How is This Problem Ignored?

It’s easier to ignore a problem than to solve it. At least that’s what I tell myself when I see how the City ignores what’s going on along Sixth Street.

Thankfully, there are local residents such as Bluoz Blog who are trying to raise awareness of what can only be described as an open-air drug market where ‘anything goes’ without significant punishment.

For example, this video that was recently posted at Bluoz. You don’t have to watch for 10 seconds before you see a man passed out in his van, with three lines of “white, powdery substance” resting on his console. But it gets worse, moments after the camera finds this guy, someone tries to rob the man from the other side of the vehicle.

From there, the video just bombards you with all the problems that San Francisco likes to ‘pretend’ aren’t there. While they worry about “Walk First” Surveys and tripling the rent in South Beach, nobody seems to pay any mind to the empty syringes on the sidewalk, countless people using the alleyway as a bathroom, or the guy walking down the street with what seriously looks like a stolen bicycle.

Where are the police? Just because they don’t have a substation along Sixth Street doesn’t mean they can’t have a couple officers who spend their day walking back and forth from Folsom to Market. How many people need to be mugged or beaten before somebody looks at this issue?

A couple of weeks ago, I found another local citizen blog from an alleyway along Sixth. The blog is appropriately titled “Old Dirty Alley.” While he doesn’t update it too often, when he does, it’s usually some pretty f#@ked up sh*t- from people changing buttock-wound bandages in a dirty alcove to his “Poop of the Day” post, which (thankfully) isn’t a daily feature, but still gives you an idea of how the people along Sixth Street treat themselves and their part of the neighborhood.

Both Bluoz and ODA have been around for years, chronicling and archiving the problems in the area, but aside from the occasional local media inquiry, they don’t seem to gather too much traction. I’m not going to pretend that Jane Kim and the rest of the Supervisors, along with the SFPD don’t know about these issues. But for some reason, bedbugs have taken a higher priority than doing something about this mess.

So my question remains, Substation or not, why can’t the Police do something about the open air drug and crime market along Sixth Street? 

8 Comments

  1. The reason they don’t patrol there is that there are no major businesses along 6th from Market to Folsom. There are cops around there, but they spend all their time on Market between 5th and 6th. If you’ve ever been to the newly opened art store there, you can’t help but pass at least two cops during the day.

    As for why the cops don’t do anything, what do you suggest they do? The best they can do is arrest a few drug users and drive the rest out to settle in some other part of the city. Then, in a few years, you’ll be wondering why cops don’t do anything about wherever they wind up.

    Why do the politicians do nothing? It’s a lose/lose situation. There is no easy fix, so any attempt will be seen as a failure, not to mention the outrage the city shows if a politician so much as mentions the homeless problem.

    All I see in this article is more whining, care to suggest a viable solution? because I certainly don’t have one.

  2. First of all, how do you discount all of the businesses along 6th Street as insignificant? I’m sure Passion Cafe, Split Pea Seduction, Rancho Parnasus, and Miss Saigon would disagree with your assessment. What, just because they don’t have 5,000 square feet, they’re not major?

    I commend all of them, as well as Blick for agreeing to open along that corridor, despite folks like you who say that ignoring the problem is the only solution.

    From what I gather about your comment, you’re in favor of just leaving this problem alone, so long as it doesn’t step outside of Sixth Street or the Tenderloin? What about the people who live there? Specifically the people who don’t want broken drug vials and bottles of Thunderbird on their doorstep?

    YES, I feel that a police presence along Sixth Street, making arrests rather than turning the other way would definitely help the problem. It wouldn’t completely solve the problem, because it’s obviously a huge issue. But it would perhaps contain the issue a little more so that there aren’t people mugging, doing drugs and urinating on the street in broad daylight.

    Also, why is “whining” about this issue a bad thing? You would prefer that everyone turn their heads? I’m not convinced that that’s a viable solution either. At least “whining” potentially opens a discussion. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

  3. The community justice court was a step in the right direction, but does not seem to be having an impact on the day-to-day 6th Street scene. Even when the police do their job rounding up the baddies, the DA has historically just turned ‘em back out onto the street within days if not hours. With a new DA–a former police chief, no less–perhaps this will change.

    City policy is not helping, either. There has been a longtime trend towards concentrating the “behaviorally challenged” along the 6th Street corridor via provided housing and behavioral services (e.g., rehab).

    Hmm, what a great idea–housing and treating addicts within an open-air drug market.

  4. The whole situation reminds me of a real-life scenario from Season 3 of the Wire, when they make a specific area a “legal” area to sell and do drugs by containing the problem. That is, until enough people find out about it in the media and cause a shit-storm.

    A Great montage of that season here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoiJRKwiC1Y

  5. While I disagree with Lyle’s sentiment that there are no major businesses in the area (I think there are businesses for sure; how one defines “major” is a different story altogether), I think his comment is right in many other areas. How do you help the homeless and drug addicts on 6th Street when they don’t necessarily want your help? We can shoo them away, but they will inevitably settle somewhere else.

