SF DA Jenkins addresses Castro merchants, lays out ideas

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday August 4, 2022
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San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, right, was joined by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman during a walking tour of the Castro July 19. Photo: Rick Gerharter<br>
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, right, was joined by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman during a walking tour of the Castro July 19. Photo: Rick Gerharter

At Thursday's meeting of the Castro Merchants Association, the first following its July recess, members had the chance to speak with District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who laid out ideas to help the neighborhood's business owners tackle the ongoing issues of petty theft, vandalism, and the presence of unhoused, and often, mentally ill individuals who have gravitated to the district over the past couple of years.

Just before Jenkins began speaking to the group, meeting via Zoom, former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who was routed in a recall election in June, announced on Twitter that he would not seek reelection to the office to which Jenkins was appointed by Mayor London Breed in July. (Jenkins will be on the ballot in November to complete Boudin's term; in media interviews before he left office, including with the Bay Area Reporter, Boudin had not ruled out seeking his old job.)

"I've also taken stock of the burden that more than three years of nearly non-stop campaigning placed on my family," Boudin wrote on Twitter around 10 a.m. "I'm committed to criminal justice reform; I'm also committed to my family ... I am choosing to put my family first: I will not be running for office in 2022."

Jenkins, who told the B.A.R. that Boudin's decision would have no impact on her own campaign for the office, declined to comment.

At the merchants' meeting, however, Jenkins had plenty to say, including ideas for making the DA's office more responsive to neighborhood needs. Among them, plans to re-institute the formation of community affinity groups as well as the implementation of community prosecutors.

This was Jenkins' first appearance before the merchants group, and her second visit in the community - even if only virtually - since she did a walk-through in the Castro a few weeks ago with gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. She promised CMA members she planned to show up regularly in the neighborhood.

Jenkins was warmly received by CMA members, who peppered her with questions about the district's ongoing problems with unhoused individuals who like to hang out, particularly in front of Walgreens, at the corner of 18th and Castro streets. Locals have taken to referring to the corner as "the morgue," Dave Karraker, CMA co-president, told attendees. There, it's not unusual to find people passed out, or camped out begging for change from passersby. Jenkins assured CMA members she was aware of their concerns.

"I know that you all have been very vocal with the supervisor [Rafael Mandelman] and he's been very vocal with me," she told merchants. He's the one supervisor who has brought her to his district and sat her down and addressed specific concerns, she said.

"I was able to gather a lot of information on the merchant walk. I want you to know first and foremost, I am committed to finding solutions," she said.

Her vision for community prosecutors is similar to a program put in place by her predecessor, she said, consisting of community liaisons, with the department's assistant DA's volunteering to fill those positions.

"I know there's one for the Tenderloin and the Bayview," she said in an interview with the B.A.R. following the meeting. It's been, however, more of an informal program. The assistant DA's attend monthly neighborhood meetings, which would occasionally include representatives from the San Francisco Police Department.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, District 8, which includes the Castro, had two different liaisons from the DA's office during Boudin's tenure.

Jenkins' idea, still in the formative stages, would take a more formal approach and would see a prosecutor assigned - possibly part-time - to the various precinct police stations around the city where they would then cover the various neighborhoods served by that station. Jenkins said the program could take effect relatively quickly.

"Very soon," Jenkins said. "Over the course of the next six weeks is what I'm looking at."

The community affinity groups, a program instituted under former District Attorney George Gascón, who served as San Francisco's DA from 2011 to 2019 before being elected to the same position in Los Angeles in 2020, represented many of the city's various communities. There were groups representing African Americans and Latinos, as well as Asian American and Pacific Islanders, and the LGBTQ community. Jenkins said she has heard a number of communities express interest in the affinity groups since she became DA.

"We used to have monthly meetings where members would sit down and have an agenda to discuss particular topics and questions they wanted to address," she said. The DA would often attend these meetings, as well, she added.

"They were sort of representing the voice of the overall community to the district attorney's office and we could work together," said Jenkins.

It could be a little while before these groups are organized, however. With things still "rapidly changing" in the DA's office, it's a matter of prioritizing what needs to be done first, the DA said.

"Everything for me is, I want to do it right away," she said.

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