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Prioritizing Public Safety

As we all know, the Richmond is not immune to crime. We often face the same public safety issues as the rest of the City, although we are not given the same resources.

It is election season, and unfortunately we are seeing many people playing politics with public safety. But the Richmond deserves solutions not political rhetoric. As the supervisor representing the Richmond, I have long worked closely with our residents and merchants to advocate for solutions and additional public safety resources, specifically asking Mayor London Breed and the police department to deliver the following:

1. Expand the Retired Police Ambassador program to provide more ambassadors to other areas in the Richmond and extend hours of operation.

2. Continue to expand the street outreach and street crisis response teams. We need to respond to public-health crises with public-health experts, leaving our police to focus on crime.

3. Implement the legislation I co-sponsored to increase police officer foot- and bike-patrols in our neighborhoods.

4. Install Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR) at strategic locations. Now that we have approved the policy and budget, I hope to see ALPRs placed on ingress and egress routes to and from the Richmond as soon as possible.

5. Create incentives for alarm alerts to SFPD first response, waiving false alarm fees for merchants to encourage more merchants to install alarm systems.

6. Discuss a potential live surveillance program, with merchant input, from 2 to 5 a.m., partnering with local merchants to utilize their private systems during peak vulnerable hours.

These six policy requests are in direct response to my meetings with Richmond District merchants and residents. Let’s be clear, these are solutions that I, as the Board of Supervisors budget chair, have allocated funding for in the City’s budget. The money and the necessary approvals are in place, we just need administrative implementation.

In March, after receiving no response to our request, I was asked to join Richmond merchants and residents to announce a petition calling on Mayor Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to act immediately to deliver these resources.

Finally, in April, I joined with Richmond community leaders to meet with Assistant Chief David Lazar and Richmond District Police Station Capt. Chris Canning to discuss our requests and create a plan to roll out these safety initiatives. As a result of this conversation, it was decided:

  • The Richmond District will expand its Retired Police Community Ambassadors program to include ambassadors in Central Richmond, bolstering the ambassadors currently assigned to the Inner Richmond.

  • I will continue to advocate for expansion of street crisis teams, especially during the budget process and will continue to push the mayor’s office and city departments to expand the street crisis response teams to provide much-needed support to individuals suffering from mental health crises, relieving the Police Department to focus on crime.

  • Assistant Chief Lazar shared that the Police Department has seen an influx in applications for both new officers as well as lateral hires (officers from other jurisdictions) and has committed to prioritize these officers for the Richmond.

  • The Police Department will also be installing ALPRs throughout the City and agreed that the Richmond will be one of the first neighborhoods to have ALPR installations in strategic locations.

  • In collaboration with my office, Assistant Chief Lazar has agreed to create legislative policy solutions to waive the false alarm fees to encourage merchants to install alarm systems that directly notify the police department.

  • With the implementation of ALPR, false alarm fee waiver and additional police officers, Capt. Canning has committed that, with this new data, he will work with local merchants to develop a concrete live surveillance plan targeting store break-ins.

While we should recognize the progress in public safety we have made as a district, I regret that this came after a long and unnecessary fight and at great loss. After three Chinese seniors were assaulted within two weeks during the summer of 2022, I began asking Mayor Breed and her administration to deploy retired police officer ambassadors to our neighborhood corridors to fill the officer shortage of the Richmond Police Station. Last year, I met with the mayor weekly during the budget process in early 2023, where I reinforced my request, but was told to be patient.

Then, after seeing an increase in burglaries on our commercial corridors, I once again sent a request detailing specific public safety policy initiatives to her administration and the police department. And I asked Mayor Breed in person, again, at a community meeting in the Richmond in August 2023 to deliver these needed resources. After all this, there still there was no action taken by Mayor Breed or her administration. Rather, she chose to finger point. The Richmond was finally granted two retired police ambassadors, but only after a beloved community member was attacked and killed in a local store.

In February of this year, I followed up on my request to Mayor Breed and Police Chief Scott to implement our six requested and funded public safety initiatives but, again, received no response. We did not see any action until we came together to demand that City Hall work for the Richmond. It should not be this difficult for us to get what we deserve. This November, I look forward to seeing changes at City Hall and working with elected leaders who are willing to do the hard work to problem solve rather than finger point.

This article was published in the Richmond Review in May 2024.

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