The several dozen, mostly monolingual Chinatown residents, from youth to the elderly, laughed at the fourth-generation San Franciscan’s welcome in their native tongue. Lazar, who on May 24 took on the role after Capt. Garret Tom was promoted to commander of the Golden Gate Division, led his first public-safety meeting in the community at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School in conjunction with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
Lazar seemed to be well-received by the Chinatown community, especially with the remarks from the chamber’s consultant, longtime Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak.
“I thought we had a captain that worked very hard, would answer my calls until 7 p.m.,” Pak said in Cantonese about Tom, who served as Central station captain for a couple years. “Now we’ve got this captain, who I called on the weekend and he’s still there [working]. He’s really smart — not afraid of making his wife mad.”
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu added that he has seen Lazar, 43, in Chinatown every week since he took his post.
The station’s new captain, who said he learned a few Cantonese phrases in the last week, stressed to residents the importance of reporting crimes and working collaboratively with police.
“Don’t be concerned about us not speaking your language,” Lazar said. “We will understand each other.”
He encouraged residents to take the cellphone numbers of the four beat officers working Chinatown, three of whom speak fluent Cantonese.
With the help of a translator, Lazar listened to residents sound off on some crime issues they’ve faced in the community — thieves on Muni, prostitutes allegedly knocking on the doors of single-room occupancy hotels for business, homelessness at Portsmouth Square, fears of child abduction and pedestrian safety.
Lazar said he was “very pleased” with the residents’ willingness to speak up and is looking forward to kicking off community meetings around the station’s jurisdiction every third Thursday starting next month.
He has been a captain for the force for 6½ years, most recently at the police academy in Diamond Heights and prior to that, at the Ingleside Police Station. His various duties have included overseeing law enforcement operations for America’s Cup.
Tom called Lazar “the best man for Central station.”
“His Chinese is even better than mine,” Tom quipped.