Residents of San Francisco’s Bayview and nearby areas are meeting with police and other city officials Saturday, July 19, to call for a “Zero Shootings goal” after a rash of recent shootings in the Bayview and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods that have included homicides.
The Bayview, which has a reputation for high levels of criminal activity, has also been drawing more LGBT residents who come for the relatively affordable housing prices.
The meeting is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Bayview branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 5075 Third Street.
Several incidents have shaken the neighborhood, including the July 8 shooting death of a 30-year-old man at La Salle Avenue and Las Villas Court.
In a letter to Bayview station police Captain Robert O’Sullivan, District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, District Attorney George Gascón, and others, members of the residents group said they’re “extremely concerned,” that the San Francisco Police Department “uses the homicide rate as an unofficial barometer of success in eradicating violence. We propose that the actual number of shootings – whether the target is a person, a building or a vehicle – be used to judge the level of success and that the city adopt a goal of zero tolerance towards shootings citywide.”
The organization proposes an inter-departmental program that would treat “every gunshot and every incident involving an illegal firearm with the highest level of seriousness.”
Components could include putting cameras on city-controlled property, more Shot Spotter gunfire locator units, and a “Commitment to investigate every report of gunfire and Shot Spotter activation as an emergency (even if it’s a gunfight over water balloons),” the letter said.
Tanja Beck, 44, lives in the neighborhood with her partner, Karoline Hochstrat, 50, and two daughters. Beck owns three homes in the district – she rents out two – and is one of the people who wants to see more enforcement against shooters regardless of whether their victims died.
“I would rather have the police count all incidents in terms of where people were put in danger or hurt, instead of just saying the number of homicides went down,” Beck said in an interview. “That is just a lucky number, I think, because probably some of the shooters didn’t find their targets.”
Acting Bayview Captain Valerie Matthews, agreed with the meeting organizers’ primary goal of having zero shootings.
“Every district in this city should have that same goal,” said Matthews. “You don’t want anyone getting shot.”
She added, “We have redeployed a lot of resources from other districts into the Bayview. We’ve increased our staffing by 25 percent, and they’re here specifically to address all the locations where these shootings and/or homicides have been occurring.”
Matthews said the fact that there hasn’t been a shooting in the neighborhood since July 8 shows that her station’s efforts are working.
However, she said, “Overall, our numbers are lower than they’ve been in many, many years,” but “there’s still work to do.”
So far this year, said Matthews, plainclothes officers in the district “have confiscated over 135 guns.” But she said, “there are probably another 300 in my district that need to be taken off the streets.”
Matthews said police need more anti-violence programs and community participation.
“It’s not all about just putting people in jail. You can’t incarcerate the whole district.”
Barbara Gratta, 53, who has a small winery – Gratta Wines – in her garage, moved to the Bayview from the Castro in 1999 with her partner, Cathy Hansen, 55.
Gratta said violence in the district “goes in waves,” and it’s not as if there’s “a constant warzone out here.”
While the Bayview is home to more African Americans than most other neighborhoods in the city, Gratta, who’s of Italian descent, said it’s always been “mixed,” and when she first moved to the area 15 years ago, “it reminded me very much of the neighborhood where I grew up,” which was a mix of black and Italian.
Beck called the Bayview “one of the last affordable neighborhoods in San Francisco” and also said it has “the best weather in the city,” and when she moved in two and a half years ago from the Bernal Heights district, “all the neighbors came and said hello.”
Some have complained over the years that African Americans are being forced out of the neighborhood.
But Beck, who’s white, said, “I’m in the business of selling homes. Whenever I list a property here, it has nothing to do with pushing out a person. It has something to do with the older generation needing to move on to their next or last destination, and it’s a wonderful time for them to do so and profit from their sale.” She added, “We also have a decent amount of properties” that become available because “the occupant died and the children want to take advantage of their inheritance … The majority of the transactions happening in this neighborhood are people want to leave the neighborhood for their own reasons, and young families want to come in because they can actually afford it here and make this a home.”