    And it is such a wide-stemming problem that it would take a wholehearted, cross-departmental effort in order to even begin to chip away at it. I think as long as the crime doesn’t spread, city officials would much rather tackle less daunting problems, ones that actually stand a chance as being solved.

    I bike down Mission starting from 11th to get to work in the Financial District, and it’s really amazing how the landscape changes. From 11th to 8th, it’s not that bad. From 7th until past 6th, it can be real dicey with shifty characters milling about. Then, from 5th on down to the water, it’s malls and corporate buildings, suit-and-tie types. It’s almost like it’s a self-contained problem, which might be why police aren’t exactly panicking to develop a solution.

    Still, I think attention should be drawn, and videos like the one above should be shot and distributed so those who don’t know can see that the 6th Street corridor is a part of this City, and is not doing so well.

  6. hey thanks for saying something, at least. One solution that has never happen3ed, hold the SRO owners accountable for the nuisance they allow into their buildings, which then spills onto the street..This would be mostly the Patels, who own most of the SRO’s now

    At my SRO at 34 6th street, the original owners didn’t let anybody in unless they had a job first, and therefore it was very nice and no problems for years. Then the Patels bought in 1999 and within hours it was crackhead city and it’s still that way now.

    It was a huge difference like night and day within hours. in fact, many SRO’s didn’t used to be filled with dope fiends years ago until the Patels bought them, and now it’s actually contracted with the city to keep it that way

    And yet nobody is responsible for it. but I’ve seen with my own eyes how a responsible owner/manager can maintain an SRO without dope fiends

    the problem is there’s no political will to do it, because the city and randy Shaw have targeted SRO’s to house the homeless..But remember, it was not like that for quite a few SRO’s years ago…The SRO’s were originally for working people, longshoremen and such

    this is what has change

  7. Jeff,

    Thanks for your comments. I completely agree, and have heard NOTHING but the same exact sentiments about the Patels, over and over. Perhaps they should be held accountable as they are currently trying to add another SRO to the neighborhood near 5th and Harrison, and that part of the neighborhood is equally concerned about the Patels moving back in.

    Apparently they used to run a building at the same spot and it was basically an extension of what Sixth Street is today.

    I had a meeting with a number of businesses along Sixth Street just last week, and they are finding it hard to keep their storefronts clean of urine and feces, as well as empty open containers and other rubbish. I have no idea how much of that is related to the drug problem (I would imagine a lot of it), but they also suggested that a lot of the problem is that many of the residents of these SRO’s don’t seem to be educated in a sense that they know how to act in public/engage themselves in the Community.

    With that said, perhaps the police as well as the City should focus a little more attention on teaching these folks to respect their environment a little more. Now, given that is a simple solution to a very complex issue, so it wouldn’t be an end-all, but it might help a little if, say someone is busted for pissing on the street, they are sentenced to a day of community service clean-up around the Sixth Street Corridor.

    Enforcement is also an issue here, but if you had folks who deface the property, working to clean it up a little more, perhaps they would think twice about doing the same in the future.

    As it currently is, many businesses will clean their entry-ways in the morning, and have to do so again in about three hours. With jail cells overcrowded, perhaps something can be done with this concept? Who knows.

    I was just invited to a meeting with Supervisor Kim and one of the Police Chiefs who are working on the Sixth Street Substation, as well as some of the local businesses along that corridor, so I’ll be sure to discuss this exact topic with them, as well as raise the issue of holding SRO’s accountable. Thanks again for the suggestion.

  8. here’s one example with Urban Solutions, who is located just off 6th street and who helps fund business to open up on 6th street…

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/credo/2011/02/social-entrepreneur-jenny-mcnulty-urban-solutions

    Even she acknowledges the drug problem. It isn’t just poverty, it’s a ton of people who just don’t give a shit, about anything. And drugs contribute to that in a big way
    I know that Mythic Pizza closed down because of constant trouble from my neighbors, some of which I have on video. Urban Solutions helped them get started, but now they closed up shop, and were replaced by yet another pizza place, with more money from Urban Solutions

    So I know of one storefront on 6th street that had to be funded twice so far.

    The community courts were supposed to make people who deface property clean that up, but I hardly ever see the results on 6th street

    BTW, property owners can be held responsible for the nuisance of their tenants, even when it occurs outside the building. There’s already been lawsuits about it and I’ll post some juicy examples soon

    This is actually similar to where the city attorney is filing civil gang injunctions, because of nuisance laws in the Mission, so maybe the city attorney can get some pressure regarding the TL and 6th street

    part of the problem with the TL and 6th street is there are few people/businesses with enough means to fight back/file suit. This is what happens when you get too high a concentration of dope fiends in one area, because it pushes normal people out and becomes a certified ghetto/containment zone

    that’s a bad mistake in policy where even federal low income housing authorities strongly urge spreading out low income among a more normal populace, instead of concentrating them in on area

    SRO’s are probably the worst place you can put homeless, especially when the SRO becomes exclusive to that population…you’re guaranteed to have problems that spill over into the neighborhood. Much of the problem with drugs is sheer proximity, when somebody can just walk down the hall and score in 30 seconds flat

    ya get the idea?

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