Melissa Griffin: Muni crime victims tell it like it is 

Supervisor Bevan Dufty invited all persons who have been a victim of crime on Muni to speak at Monday’s meeting of the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee.

Eager to hear the sad yet fascinating stories of Muni crime victims, I hustled on down to City Hall to hear the testimony. Here is what I learned:

1. Teenage girls are the most fearsome creatures on Muni. Of the six stories of assault, three involved middle school to high school-age girls. My mother can verify that I, too, was possessed by the devil from the ages of 14 to 18. Incidentally, this phenomenon might explain the Salem witch trials.

2. Bus drivers will not stop the bus and help you. Take your pitiful pillaged pleas elsewhere. The most a driver can do is press a button to alert Central Command, an institution which is at worst, completely fake, and at best is a windowless room sporadically staffed by stuffed animals. But hey, the driver gets to say, “Central Command has been notified.” (Note that Central Command doesn’t help when drivers are attacked either, which may explain the antihero button policy.)

3. Police hate to ride Muni. Probably for the same reason I do: It’s dangerous! In an effort akin to forcing doctors to go to a hospital, district station captains are now requiring police to ride Muni bus and train lines where the most incidents occur and during peak crime times, like right after school lets out. (See Observation 1.)

At the hearing, new MTA Deputy Chief  John Murphy explained a new policy of using statistics to make Muni patrolling efforts more effective. Of course, after years of nonexistent to lame law enforcement on Muni, crime is likely underreported, which affects the reliability of those statistics.

And so it is incumbent upon Muni riders to make a leap of faith and once again attempt to report crimes. Apparently, calling 911 from a cell phone in San Francisco gets you a police station in Vallejo (I’m not making this up) so program these SFPD numbers into your phone: (415) 575-4444 for calls and 847-411 for texts.  (Type “SFPD” then the tip.)

District gives no (coherent) excuse for truancy

‘If nothing changes, about 20 percent of our children will continue to drop out of school,” begins a recent civil grand jury report on San Francisco’s truancy problem.

The report goes on to excoriate the administration of the San Francisco Unified School District (not to be confused with the Board of Education) under the leadership of Superintendent Carlos Garcia. According to the report, territorial government employees, sloppy or nonexistent data gathering and zero centralized efforts are just some of the pillars that make up our Kafkaesque, impotent “system” of dealing with truancy.

Of the 56,000 public school students in San Francisco, about 4,900 will be absent without an excuse for 20 or more days in the school year — which, according to the report,  is “chronic truancy.”

The most damaging finding in the report is that no one at the district seems to understand that this is an emergency. “Public outrage is in order here!” juror Abraham Simmons said at a hearing before the Board of Supervisors Committee on Government Audits and Oversight.

Actually, there were two hearings on the truancy report: one on Oct. 22 and the other on Nov. 16. Having basically been called lazy and bureaucratic by the report, the district apparently saw no irony in sending zero people to the first hearing and five people to the second hearing.

“Defend yourself,” Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi demanded at the second hearing when it was the district team’s turn to speak.
Associate Superintendent Trish Bascom tried to explain that a number of changes are in the works at the district level. Where “student support services” used to be addressed by 11 separate departments, there are now three “areas.” Apparently, this constitutes progress.

When pressed by Supervisor Sophie Maxwell as to why the district’s efforts appear to be happening only recently, Executive Director of Support Services, Meyla Ruwin answered, “I hear your concern. We feel it deeply. We have felt it deeply. I have to say that also, as time has progressed, we have learned where some of the issues have been occurring, and we are working more collaboratively in partnership to answer those questions.”

Huh?

Boxing such babble proved too much for even the motivated supervisors, who, like the jurors, gave up on understanding the current “system.” Instead, committee members Maxwell and Mirkarimi voted to give the district three months to submit a comprehensive plan to combat truancy.

For the district’s sake, I hope that plan is stellar. The City gives millions to the district each year, some of which is used to deal with truancy. Now that we’re desperate to cut spending, yesterday’s pork will soon resemble today’s dead turkey.

Christmas can wait: Thanksgiving marks a time for reflection

Nowadays, Christmas decorations go up after Easter. Stores just rearrange their Jesus figures, hide bunny ears under Santa hats and the shopping season is magically five months longer. While my best friend, Beth Spotswood, can attest to the fact that I get irate at hearing holiday music in September (it’s just wrong!), I’m glad to see that Thanksgiving is tied less and less to the shopping season kickoff.

I think this lets us get back to celebrating a different kind of harvest — a day of gratitude for whatever sliver of connection remains between our work and reward, as enabled by a divine power, luck or one’s political party. (Of course, a moment to be thankful for all the wonderful things in life that we didn’t earn is always in order.)

At the very least, it’s one day of the year when we know that the turkeys are not in charge.

Happy Thanksgiving!
 

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Melissa Griffin

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