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Tenderloin Sees Uptick in Vandalism

Tenderloin vandalism incidents are higher in the first half of 2016 than they were in the past two years.

Tenderloin vandalism incidents are higher in the first half of 2016 than they were in the past two years.

| By Juan Reyes |

It only takes a second for someone to shatter a storefront window or spray paint a wall, and for local business owners in the San Francisco Tenderloin district, this kind of vandalism is on the rise.

The SFPD’s Tenderloin Station has been dealing with a rash of issues this year that includes everything from graffiti, breaking windows, damaging a building’s facade, and vehicle damage. The consequences can be either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the amount of damage done.

According to SF OpenData, there have been a total of 153 vandalism incidents reported to the SFPD Tenderloin district from Jan. 1 to June 9 this year. That’s well ahead of the 131 vandalism incidents reported last year and 133 reported two years ago in the same six-month time frame. And the numbers recorded are probably not even close to the true amount of incidents because not all of them get reported to the police, said SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan.

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Gatpandan said some of the people living on the street are known to ruin windows by using a glass-etching machine or by tearing down an entire awning. However, sometimes it’s not about replacing a piece of shiny glass or putting up a new canvas.

“Even though it might seem like a petty crime, it does cause damage to these small businesses and we want to make sure that they feel safe and they’re also protected too,” Gatpandan said.

The Central Market and Tenderloin Community Benefit District were contacted several times for a comment but did not return phone calls or reply to emails. The CBDs were established to help local business with management, marketing, security, maintenance, advocacy, economic and community development in the area.

Jay Foster, owner of Farmer Brown restaurant at Mason and Turk streets, said his building hasn’t been hit too often because of his relationship with the people living in the area, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deal with the occasional tagging and broken widows.

Foster said that Farmer Brown has also had his fair share of issues with homeless people coming into the restaurant, especially those from out of town, causing a scene. But his “street credit” allows him to run his business smoothly. The street credit, as he calls it, comes from being in the area for more than a decade and by helping the city employ people at Farmer Brown who live in San Francisco.

Still, Foster mentioned that he senses a shift in the environment over the past three years.

“Even with the changes in the neighborhood, we’ve seen kind of a little bit more desperate people in the neighborhood. Maybe not so much in terms of vandalism, but we see more people trying to come in the restaurant and act crazy or steal purses,” Foster said.

And apart from destruction to the building, the most difficult part to deal with is people throwing trash and using the street as a bathroom.

“On any given day there’s human excrement all around the businesses, which is not really appetizing for people,” Foster said.

There’s been a big push in the Tenderloin to try to get control of some of the activity that’s been on the street but Foster said he thinks it’s just pushing the activity in different directions. He sees people of all kinds just hanging out on the street every day and said he knows it’s really bad for the neighborhood and businesses.

“We’re really respectful of the people,” Foster said. “If you don’t have any place to live, I’m sorry, I’ll try to help you like give you something to eat but you can’t sleep on my doorstep.”

Foster added that he sees is a lot of the same illegal activity on the streets, but what has changed is a heighted frustration in the business community because no real solutions are in the works. The problem is only getting worse from what Foster has seen in past 10 years.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening on the street that’s just not pretty. I don’t understand how that happens. There’s the same group of ten to twenty people who greet me every time I come into work.”

Foster has seen more street presence from the police, but he emphasized that it’s just controlling the problem rather than trying to help the situation. But he brought up the idea that business owners in the neighborhood can do a lot more on their end by trying to improve a relationship with the police and attend local meetings.

“[SFPD] is not going to provide solutions,” Foster said. “The solutions have to come from the community.”

Gatpandan said SFPD is doing what it can to help and it does have a graffiti abatement unit where the group takes different types of graffiti to see if it’s linked to a specific set of previous vandalism crimes in the area or a specific moniker.

Gatpandan said the police encourage business owners to have some type of surveillance footage both inside and out. There used to be the issue of updates and storage space, but nowadays most home security companies handle servers and the storage is endless thanks to cloud computing where accessing footage can easily be viewed on a smartphone.

“These are all things that can help deter crime and if it is happening help get the police there as soon as possible,” Gatpandan said.

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