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MEETING WITH DA BROOKE JENKINS


The Inner Mission Neighborhood met with DA Brooke Jenkins on December 1 at the La Scuola International School at 18th and Shotwell. We would like to thank Dani Sollberger and the staff at La Scuola for graciously hosting the meeting and for helping set up a space for us. Thank you to DA Jenkin's Staff, Lilly Rapson and Lee-Ann for their help in setting the meeting up and to all who participated to make the meeting a great success.





MINUTES OF IMNA MEETING WITH DA BROOKE JENKINS

December 1, 2022

La Scuola International School


IMNA: I want to start by saying that San Francisco, for the last six years, has been dysfunctional and this dysfunction manifests itself worse in vulnerable communities like the Mission. Going forward, we want to see real policy reform that restores our neighborhoods to a livable condition. We want to see the supervisors, mayor, the district attorney, the public defender, and the police doing their jobs to the best of their ability and with accountability to us, the residents of San Francisco.


We all realize that the DA does not have control over homeless policy. However, the resulting bad conduct of people living in encampments diminishes resident’s basic right to live in a clean and safe neighborhood. As of today, there have been encampments, constantly, since 2019, that abut my neighbors, Olga and Jorge’s, apartment at 26th and Shotwell. People in these encampments do drugs and the vapors invade Olga’s apartment, they play loud music, they throw bottles of piss into her small yard and have climbed the fence to steal things. Her young daughter is in such fear of these people she is unable to fall asleep. How has this impacted her school work? How has her sleep deprivation and anxiety impacted her ability to succeed in life? Apparently, San Francisco’s politicians have not bother to ask these questions.


Ayman Farahat of Friends Jose Coronado Playground sees people consuming alcohol by the playground, cooking with open flame, and encampments that block access to the playground due to debris, tents, and other items. How do these obstacles impact the children who need to use this playground?


The Mission is slow to recover from the pandemic because of horrible conditions on our sidewalks. My Walgreens on Mission and Cesar Chavez was shut because of rampant shoplifting and two other stores recently closed in the same vicinity leaving this neighborhood vulnerable to more encampments, graffiti, and illegal activity. Many other low-level crimes plague the Mission. Fencing stolen goods, illegal dumping, chop shops, littering, public peeing, human feces on our sidewalks and front steps, are just a few issues we deal with on a daily basis.


Having clean and safe sidewalks help our families and children to flourish and our businesses to grow. Society functions because of laws and laws need to be enforced for the benefit and good of everyone.


The IMNA put together three questions from community input:


1. What are specific programs or policies you would implement to counteract or reduce these crimes and increase our sense of safety?

2. Is there any possibility of reinstating investigations into nuisances per California State law 372 or any other program that would help resolve nuisance situations?

3. How do you foresee your tenure as District Attorney improving the lives of Mission Residents?


DA JENKINS RESPONSE


Brook Jenkins started the meeting acknowledging the particular struggles that residents in our neighborhood face that are distinct to the Mission and not more affluent areas. She expressed regret for what we are dealing with and a desire to make a change.


Dealing Drugs and Open Drug Use

Jenkins stated that her office could not tolerate that type of behavior on our streets and turning a blind eye to these types of offenses is no longer an option. Her office instituted a new law that drug offenders will be forgiven their first five citations before being prosecuted. It does not, however, always mean jailing offenders. instead, they need to route people into treatment.


She stated that since taking office, she has aspired to open communications with police by asking them how they handled law enforcement and working within her office to understand what they could do to work in unison to address issues in an appropriate manner.


Encampments

DA Jenkins stated that we cannot prosecute ourselves out of homelessness, it’s a much bigger problem than that. Therefore, she does not feel that the DA office is the first line of attack and that the DA should be the final stop after every other course of action has failed..


However, when people refuse to honor the law after having been offered services and housing and they are simply making a choice to obstruct and deteriorate the environment there should be repercussions. She has been consulting with the DPA, DPW, Mayor’s office, and police to come to an agreement on a city wide strategy on dealing with this issue and come up with a uniform strategy on how to provide service. If someone is headset on staying on the sidewalks, she believes there has to be an agreed city wide mechanism to remove them.


She believes that when everything is tried and failed the DA office should be the backdrop so there is someway to help people off the street so that people who live in the city can live with quality of life.


Prostitution

She has been meeting with residents on Capp regarding prostitution and is working with SFPD and community as to how they can work together to solve this problem.


