Making a Safer San Francisco
The public safety challenges facing our city are personal for me — I have lived many of them. I grew up in a San Francisco very different from what many have experienced: a place called Plaza East, notoriously one of the most dangerous public housing developments in the City.
I know what it’s like to grow up in a community ravaged by drugs and violence, held down by unemployment, and held back by neglect. I’ve lost friends; I’ve lost family to gunfire, drugs, and despair. I remember trying to do homework or fill out college applications while people were fighting or even shooting just outside our window.
Now, years later, and living only a few blocks away, I know what it’s like to have your car window broken not once, but repeatedly, even when you had nothing inside to steal. I see the shards of glass on our streets every day, shining with a subtle, unacceptable reminder: “This crime is everywhere.” We cannot let that continue.
After more than 20 years of decreasing crime rates, we are seeing troubling new spikes in property crimes (particularly car break-ins), unsafe street behavior and, in some neighborhoods, even violent crimes. In the Castro, around the Panhandle, South of Market, Lower Pacific Heights, and on the West Side of the City, crime is in many ways getting worse. And street behavior, whether downtown or in any of our neighborhoods, is often out of control.
San Francisco needs a Mayor who will make all our neighborhoods safe, a Mayor with a record of standing up for public safety and fighting for the resources we need. I am that Mayor.
My Public Safety Record
- As Acting Mayor, I supported an overhaul of our response to property crimes, working with Police Chief Bill Scott to create dedicated teams of officers at all 10 police stations to focus on stopping property crimes like car break-ins.
- I helped bring new beat officers to Chinatown and increase police foot patrols during the holiday season, enhancing safety for shoppers Downtown and along all of our merchant corridors.
- I’ve helped put 400 new police officers on the street, including bilingual officers, and fund body cameras for every officer on the force.
- I cast the deciding vote in support of legislation to increase police staffing levels as our population and neighborhoods grow.
- As Acting Mayor, I worked with local, regional, and national law enforcement agencies to respond to a threatened terrorist attack on Pier 39.
- I wrote legislation to curb car break-ins in tourist hot spots and commercial corridors, through collaboration with rental car companies.
- I support Senator Scott Wiener’s SB-916 which will fix a loophole in the law that has allowed automobile burglars to avoid justice.
- In 2016, I wrote legislation calling for the Obama administration’s Justice Department to review SFPD’s use of force policies. The Justice Department’s investigation ultimately resulted in 272 official recommendations to improve our police department.
- In partnership with Supervisor Malia Cohen, I supported two different ballot measures to improve police oversight, one requiring investigations of officer-involved shootings and another reforming our Department of Police Accountability. Both passed with 81% voter support.
Fire & Emergency Medicine
- I was the only public official to stand up for our residents and first responders during the ambulance crisis in 2014. I fought for more ambulances, more staffing, and more resources.
- And I delivered — $47.3 million to hire EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, and 911 dispatchers, buy new ambulances and fire trucks, improve facilities, and invest in new technology.
- Through our work, ambulance response times decreased by more than 26%, saving critical minutes for San Franciscans in emergency situations.
- Year after year I have secured budget allocations for Fire Department needs, including arson investigators and an arson supervisor.
- Tangible achievements like these, and my experience as a former San Francisco Fire Commissioner, are why I earned the SOLE ENDORSEMENT of the San Francisco Firefighters.
Public Health, Graffiti, Seismic Safety
- I worked with Mayor Lee to write and pass the $350 million Public Health and Safety Bond, which passed with nearly 80% voter support in 2016. The bond is now funding $272 million in safety improvements for fire and healthcare facilities, $58 million toward a new ambulance center and modernizing fire stations, and $20 million in homeless shelters.
- I completely rewrote the City’s graffiti policies, creating a high-tech evidence system that is stopping the worst graffiti offenders. When the criminal justice system fails to stand up for victims of graffiti, my legislation empowers the City Attorney to pursue serial offenders in civil court.
- Shortly after joining the Board of Supervisors, I supported and helped pass legislation to retrofit thousands of seismically unsafe buildings around the City, protecting nearly 3,000 rent-controlled buildings with 60,000 residents.
- As a member of the City’s Capital Planning Committee, I’ve helped fix the City’s infrastructure and plan for sea level rise.
