Saturday, February 23, 2008

Third Thursday a Hit at Upper Crust

Bayview Footprints Collaboration of Community-Building Groups hosted its Third Thursday gathering at Upper Crust Deli on Third Street this past week. John Loftus, new captain of the Bayview Police Station, was the featured speaker.

It was standing room only as about 25 residents packed Third Street's newest deli to eat, socialize and participate in a dialogue with Captain Loftus. Challenging issues were raised, and frustration with crime in familiar "hot spots" around the neighborhood became evident.

Residents expressed concern about turnover and consistency of leadership in the police department, shortcomings of truancy laws and policies in San Francisco, cultural sensitivity of officers and over-enthusiastic new recruits, respect for our community and levels of service that are unequal with other neighborhoods, and the perception of Bayview held by both residents and people outside the neighborhood that isn't always accurate.

Captain Loftus made it clear that he was available and accessible. He encouraged residents to call him directly when issues he is in a position to address arise. He characterized the Bayview Police Station as one of the largest and most active of all San Francisco stations. As a training station, we benefit from a larger number of officers on the streets. And, while command is rotated every two or three years, there are many officers who have been with the Bayview Station for a long time.

Residents cited both encouraging examples of police action, and examples that caused concern (such as the video scandle). Captain Loftus offered his perspective that the neighborhood is moving in the right direction. It has changed visibly since he last worked here ten years ago, he said. And a systems trend toward community policing, which is happening both in San Francisco and around the country, benefits from shared responsibility between law enforcement and the community.

One resident pointed out that residents in Bayview are among the most highly-involved in the life of their community, but that the problems persist. "We need to form strategies that meet the challenges. It's like the wild west out here," she said.

Captain Loftus repeated his willingness to work with community members, and encouraged a partnership concept between law enforcement and the community. He spent nearly two hours with community members Thursday evening, just one of a string of meetings and events that have already become routine just six weeks into his new position.

Residents applauded him for his participation in the gathering, and applauded the owners and workers of Upper Crust who kept the deli open late for Third Thursday.

Bayview Footprints wishes to express its gratitude to Captain Loftus, Upper Crust, and to everyone who turned out to make the Third Thursday event meaningful.

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