Notes from Last Night’s Northeast Bernal Community Meeting


Here are my notes from last night’s full-house community meeting about crime problems in northeast Bernal, held at the Precita Center:

Community Meeting on Crime and Public Safety
Organized by the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Association (NBNA)
January 21, 2016


  • Terry Milne – Northeast Bernal Neigbors Alliance
  • Capt. Joseph McFadden, Captain, SFPD Ingleside Station
  • Jason Elliott, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Ed Lee

Bernal Neighbor Terry Milne kicked off the meeting by explaining that NBNA was formed to solve some of the crime problems that aren’t being addressed by city officials. The goal of NBNA is to increase political representation in this part of Bernal, to provide a cohesive message in City Hall, and to make sure neighbors in northeast Bernal get their issues addressed. Want to get involved? Join the network.

NBNA thanked Joshua Arce for helping to organize the meeting.

D9 Supervisor David Campos was present, along with his aide, Hilary Ronen.

Comments from Capt. McFadden

Ingleside 2d biggest geographical district in SF

Why does crime happen in NE Bernal?

  • Lots of criminals come here from out of town
  • Gang activity
  • Easy freeway access

Northeast Bernal has coverage from a radio car, as well as some coverage from undercover units.

McFadden showed a map of burglaries (homes robbed) that illustrated a strong cluster of crime in the far northwest corner of Bernal, right around the Peralta/Holladay corner.

McFadden noted that it is hard to secure a felony conviction for a car break in. To do that, prosecutors in San Francisco require a witness who saw

  1. someone break a window
  2. the person take something
  3. the person left the scene.

Missing any one of those and the crime is likely just a misdemeanor. The San Francisco district attorney (who is independently elected) does not make it easy to secure prosecutions.

Recent example: Ingleside recently arrested 3 recidivists who are responsible for at least a dozen car break-ins. They will likely get misdemeanors or probation.

Obvious reminder that nevertheless bears repeating: Don’t leave anything in your car. “Not leaving anything in your car” means don’t leave anything at all in your car. Period. Remove your phone charger and charging cable when you park, because they signal to a criminal that they should break into the car to see if there’s a phone is there. Smartphones can fetch $100 or more, and are easily fenced.

Video evidence is a godsend: Video recordings are hugely helpful, both for catching criminals and facilitating prosecution. “Gigantic,” McFadden says. Security cameras are a great investment, and the SFPD has very good systems for managing and distributing video footage to officers on the beat. (NOTE: If you have an exterior-facing camera, you can register it with the SF district attorney’s office here so they can collect more evidence after crimes take place.)

McFadden showed a recent home security camera video of an auto break-in on Coleridge Bocana in Bernal Heights. The perp began by casing a few cars on the street. Then he began shining a flashlight into a few car windows. (NOTE: That demonstrates clear intent to commit a crime, and thus would warrant a 911/urgent call to SFPD) Then he called his friend in a getaway car, who showed up in moments. Then he smashed a window, grabbed something from the car, and drove off with his friend. Total elapsed time: About 2 minutes.

Reminder: Don’t call 911 from you cell phone, because mobile 911 calls go to CHP dispatch, far, far away. Add these numbers to your mobile phone address book:

  • SFPD emergency landline (for crimes in progress): (415) 553-8090
  • SFPD non-emergency: (415) 553-0123
  • SFPD Ingleside station number: (415) 404-4000

SFPD dispatch pro tips Part 1: If you’re not getting the help you need from an SFPD dispatcher, call back and try a different dispatcher. If you’re still not getting enough help, demand to speak to a supervisor. Or the supervisor’s supervisor. Still not getting a response? Call Ingleside station, and ask to speak to the platoon commander. Don’t cry wolf, but do act VERY persistent.

SFPD dispatch pro tips Part 2: When you report suspicious activity or a crime in progress, try to provide some specific details that make it easier to identify the subject. Don’t say “4 door white car,” say “4 door white car with a spoiler on the rear deck and small round taillights.” Or, “he was wearing a shirt with a Nike swoosh.” Ignore jackets and hoodies; those are easily shed. Look for details about pieces of clothing that are hard to remove: Pants, shoes, base-layer shirts, etc.

In response to a question about SFPD jurisdictional issues, McFadden said that Mission Station and Ingleside will soon (do already?) share a radio channel. Previously, Mission and Ingleside used separate frequencies. Being on the same channel will help improve coordination.

Jason Elliot – Mayor’s deputy chief of staff

Big Picture: Violent crime is down, property crime is up

Thanks to Prop 47, big policy questions are being asked.

More police officers will help with quality lot life crimes. Plan in place and funded to get SFPD up to 2000 officers, or the full complement as determined by a study that was conducted in 1970 (That’s not a typo. There was much eye-rolling over this.) SFPD should hit 2000 officers next year, and that will mean more officers in radio cars to focus on property crime.