My Public Safety Agenda
Stopping the Property Crime Wave
San Francisco confronts two related problems: rising property crime, particularly car break-ins, and the impression that there are no consequences for the crimes committed here.
Property crimes in the City spiked by 24% from 2016 to 2017. We can change this.
- More Police Officers
I worked with Mayor Lee to hire 400 new police officers, and as Mayor I plan to add at least 200 more, building a force that reflects our communities and speaks our languages. Almost 25 years ago, voters passed a minimum police staffing level of 1,971 officers. The City has consistently failed to meet that minimum, even as we have grown by 100,000 residents and are poised to grow by another 150,000. Not only is San Francisco’s population expanding, but property crime is skyrocketing and we need more officers to investigate crime. SFPD statistics show that there were roughly 13,000 car break-ins in 2012, compared to 31,000 break-ins in 2017. That’s a whopping 138% increase! With an average of one car burglary happening every 17 minutes, we need to give SFPD the resources it needs to help tackle the City’s property crime epidemic every day. We need to hire more police officers — and I am the only candidate who has done that in the past and will do it again. I will work with the officers’ union, the San Francisco Police Officers Association, to advance public safety, look out for the officers who serve our city, and improve police-community relations.
- Consequences for Breaking the Law
There must be real consequences for those who commit crimes in our neighborhoods. I will add more neighborhood prosecutors in our district stations to work with residents, crime victims, and police, to prioritize and prosecute these crimes. I will reform the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) system so that the worst re-offenders are not mistakenly released just to victimize residents again. If someone is charged with a felony home or auto burglary, for example, they should AT LEAST have to go before a judge before being released. I will also introduce legislation empowering the City Attorney to pursue repeat offenders in Civil Court, so that if the criminal justice system doesn’t stop them, a lawsuit will. I did this already with graffiti offenses and it is working. And with adequate staffing, if you call to report a break-in, or any crime, officers should come quickly and take your concerns seriously.
- Predictive Policing
As Acting Mayor, I worked with Police Chief Bill Scott to create dedicated teams at all 10 District Stations focused specifically on property crimes. These teams will coordinate with the General Crimes Unit to track, identify, and monitor serial offenders across districts, generating a data-driven citywide response. The teams will also work closely with community groups on crime prevention strategies. This strategy has already been working in the Taraval and Mission District stations, and expanding it to the eight other stations is critical.
Unfortunately, we will still have to educate residents and visitors alike on how best to prevent car break-ins. Easier targets are harder to protect. I passed legislation requiring rental car companies to inform their customers about how to protect themselves. I also worked with neighbors in my district to post signs warning people not to leave valuables in their cars, and we actually saw a near 50% reduction in break-ins! Education alone can’t stop thieves, nor eliminate the organized crime rings that commit many of the break-ins, but it is a key to reducing break-ins.
Continuing to Improve our Fire Department
I want every San Francisco resident and visitor to know that if they need help, our brave men and women will be there quickly, with the best equipment available, and the resources they need. I fought the ambulance crisis in 2014, and I don’t want anyone in an emergency to ever have to wait 15 or 20 minutes for an ambulance again!
I am a former Fire Commissioner. I’ve helped fund tens of millions of dollars in staffing, equipment, and facility improvements. I have been the fiercest, most consistent advocate for our Fire Department, and I will continue to be, so that help always comes when help is called for.
Criminal Justice Reforms to Make San Francisco Safer
The criminal justice system’s objective should be to protect everyone’s safety and prevent recidivism. Yet many of the policies of the last several decades have done precisely the opposite, ruining lives and wasting taxpayer money. Rethinking some of these policies can make us all safer.
- Sanctuary City
When I served as Acting Mayor and the Trump administration threatened to arrest local officials for our sanctuary policies, I said, “I wouldn’t mind going to jail” to protect our immigrant communities. I support our sanctuary policies 100%. Immigrants must feel safe to report crimes, call the Fire Department, or serve as a witness, without fear of deportation or harassment. That makes all of us safer.
- Police Reform
I’ve been a consistent advocate for reforming our police practices and working with federal and state partners to improve our police department and strengthen relationships with all our communities. De-escalation training, a multi-lingual police force, transparency, and close community connections will make officers and the public safer.
