visibility enforcement. …  When officers let the community know that enforcement is happening they might put out signs as you would see for DUI checkpoints, which deters people from doing those dangerous behaviors and its that deterrent that is the most effective part of enforcement.”

A bill recently introduced called The Safe Streets Act of 2017, would allow San Francisco to test automated speed enforcement cameras, on its streets as reported by SFBay.  These cameras are a preventative measure that DeLuca believes would be beneficial for the cities goal of zero traffic deaths.

DeLuca said:

“The great thing about high speed cameras is that they are color blind. …  There is absolutely no possibility of racial bias or profiling with these cameras, again high visibility enforcement isn’t about more officers its about deterrents.”

The Department of Public Health in collaboration with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, developed the High Injury Network which identifies areas most heavily impacted by traffic related injuries and deaths including Nob Hill, Chinatown, SoMa and downtown.

Cassidy said:

“It will take considerable political will to improve. …  I think that the SFPD are on the right track in terms of increasing the proportion of traffic citations that are dedicated to the five most dangerous traffic violations.”

According to the City website, 30 deaths occurred in 2016 from traffic incidents, and two deaths so far in 2017.  In support of Vision Zero, the report, aimed at the police department, outlines ways it says the SFPD can build safer streets, educate the public on traffic safety, and enforce traffic laws and the implementations of changes.

Cassidy said:

“I think that it is really vital that the SFPD embrace smart and data driven enforcement. …  Which gets to the route if the problem and fast tracks getting to Vision Zero, city leaders owe it to the people of San Francisco to make sure that they deliver on the promises they have made for safe streets.”

SFPD’s enforcement operation will continue on Apr. 19 and 27.