Thursday, March 04, 2010

Broken Windows Policing

Also called quality-of-life policing, is spreading, as cities absorb the results of too much tolerance for street crime and the general chaos caused by a lack of strict enforcement of public behavior laws and a misplaced indifference to the consequences of unregulated homelessness—as Sacramento currently suffers with its long-term policy of allowing illegal camping in the Parkway.

This article from the Washington Post reports on San Francisco’s slowly realizing the corrosive results too much tolerance can bring; and perhaps they will remember that under Mayor Frank Jordan and his Matrix program in the 1990’s—as reported by City Journal—they had once resolved the problem.

An excerpt from the Washington Post.

“SAN FRANCISCO -- In the Tenderloin, not far from tourists at the historic cable car turnaround, the city's incoming police chief was shocked to see open drug dealing.

“Then, in the swank Union Square shopping area, Sacramento's visiting mayor had his luggage swiped from outside a hotel.

“And in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, crucible for the hippie movement and the 1960s Summer of Love, residents and storekeepers have been complaining about overbearing transients blocking pedestrians and panhandling with their pit bulls by their sides.

“This tourist mecca, known for its panoramic views and liberal outlook, is grappling with quality-of-life crimes - and the perception that its cherished sense of forbearance has gotten out of hand.

"This is a city that absolutely relies on visitors as its main economic driver," said Steve Falk, executive director of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. "San Francisco is known for having a high level of tolerance, but ... the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think San Franciscans are ready for that to happen."

“Last year, the city's overall crime rate was the lowest in decades, with homicides down more than 50 percent. But a groundswell of gripes about "nuisance crimes" has made combatting them a priority for Police Chief George Gascon since he arrived last summer.

“The chief has gone so far as proposing a citywide "sit-lie" ordinance that would give police the authority to move and cite those who block sidewalks or otherwise intimidate pedestrians to address problems like those in the Haight-Ashbury.

"There are a substantial number of people who want to see this happen. They're very frustrated," Gascon said in an interview. "It's beyond the tipping point. The anger is very real. I'm hoping we can come up with a powerful policy that makes sense for everybody."

“Mayor Gavin Newsom, who recently moved to Haight Ashbury and was previously hesitant about Gascon's proposal due to potential divisiveness, said he will now introduce the ordinance this week to the city's Board of Supervisors.

“Newsom said he constantly hears complaints from merchants while jogging or grabbing his morning coffee. He also told the San Francisco Chronicle that he recently saw a guy smoking crack while taking his infant daughter on a stroll down Haight Street.

"It's a lot of behavior issues, a lot of drug-related and transient issues and I'm sensitive to the challenges of some of these folks," Newsom told The Associated Press. "But, at the same time, there's families there, kids in strollers, merchants there barely making ends meet. We've got to find a compromise."