Powell Street BART. The Westfield Mall. The cable car turnaround. Market between 4th and 5th Streets is a hotbed for transportation, shopping, tourism, and yes, criminal activity.
This one stretch of SF's central thoroughfare generated 1,400 police reports last year as the Chronicle reports via police records, meaning it stands out among the crowd as the city's most criminal. (That's despite the fact that the accounting doesn't include those blocks encompassing the Hall of Justice and SF General, as crimes committed elsewhere are often reported there.)
Notably, most of the crimes logged on the block last year weren't violent or dangerous in nature. More than half of reports were for crimes of theft or larceny, though there were 100 reported assaults, 9 sexual assaults, and 80 robberies. These didn't even lead to an outsize number of arrests to match their high number.
Allow UC Berkeley criminologist Barry Krisberg to explain. “The location makes it easier to commit crimes... You can get there on public transit easily; you can get away pretty quickly; the large crowds permit a level of anonymity where property crimes flourish; and the victims are preoccupied, they’re shopping, they’re not worried about protecting their valuables.”
Though thefts on Market are primary problems, new jurisdiction calling Tenderloin officers away from that neighborhood's crimes might also create secondary issues. After heated debate an analysis, last summer Market between 4th and 5th changed hands from the Southern Police District to the Tenderloin Police District.
“We knew [the Westfield area] would draw energy from the Tenderloin,” said director of community organizing at the Central City SRO Collaborative Pratibha Tekkey, an original opponent of the switch “We were hoping (the new boundaries) would bring more resources in.”
Though understaffed, the TL Police District did receive 34 added officers with these issues in mind, bringing their headcount to 103. Still, SFPD spokesperson Carlos Manfredi estimates that about an hour is needed to take each report.
"Theft is a simple incident to handle," says Tenderloin Police District captain Teresa Ewins, who oversees the block in question. As the the Weekly reported in 2014, 23 percent of calls in the area from 2011-13 came from the Westfield Mall or within a block thereof. That, the Weekly argued, turns regular cops into de facto mall cops.
"I would much rather use my resources dealing with the drugs and violence; I’d much rather be dealing with Leavenworth, Turk and Taylor, Hyde Street," said Ewins. "But the way the law is at this point, we have to handle the calls."