- Ending Mass Incarceration
The U.S. imprisons a higher share of its people than any other country in the world — more than Russia, way more than China. This has not made us safer. Rather it has gutted communities of color, wasted billions of dollars, and only created more offenders. Much of the incarceration is for drug offenses, which is why I support a regulated, safe, and equitable cannabis industry.
- Re-Integration NOT Recidivism
People coming out of jail need a path back into society: access to a job, a place to live, supportive services. We’ve seen what happens without it: they commit more crimes and return to jail, which is worse for everyone. As Mayor I will invest in drug and mental health treatment, job placement programs, and barrier removal for those re-entering our communities. Last week, I introduced legislation to make San Francisco the first city in the country to eliminate onerous booking and parole fees. These fees cost us more to administer than we collect, and all they do is make it harder for people to get back on their feet. Our re-entry population needs a fighting chance to turn their lives around. Their success is better for us all.
- Smart Policing
Our police officers should not be the first point of contact for all homelessness issues. It’s a misuse of their time, and it doesn’t solve the problem. Those struggling with drug addiction and mental illness respond to treatment, not handcuffs. I have been a leader on these issues for years, advancing safe injection sites, for example, to get drug use and syringes off our streets, reduce overdoses, and free police officers to focus on things like car break-ins.
Facing the Controversial Issues
There are difficult public safety issues facing our next Mayor, and San Franciscans deserve to know where the candidates stand. Whether you agree or disagree with me on an issue, my position will always be clear and my door always open.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) conducted a thorough review of the SFPD’s policies and practices, motivated by requests from Mayor Lee, myself, and others. The DoJ report contained 94 findings and 272 best practice recommendations, one of which was for the SFPD to implement tasers.
I respect the judgement of the Obama Justice Department. I respect SFPD Chief Scott. I respect the careful deliberation and decision of our Police Commission. I recognize that Sheriff Deputies in City Hall, where I work every day, carry tasers. And with all I’ve seen and experienced in my life, I HATE GUNS. I hate guns. If tasers — with thorough training and oversight — can stop one shooting, then I support tasers.
I will fund their implementation. And NO ONE will be more vigilant than me in making sure they are implemented and used appropriately.
A group of defense attorneys are trying to unseat four San Francisco Superior Court Judges in the June election. I stand with our sitting judges, Andrew Cheng, Cynthia Ming-mei Lee, Curtis Karnow, and Jeffrey Ross. Judge Lee is the first Asian female presiding judge in the City’s history. Judge Karnow was critical to saving City College. All four are qualified, thoughtful leaders.
The threshold for removing judges from office has always been high, because we need judges to be shielded from politics — just as we need our justice system to be shielded from politics. Judges Lee, Cheng, Karnow, and Ross have served our community and courts honorably, and nothing in their records suggests they should be removed from office.
Aggressive Street Behavior & Mental Health Challenges
The national opioid crisis has not left San Francisco untouched. We’ve witnessed a heartbreaking explosion in opioid abuse, and a related rise in unacceptable street behavior. This epidemic is felt not only by those who are struggling with substance abuse, but by our neighbors, small businesses and children who encounter discarded needles on their doorsteps and in our parks.
At the same time, our mental health system has failed to help hundreds of people, who are now left to face their challenges alone, on the street.
I am working every day to improve our drug treatment and mental health practices. I introduced local legislation to work in concert with Senator Scott Wiener’s state legislation to improve our conservatorship laws and help those struggling with mental health and substance abuse.
Street behavior and mental health touch several important policy areas: public safety, homelessness, and public health. I outline my plans to address these policy areas and much more in my Homelessness Platform.
My Public Safety Vision
I grew up in an unpredictable, and at times dangerous, environment here in San Francisco. I’ve seen things get better, and sadly I’ve seen some things get worse. For a public servant, there is no job more important than providing for the safety of the people you serve, and I have worked every day to do just that.
As Mayor, I will fight for all of us — longtime residents, our immigrant communities, communities of color, women, seniors, the LGBTQ community, and everyone who lives, works, and visits San Francisco. My public safety vision is very simple:
Whoever you are, wherever you are, you should always feel safe in San Francisco: safe to park your car and know it will be in one piece when you return; safe enjoying our parks or walking the streets of our neighborhoods; and safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens in Washington, D.C., your Mayor will always fight for you in San Francisco.