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Mission police captain hopes to increase patrols

by Seth Hemmelgarn

SFPD Mission Station Captain Bill Griffin
SFPD Mission Station Captain Bill Griffin  

The new police captain at San Francisco's Mission Station, which includes the Castro, Mission, and other neighborhoods, recently told police commissioners and community members he hopes to increase patrols and address homeless complaints and other issues.

With a population of about 46,000 people and more than 85,000 calls for service annually, Mission Station "is one of the busiest districts, if not the busiest district, in San Francisco," said Captain Bill Griffin as he addressed a May 17 meeting at James Lick Middle School in Noe Valley.

The most common calls for service across the Mission police district were related to people sitting or lying on the sidewalk, complaints about homeless people, and well-being checks, with more than 900 calls each, according to data that Griffin presented.

The 3,000-plus calls related to mental health that police get is "remarkable, and it illustrates the challenges officers face every day," he said.

Griffin, who came to Mission Station from the airport bureau in March, said his goals for the year include increasing the number of foot patrols and engagement with the community.

"That's a priority for me, is getting those officers back out there," he said.

Over half the station's officers have been trained in crisis intervention, and Griffin said he hopes to increase that this year, too.

Decreasing "quality of life" issues â€" which are typically related to homeless complaints â€" and cutting the number of auto break-ins and other property crimes are among Griffin's other goals.


Crime stats

Overall, violent crime decreased from 1,171 to 1,112 from 2015 to 2016 in the neighborhoods covered by Mission Station, according to Griffin's data, but property crimes went from 2,645 to 2,730.

Detailed statistics for the Castro district weren't readily available, but data from the police department indicate overall crime has stayed about the same, with 284 incidents in January and around 300 from late April through late May.

Commission Vice President Tom Mazzucco said at the police oversight panel's meeting that there's been less discussion of "gang violence and deaths and shootings" in the Mission since he joined the commission several years ago.

"I'm sure the problem still exists, but it looks like we're getting a handle on it," said Mazzucco.

Griffin, 57, a straight ally who grew up in San Francisco, told the Bay Area Reporter, "Our concerns are the same for the Castro" as for other parts of the police district, including addressing incidents that may happen as people are enjoying the area's bars.

He said there would be "an emphasis on community engagement, quality of life, and making a safe environment."

Police are also focused on ensuring safety in the Castro's public spaces, including Pink Triangle Park and Harvey Milk and Jane Warner plazas.

Griffin replaced former Captain Dan Perea, who was promoted in February to commander after leading Mission Station for almost three years.

Castro Merchants President Dan Bergerac said in a phone interview that Griffin's "done a great job on getting us some beat cops up in the Castro ... I've just noticed in the last month or so a real increased presence of cruisers and guys with boots on the ground."


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