SFPD to add public housing beats 

San Francisco police will walk more beats in public housing projects, ending confusion in the department’s rank and file regarding whether officers are allowed on San Francisco Housing Authority sites.

Standing on the sidewalk in the Hayes Valley South housing project, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the San Francisco Police Department would increase its walking patrols to include a total of eight federally funded Housing Authority sites.

The department had been assigning 16 officers to patrol the so-called "big four" housing projects, which include Sunnydale, Potrero, Hunters Point and Alice Griffith, Newsom announced, but starting this weekend, the Alemany, Plaza East and Hayes Valley North and South developments will see regular beat patrols.

In all, 44 officers will patrol public housing sites citywide, Newsom said.

The move came after a Feb. 15 meeting of the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee addressed confusion between agencies responsible for keeping housing projects free of trespassers.

Violence prevention experts, including the SFPD, the District Attorney’s Office and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee, have pinned much of the blame for San Francisco’s problems with violence on trespassers on public housing sites. A recent civil injunction against 22 alleged gang members at the Oakdale housing project focused in part on the fact that only one of the subjects actually lived at the site.

The trespassing code requires Housing Authority sites to provide express written permission, updated every six months, for police to enforce trespassing laws. Until recently, according to police officials, many officers were unsure of which housing developments they had permission to enter and where they could enforce trespassing laws.

Mirkarimi, whose district includes three of the newly patrolled housing developments, called the disconnect between police and the Housing Authority "Khafka-esque" after the February hearing, saying the level of official confusion amounted to "nothing less than a scandal."

Newsom indicated a new "no-trespassing" sign at the corner of Rose and Webster streets, and said enforcement would begin as the Housing Authority installed new signs throughout the projects. The enforcement is aimed at those who hang out in the projects but do not live there or come at the invitation of family or friends, Housing Authority Executive Director Greg Fortner said.

But some residents of Rose Street indicated a distrust of the Housing Authority and police. "They need to realize people have families here and should be able to have people over if they want," said Shavonna Wilson, 23, who has lived in the Hayes Valley development since she was 11.

Another public housing resident, Tina Collins, who lives in nearby Plaza East, said she welcomes the new patrols. She said her 4-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, will be allowed to play outside when the officers are walking the beat.

"My main thing is safety for the kids," she said.

amartin@examiner.com

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