Norman Yee backs off property crime bill

An ordinance to require the San Francisco Police Department to devote more staffing and resources to the rising number of car break-ins, bike thefts and property theft in The City will now be drafted as a non-binding resolution.

Supervisor Norman Yee said he and supervisors Hillary Ronen and Sandra Fewer, sponsors of the proposed ordinance, spoke with Police Chief William Scott about the proposed ordinance, and felt Scott was committed to making changes in the department in dealing with the rise of auto burglaries, bicycle thefts and other property crimes:

“We trust Chief Scott and his words when he said in the spirit of your legislation that he will be moving in that direction anyway.”

Yee added that he wanted to make efforts to combat property crimes a more collaborative effort with the Police Department:

“Let’s make this work for all of us because one of things we don’t want to end up doing is having legislation where it becomes a political battle. This is not what it is. This is about working together.”

Yee had previously introduced legislation to require the Police Department to have crime units for each district station. The Board of Supervisors passed the legislation, but was vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee.

Car break-ins have increased from 12,336 in 2012 to 26,040 in 2015. In 2016, The City saw a drop in car break-ins to 24,235, according to the Police Department.

Scott said the drop in the number of car break-ins occurred when the department had reinstituted the Patrol Bureau Task Force, which comprised of some officers in plain clothes investigating car break-ins.

Last month, Scott dissolved the unit to focus more foot beat patrols, doubling the number of officers in neighborhoods.

Auto burglaries though are now rising again. So far this year, there have been 19,975 car break-ins, a 25 percent increase from the same time last year, said Scott:

“As we’ve seen things going in the wrong direction, our team felt that it was time to reassess that, and can our resources be used better by being more visible.”

Scott said the department is the works of creating a Crime Strategy Unit to help the department identify serial crimes and making improvements in the Crime Analysis Unit:

“We are committed to doing everything we can to address this issue and reduce the number of property crimes, particularly car break-ins.”

Ronen said that property crimes have gotten so bad in The City that she said there was “property crime tax” for residents in The City:

“If you own a car and drive, you regularly expect to fix your window. If you ride a bike, you regularly expect to have to replace your bike.”

Ronen added:

“It’s unacceptable. It’s not this way in other cities and we can do better in San Francisco so people who are struggling to live in the most expensive city in the country don’t have to pay this additional tax because we a have epidemic of these crimes in our city.”

Ronen said she would introduce a budget supplemental for additional resources for the Police Department if needed.

Scott said his ask of the supervisors was to:

“.. trust me and the department to deliver what we said we’re going to deliver.”

Before the press conference, supervisors heard testimonials from people who were victims of property crime thefts at the Board of Supervisors Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee.

Ethan Ashley, an electrical engineer, said he has had his tools stolen from his truck twice this year:

“I can’t earn a dollar until I go to Home Depot and max my credit card buying new tools.”

University of San Francisco Associate Professor Jonathan Hunt said he helps to collect bike donations for students to use around The City. Last year, he said about $7,000 worth of bikes were stolen from bike racks on campus despite being locked with a U-Lock, said Hunt:

“It’s extremely difficult for students to hold on to a bike in San Francisco.”

He said he hoped that the legislation would help provide more coordination with the Police Department and with campus police.