Castro safety group honored in aftermath of troubled times

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Monday March 4, 2024
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Castro Community on Patrol officers Brian Hill, left, and Greg Carey keep watch in the Castro neighborhood in November 2019. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Castro Community on Patrol officers Brian Hill, left, and Greg Carey keep watch in the Castro neighborhood in November 2019. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A Castro neighborhood safety group received a special commendation at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting March 5. The recognition came as its chair says changes are afoot after its nonprofit fiscal sponsor became mired in scandal and left it in a lurch.

The volunteer group, Castro Community on Patrol, will soon transition to its own nonprofit, said Greg Carey, chair of the 18-year-old volunteer safety group.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman presented CCOP, as it's known, the special commendation. He said to his colleagues that "the Castro would not be the Castro without Castro Community on Patrol."

Mandelman stated the B.A.R. March 4 that "It's rare to have a large public event in the Castro and not see Greggy [Carey], Ken [Craig], and Castro Community on Patrol volunteers out in their orange vests, patrolling, helping keep the participants safe and solving problems before they arise. CCOP has been a terrific resource for the Castro and our LGBTQ community — through their self-defense, first-aid and active-shooter trainings as well as their patrols. I'm happy to recognize CCOP for their work — they are most deserving of this Special Commendation."

Carey told the Bay Area Reporter March 4 that "we've always had a close relationship with whoever is in office [of] supervisor District 8 — it's a great honor to share our success with the other supes as we try to keep Castro safe."

CCOP was founded in 2006 in response to several violent robberies in the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood. It patrols in teams of three or four, often during peak nightlife hours, wearing bright orange uniforms.

Those on patrol watch out for medical emergencies, are trained in first aid and CPR, and carry Narcan and trauma kits. They also involve the police and fire departments when necessary.

Carey, a gay man, added that when he speaks at the supervisors' meeting he's going to say that "most groups like ours that start because of an issue fail to survive past the first 12 months because the initial problem dissipates and the need for the group falls apart."

"We have been continuing to work for 17 years because the gay community is always a target every four years, every presidential cycle, and we don't see that changing so we always want to keep a strong physical presence," Carey added. "We've been able to keep it working."

Carey made these remarks at the March 5 meeting, saying "Most organizations like ours don't survive past the first 12 months because once the organization is set up the original problem dissipates. We saw it differently. The LGBT community has always been the target of the ultra-right every four years when a presidential election comes along. ... If we look at the early 2000s, it was same-sex marriage and today it is healthcare for transgender people."

CCOP dropped by nonprofit mired in scandal

The commendation comes after troubled times for CCOP. It had been fiscally sponsored by SF-SAFE, the nonprofit that is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the San Francisco District Attorney's office for alleged misuse of public funds.

A city controller's report found that SF-SAFE spent $80,000 of public money from the police department on expenses not eligible to be reimbursed, including a trip to Lake Tahoe and limousine service. The nonprofit's executive director, Kyra Worthy, was subsequently fired.

Mission Local reported that SF-SAFE — which is now out of money and no longer receiving police funding — owes half a million dollars to its landlord at an expansive space in the Mission neighborhood. Former workers at the nonprofit filed a labor complaint late last week to try and get some of their unpaid wages.

In November 2023, weeks before the scandal broke, SF-SAFE ended its affiliation with CCOP without explanation, according to Carey.

"We noticed longer periods between the submission of invoices and reimbursement in early 2023," Carey stated in a news release last month. "Where these were paid within 4-6 weeks in the past, we were seeing delays of months. The latest check request was submitted on June 13, and not paid until August 30, 2023."

On August 3, CCOP was informed that $20,000 it had been expecting was canceled, and without explanation, according to Carey.

"We tried to contact SF-SAFE on October 23 and were referred to an attorney who refused to provide any details," the release continued. "The attorney answered a few questions from the first call on November 12 and then sent the notice of dissolution of the relationship four days later.

"After the partnership was dissolved, CCOP was left with approximately $11,000 in unpaid obligations and an uncertain financial future," the release stated. "The invoice of greatest concern is to a San Francisco vendor who supplied safety equipment. SF-SAFE had approved direct invoicing between the vendor and SF-SAFE. The customized (non-refundable) merchandise was ordered on June 26, 2023. The total due the small business is more than $6,300 and no payments have been made. The remainder of the unpaid invoices are reimbursements owed to CCOP Board of Advisors members."

Carey stated in the February 4 news release that the group has secured $7,600 in donations, which should cover its immediate needs.

Subsequently "we decided to become a standalone nonprofit," he said in a March 4 phone interview, but "of course, that'll take time because you have to change things with the IRS."

"It's a long process but we really think we'll be able to come through it even though there will be a lot of additional expenses. We have enough money to pay at least our main creditors SF-SAFE failed to pay, but we'll need funds to cover things like accounting and expenses like that we didn't have to worry about before. We're making progress."

A phone call to SF-SAFE was unanswered, and a voicemail message stated the nonprofit's voicemail was full. SF-SAFE has not returned a request for comment made via email.

Mandelman stated that "We're continuing to work with the City Controller's Office to help ensure CCOP receives the funds they were owed — it's very disheartening to see programs that are devoted to community public safety impacted by the recent SF SAFE scandal."

Updated 3/5/24:This article was updated after the commendation was awarded March 5.

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