What is the added enforcement funded by Castro Cares?
Castro Cares funds 32 hours a week of dedicated SF Patrol Special Police on foot and car patrol in the Castro & Upper Market.
What are the SF Patrol Special Police?
Patrol Special Police are the only private neighborhood policing service screened by background checks conducted by the SFPD, annually trained at the San Francisco Police Academy, and regulated by the Police Commission. SF Patrol Special Police provide the only private safety service that is legally permitted to patrol the City’s streets, carry firearms and handcuffs, and is on police radio frequencies.
For Castro Cares, the Patrol Special Police work on Fridays and Saturdays: 7 pm – 7 am and on Sundays from 9 am – 5 pm. This schedule enables Castro Cares to provided added enforcement when SFPD is rarely available. During hours of patrol, officers enforce existing laws, conduct wellness checks on people at risk on the street, assist people in crisis, intervene in shoplifting, call the ambulance when necessary, build relationships with people at risk on the street, are a police presence to encourage a feeling of safety and deter crime.
Daniel Bergerac, (co-owner Mudpuppy’s Tub & Scrub 536 Castro St., immediate-past president Castro Merchants, member Castro Cares Leadership Team), was curious what the Patrol Special really did, so he scheduled a ride-along with the beat owner Cody Clements on August 23rd to truly get a sense of their work and their worth. Daniel sat down with Mark Scheuer (a Duboce Triangle resident, DTNA member and also a member of the Castro Cares Leadership Team) to talk with him about his experience with Patrol Special. Below is the interview Mark had with Daniel:
MS: Why a ride along?
DB: I have been a harsh critic of the Patrol Special Police, I have been one of those people saying, why? What do they do? So, Andrea Aiello, executive director Castro CBD, suggested I find out what they do and ride-along with Cody Clements one night.
MS: What did you do?
DB: We started at 7 p.m. and I rode and walked with him for two-and-a-half hours. I was literally shocked at the level of professionalism and community oriented policing provided.
MS: Community oriented policing? What do you mean?
DB: Cody knew all the street people by name and they knew him. He knew who was trouble and who was not. He was gentle but firm, and they respected him. Repeatedly. as we approached a group spread out on the sidewalk, they would look up, see Cody and begin packing up.
MS: Shouldn’t the police be doing this?
DB: Well yes, I wish we had enough police officers to have real community policing, but we don’t. Mission Station is very busy, especially at night, the Castro just has never had beat cops in the evening. I wish we did….throughout the entire district, down to Octavia.
MS: What else did the Patrol Special Police do that you thought was professional and community minded?
DB: Another example, he approached a group setting up a tent on the sidewalk, he said, hey it’s 8:00 p.m., I’m sorry, you’ve got to take this tent down, and you can’t be getting ready to sleep on the sidewalk. SFPD might come across these folks and say the same thing, but then they get a call and they have to leave in 5 minutes…..the result? The tent remains. Cody stays until they are all packed up and gone. He also asked a few people sleeping in doorways with No Trespassing signs to move, again waiting there until they actually did pack up all their belongings and move.
MS: Do they only focus on the homeless, and isn’t this just harassment?
DB: Actually they are on the police radio so they respond to emergencies they hear on the radio that are in the district. The Patrol Special is often being the first law enforcement to arrive on the scene, because they are already here. I also observed them helping someone out who was too drunk to get home. He called this individual’s friend and waited with him until his friend came to pick him up. Regarding harassment of the homeless – well Cody has water, socks, emergency blankets that he gives out and phone numbers to call if people are ready to accept help. The Patrol Special Police are hired to enforce existing laws. And actually, the folks on the street regard the Patrol Specials as a law enforcement they can trust.
MS: Is Patrol Special Worth it?
DB: YES! So worth it that I signed up my store to be a paying client with the Patrol Special. The funds provided by Castro Cares to support additional hours of Patrol Special in the neighborhood is critical. I urge everyone to chip in to support a healthy and safe commercial district. Donating $25.00 a month is a fantastic way to show your support!