Sunday, August 29, 2004

D5's Somsel on Crime:

REDUCING VIOLENT CRIME
San Francisco has more murders this year than Oakland. Many of us wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of gunshots. I've been forced to wait for hours to enter my house while they removed a murder victim from my doorway. This is not the San Francisco that I know and love. This is not an issue that we can let fester the way we let the homeless problem persist. We need to take immediate action to get this under control. This is no longer the wild west. If we want to be a world class city, we can't have people gunning each other down in the streets on a regular basis. There are short term actions that we can take to immediately reduce the number of murders, but there are also long term structural changes that need to be made that will prevent murders in the future.

Short-term solutions
* More cops on the beat. In high-crime areas like the Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, and the Western Addition, the visibility of police officers can serve as a deterrent to violent crimes.
* Amnesty and enforcement. The DA needs to aggressively prosecute illegal weapons violations – while offering amnesty to those that turn in their illegal weapons. We need to get the guns off the street.
* Summer jobs programs. Kids with too much time on their hands get into trouble. The City needs to expand and better publicize the programs that already exist.
* More money for police. There are not enough police officers on the force, DNA testing is backlogged for more than a year, and detectives don’t have access to enough vehicles and frequently do not go to crime scenes.
* More money for the DA’s office. Without the proper equipment or staffing, we can’t expect the DA’s office to adequately do their job.

Long-term solutions
* Improve the school system. I support Arlene Ackerman in instituting “Dream Schools” that will raise the standards of education for those that have the talent and motivation to do well in school.
* More community centers. Many children in our District have no place to go after school. Community/recreation centers provide a safe environment for children to help bridge the gap between school and home.
* Create more hope. Many children who later become criminals don’t realize that they have other options. They can go to college – there are plenty of programs available to pay for college and many ways to get there, even for those that haven’t graduated from high school. There are job options--other than dealing drugs--where they can make good money without having to worry about getting shot or going to jail. We need to improve the outreach to “at risk” children.
* Police/Community integration. The police need to work with the community to control crime, instead of being a force that comes from “outside”. Our District needs more police accountability, more effective communication between officers and community members, and police officers who live/grew up in the neighborhoods they patrol. The police should be seen as an ally, not an enemy.
* More homeownership. Families that own their own home have more of a stake in the community. The City needs to build more affordable housing specifically for homeowners.
* The Mayor’s ten year plan to end homelessness. Currently, 40% of the inmates at the county jail are homeless. As more permanent housing comes available for the homeless, fewer will end up incarcerated, thus freeing up those spaces for real criminals.

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