Police-related incidents in and around nighttime entertainment venues have increased since 2011, city records show, but it’s unclear whether more crime or better reporting and enforcement are behind the spike.
Violent incidents, for instance, rose from a reported 127 in 2011 to 178 in 2012. Non-violent incidents — including robbery, permit violations and even weapons charges — also increased, surging from 58 in 2011 to 104 last year. During the first two months of 2013, there were 17 violent incidents and 10 reported non-violent incidents.
Starting in 2010, San Francisco police began providing the city’s Entertainment Commission reports about such incidents on a regular basis.
“I don’t know that I would assume the number of incidents went up,” said Jocelyn Kane, executive director of the Entertainment Commission. “You can assume the number of incidents reported to us went up.”
When such data is considered against the number of patrons who visit San Francisco for night life — roughly 9.5 million annually, according to commission data — Kane called the total number of incidents is a drop in the bucket.
“The number of incidents is quite small relative to number of people who come to San Francisco and go home safely,” she said.
Supervisor David Chiu, whose district includes popular Polk Street and the occasionally problematic Broadway corridor, agreed there has been an improvement in reporting. But he said violent incidents also seem to have increased.
“The picture is complicated,” Chiu said. “What I care about is doing all we can to ensure we have a healthy, vibrant and safe night life. We’re making progress, but there’s still more to do.”
Most recently, a fight broke out on Broadway last month, involving hundreds of people and dozens of police officers. Although the fight spilled out into the street, only five people were arrested, three for assaulting a police officer.
The Entertainment Commission regulates nearly 400 venues in San Francisco. In addition to having more information, since 2010 the agency has had increased powers of citation, suspension and revocation.
Prior to that year, it was not able to do much of anything in response to violent incidents that venues might have been able to control. Now, as the result of several pieces of legislation sponsored by Chiu, the commission can suspend or revoke problem venues.
Kane said her agency’s relationship with the San Francisco Police Department has improved greatly. She said that after the commission was created in 2003, the two agencies initially had a “very difficult relationship.” But both sides now agree that is no longer the case, and Kane said her agency can respond better now that it receives more information about violent incidents.
The commission’s powers could be on the verge of increasing again. Last month, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation that would give it more power to issue permits for DJs, allow live performances in outdoor spaces, and suspend violating venues for longer periods of time.
“If we have bad actors, we need to hold those bad actors accountable without taking overbroad steps and without undermining the industry,” Wiener said in an interview Monday.
Kane agreed, saying the commission continues to evolve and change the way it regulates the entertainment industry.
“And we expect to continue to evolve,” she said.