The Mayor’s office hopes to pilot some new approaches, perhaps in Bernal Heights:

  • Received for a grant to assist with vehicle crime abatement
  • Gang task force grant
  • One potential program might make it possible to increase police presence at times when data shows peak crime activity

Hopefully there will be more detail on this, TBD.


Ailed Quijano Paningbatan-Swan from the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center added some helpful comments.

Good lighting reduces crime. BHNC helped instal lighting around Holly Park, and it helped.

She encouraged NE Bernal neighbors to organize Hotspot walks, in which neighbors go for neighborhood walks with SFPD and city officials to highlight areas of concern. That helps build community while also making city departments and leaders accountable for making improvements. Contact Ailed at BHNC for details.

Other Ideas:
Neighbors expressed interest in closing the steep stairway from the 101 interchange up to Peralta and Holladay. Also want to close the overpass across Bayshore. The City officials present did not provide clear guidance if this was even possible.

Many neighbors (and Ailed from BHNC) emphasized this key idea:

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS!! Communities are stronger when people have face to face relationships. Say hello. Exchange phone numbers. There is a common perception that some new Bernal neighbors keep to themselves. (Editorial Note :This may be true, or it may be bullshit, and/or the demonization of new residents by the Old Guard certainly doesn’t do much to encourage community participation, but nevertheless: If you’re new here, take the time to say hello. It’s a gesture that matters.)

One final comments came from a Bernal neighbor who grew up in Bernal. A former gang member, he settled down once he started a family. He said: “If you don’t know your neighbors, they won’t look out for you.”

Reminder: If you want to participate in the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Alliance, sign up here.

There will be another community meeting about public safety next Thursday, Jan 28 at 6 pm at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.  Look for additional details on that soon.

PHOTO: Northeast Bernal Community Meeting, photo by @ywxwy

13 thoughts on “Notes from Last Night’s Northeast Bernal Community Meeting

  1. Lots of good information in this article, although it does paint the DA in a poor light. I’m sure police are frustrated when criminals get away with little or no punishment (as am I), but I suspect the DA is simply stating what’s needed in order to get a conviction. There’s no point in wasting resources prosecuting someone for a crime when you don’t have enough evidence to get a conviction.

    • I’ve heard assistant DAs address this complaint at other community meetings, and their point of view is that SF juries often won’t convict, and they encourage everyone NOT to try to get out of jury duty but rather to try your best to serve.

  2. “Neighbors expressed interest in closing the steep stairway from the 101 interchange up to Peralta and Holladay. Also want to close the overpass across Bayshore.”? Gotta keep *those* people out. Why not just make Bernal a gated community?

    • Plus, some of us actually take public transit on Bayshore and it would make access to the 9 and other routes totally inaccessible. And there’s easy access to’some shopping there, too, and flat areas to jog. It connects us to the neighborhood next door. Please don’t close the overpass!

  3. I corrected Capt. McFadden at the community meeting as well, but his video is from Bocana, not Coleridge. 🙂

  4. Too many folks in Bernal simply don’t want to say hello. Or even smile. Meet a gaze with a friendly glance. That’s real. New residents, old residents, what have you.

    Need to park in somebody’s driveway for a few minutes, because you have a lot of stuff to carry into your place real quick? Then ring their doorbell and as if it’s cool. Introduce yourself. Don’t just park there, and then upon being given the hairy eyeball for your move, say, “I only need (blah blah blah).” Take it as an opportunity to be neighborly! Ask.

    Your dog runs up on people. Don’t be weird about it! Most people are probably OK with that, and have experience with dogs. But take a moment to say, “He’s just real friendly” or something. Don’t say nothing, and avert your gaze. Take it as an opportunity to be neighborly!

    You bump into somebody four times in the space of 15 minutes, or something. Don’t avert your gaze every single time. Yes, dude on Bessie, you are really weird that way.

    I don’t get why folks can’t understand how to manage the simple gives and takes of an urban environment. Heck yes, if we know one another, just a little bit, it’s safer. You don’t even have to say hello all the time, or whatever. Or have a conversation constantly. It’s not a “Seinfeld” episode. The other person is probably busy too.

  5. One of our young neighbors at the meeting objected when the police captain said something like: “All the bad guys wear black hoodies.” So the captain might have been misinterpreted and he really meant something like: “Not all people who wear black hoodies are bad guys, but the bad guys all seem to wear hoodies.” Or he might have been rightfully called out for perpetuating a disturbing stereotype. Whatever. The pertinent point is we should base our suspicions and our 911 calls on people’s actions — such as are they shining a flashlight into car windows and looking for something to steal? — and not on what they are wearing or other aspects of their appearance.

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