Multiple Safety Programs Created to Address Community Concerns
(San Francisco – November 9, 2013) In September 2013, Excelsior Action Group (EAG) received funding from District 11 Supervisor Avalos and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to focus on neighborhood safety improvements. The organizations was able to hire Gwynn Mackellen as Safety Coordinator to work with merchants, residents, city staff, and EAG’s Safety Committee members on improving the sense of security and quality of life along the commercial corridor. During the months of August and September, Excelsior Action Group (EAG) collected over one-hundred-and-sixty Hot Spot surveys in-person and online from merchants, residents, and attendees of the Excelsior Festival. These questionnaires asked people to report safety concerns in the Excelsior neighborhood and locations where these issues were a problem. The resulting data was mapped to pinpoint the greatest concentrations of reported “hot spots”. Using this information, EAG conducted a Hot Spot Walk on October 2nd with Supervisor John Avalos, Captain Timothy Falvey and officers from the Ingleside Police Station, a superintendent from Department of Public Works, Safety Coordinator from Excelsior Community Center, Excelsior Safety Committee members, and other neighborhood stakeholders. During the walk, we discussed issues that the City could work with the community on improving. As a result, trash was cleaned up, the greenery in the median along Alemany Blvd was trimmed, street lights were fixed, and two arrests were made at a “hot spot” shortly after.
In order to ensure that dark street lights get repaired across the Excelsior, EAG’s Lights Out Walk on October 25th focused specifically on this issue. Improved lighting can reduce crime by ten percent, and in order for broken lights to be replaced in a timely manner, community members need to be vigilant about reporting them. The walk engaged local students and residents by teaming up to tackle sections of the neighborhood and call in outages to 3-1-1. This event resulted in brighter streets in time for Halloween.
Quality of life issues, such as graffiti and littering, are a common complaint by those who live, work, and shop in the Excelsior. Cleaner streets generate a sense of community pride and help break the cycle of neighborhood degradation. Therefore, EAG sponsored a cleanup on November 2nd along the Excelsior business corridor with Department of Public Works Graffiti Watch Program to paint over tagging and sweep up trash.
The safety of vulnerable road users is a prime concern. Collisions impacting pedestrians increase dramatically after the end of Daylight Saving Time as people travel after dark. Improving visibility is one way to ensure the safety of those traveling by foot, bike, or skateboard. On November 8th EAG passed out reflectors to commuters at transit stops to make them easier to see by car drivers, and providing pedestrian and bicycling safety information in the three languages most common in the Excelsior.
Civil complaint alleges that Net Stop’s on-site computerized slot machines violate state and local law, draw more criminal activity, and create a neighborhood nuisance
SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 7, 2013)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed suit against an Excelsior District Internet cafe for an illegal on-site gambling operation and related nuisances that have been responsible for more than 200 calls to police since opening its doors a year ago. The complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning alleges that Net Stop Business Center is violating state and local law by maintaining computerized slot machine games that allow customers to purchase electronic “points” and then redeem their winnings for cash.
The opening of Net Stop at Mission Street and Excelsior Avenue corresponded with the beginning of a dramatic increase in criminal activity in the area, according to Herrera’s complaint. Net Stop’s location was the subject of two calls for service made to the San Francisco Police Department between Nov. 2011 and Oct. 2012, but in the year leading up to Oct. 2013, police responded to complaints involving Net Stop’s location on no less than 202 occasions.
“Gambling is strictly regulated in California for a reason, and Net Stop’s owner should know better than to think he can get away with flouting state and local law,” Herrera said. “When one spot in the City sees a hundred-fold increase in police calls in a single next year, the City will move aggressively to protect the neighborhood and send a message to other would-be scofflaws that similar schemes won’t be tolerated. This is criminal activity creating more criminal activity, and we’re asking the court to put a stop to it and impose the maximum penalties under the law.”
The San Francisco Police Department’s ongoing efforts to combat the problems at Net Stop have been critical to the investigation, and to the construction of the lawsuit. “Chief Suhr and the entire Police Department deserve a lot of credit for the work they’ve done to make this possible,” Herrera said. “They’ve built a body of evidence for us that we can take into court with the highest confidence.”
Herrera was not alone in his praise of today’s legal action. “Net Stop's blatant violation of the law is doing real damage to quality of life in the area,” said Supervisor John Avalos, whose district includes the location in question. “It has put a terrible strain on the neighborhood, but today we’ve taken a big step toward shutting it down.”
The civil suit details the connection between illegal gambling operations and the reduced ability of those living around them to enjoy their neighborhood in safety, together with the drain on police services elsewhere in San Francisco caused by the constant need to monitor and respond to problems at a single location year round.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare Net Stop to be a public nuisance, to close its doors for one year, to force the forfeiture and sale of its gambling equipment to offset the damage that the nuisance has caused to the local community, and to impose civil penalties for each act of unfair competition.
The case is: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Thomas Lacey et al, San Francisco Superior Court, filed Nov. 7, 2013.