Accountibility

In her meetings with Mission groups she is noticing that more residents are standing up and saying “you (officials) have to be accountable to us.” She is, therefore, instilling in her office the tenant that when someone does something illegal and harmful to the community, it will not be tolerated. Getting a free pass from committing crime is over and that a level of disorder and recklessness will no longer be tolerated.


She has, since taking office, been renewing a relationship with the SFPD to work to restore and improve the working relationship with them. She has gone to several stations to let the police know that what people want is for everyone to do their jobs. The days when they can say we will not arrest because the DA office is not going to do prosecute is over. She believes they need to work at their highest level and if they do good police work and bring the DA's office a case, the police need to trust that there will be accountability. So far, since she took over the DA office there has been 100 more arrest on average per month.


Questions From the Audience

Q. What can residents do to hold officials accountable. The conditions in front of his house are so bad his wife and 2-year-old child moved out leaving him alone. He has seen robberies and been assaulted. Nothing seems to happen to hold people accountable.


DA: The DA office lost 60 lawyers in the last administration and most of them had many years of experience. She has had to hire younger attorneys who have come up in a system where accountability was not what it needed to be. She is working now to instill in them what a proper form of accountability will look like.


Not every case goes through Jenkins so she is hiring managers to work with lawyers in her office to come up with what a fair resolution should be. To aid residents to access what the DA’s office is doing, she intends to publish data of case outcomes rather than just charging outcomes. Charging just states whether the DA office decided to charge a person but she wants the data to indicate how the case plays out by obtaining that information from the courts and synthesizing it to make it available on the DA’s website.


Q. What are your priorities?


BJ: drug dealing, drug use, and violence against Asians.


As she has been meeting with community groups she has learned graffiti is always an issue so she has also made this a priority. She found out that the SFPD was not prosecuting graffiti as they were eight years ago when she worked in misdemeanors. Prosecution of graffiti did not mean jail time. There was a program where taggers went with police to clean up graffiti. There had to be some form of accountability so they are reestablishing a similar program where taggers do community service.


Q. (From Dani at Scuola) The school where we met has a large parent community. Parents want to know what they can do individually to improve conditions around the school.


BJ: She believes it is more effective when neighborhood associations call everyone to the table. That way officials can’t blame other offices (pass the buck, so to speak). If one official deflects, it allows that other agency to respond so that everyone is held accountable DA Jenkins stated “your tax dollars are paying for your city to function in a certain way. When everyone is seated at the table they are forced to be more honest and to take ownership of the problems we’re all experiencing.”


Q. Jose Coronado playground has a group of people who are breaking in to the park and displaying bad behavior (his son was punched in the face and another person threatened a neighbor with a lead pipe). These situations take too long to resolve and there is systemic dysfunction because different agencies have compartmentalized what they can do and not do.


BJ: Often leaders speak for us and they don’t often tell our version. So if officials create a narrative that we, the public, don’t mind bad behavior (drug use, etc.), it indicates to them that they should not enforce those laws. It is essential that we define the narrative by bringing officials together and voicing your concern.


Q. Believes that five citations before arrest of drug users are too many and would like to see more police on the beat (patrolling by foot) to make it clear to unruly people, people drinking, and drug dealers/users that the streets are being supervised and illegal activity will not be tolerated.


BJ: the DA’s office plans to periodically access policy and refining them. She is finding that people in communities have been saying five citations before arrest is too many. Regarding foot patrols, the fact is that the SFPD are low staffed. She hope to create an en environment where people want to be police officers and stay on as police officers. She will discuss with Captain McEachern the fact that people want to see more foot patrols.


She further explained that much work and red tape are keeping police off the street for hours and when there are 25 police officers short at each station this can diminish the police’s ability to be effective. For example, recently there have been many constraints on police to make policing better regarding the use excessive force, etc. However, some of these constraints have gone too far diminishing officer’s ability to do their job. There are ways to create better policing without banning what police need to do to make arrests. In the past, if an officer so much as apply light force, say, to push someone towards the police car, etc., a complaint could be made causing the officer to have a sergeant review the issue and taking the officer off the street. Sadly, such rigorous review has created an attitude where police don’t want to engage because they can be taken off duty for the rest of their shift. When the police and DA are at the table, they can build a bridge and work together to access how to best address issues like what is too much force and how to create conscientious policing while still staying effective.


IMNA CONCLUSION


DA Jenkins hit the right tone. We hope to have more meetings to access the success of her agenda regarding the conditions in our neighborhoods.

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