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New SFPD Traffic Chief Ann Mannix Hesitant to “Focus on the Five”

SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali has been replaced by Northern Station Captain Ann Mannix, the SF Chronicle reported today.

Ann Mannix. Photo: SFPD

Ann Mannix. Photo: SFPD

Ali, who held the position for two-and-a half years, has repeatedly promised that the SFPD is committed to its “Focus on the Five” enforcement campaign. But under his tenure, only one station has come close to meeting the target of issuing 50 percent of traffic tickets for the most common causes of pedestrian injuries — speeding, violating pedestrian right-of-way in a crosswalk, red light running, stop sign running, and turning violations. The share of tickets to people walking and biking, meanwhile, has increased.

In an interview with Streetsblog, Mannix expressed reservations about ordering officers to follow the SFPD’s 50 percent goal.

Those five violations are the most common causes of pedestrian crashes, according to SFPD data compiled and reported by the SFMTA. SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign is predicated on using that data to deploy traffic enforcement resources most effectively. The campaign was announced two years ago, and Ali set the 50 percent minimum one year ago, but thus far only Richmond Station has met the goal.

When asked if she would help get the department to meet its enforcement targets, Mannix questioned the data and told Streetsblog that “it’s a very fine line between issuing a quota to police officers to do something — they observe a violation and cite it. I cannot, by law, make them go out and issue a citation.”

“We will continue to focus on those five. Will they be the highest numbers we cite? Not necessarily.”

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider said she hopes that Mannix “embraces an approach to ensure that SFPD’s citations are based on data… for the Police Department to do their part in shifting the culture on San Francisco streets so that a human life is worth more than speed.”

But Mannix contended that speed is likely overrepresented in the data collected through the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) because under the system, unsafe speed is often marked as a primary factor in crashes when drivers weren’t exceeding the speed limit. “If the speed limit’s 25, you could be going 10 mph and be going too fast for conditions — you were speeding,” she said. “That would be a primary factor barring any other obvious collision factors.”

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Trucker Who Killed Amelie Le Moullac Deemed “Negligent” in Civil Suit

A civil jury has determined that a truck driver was negligent when he killed Amelie Le Moullac as she rode her bike at Folsom and Sixth Streets in August 2013, KQED’s Bryan Goebel (Streetsblog SF’s first editor) reported today:

Amelie Le Moullac. Photo: Voce Communications

A San Francisco Superior Court jury has found the driver of a big rig truck negligent for striking and killing a 24-year-old woman who was bicycling to Caltrain in the city’s South of Market.

Amelie Le Moullac’s family had sought $20 million in damages from the driver, Gilberto Alcantar, 47, and Milpitas-based Daylight Foods. The jury awarded the family $4 million, and also found Daylight Foods legally responsible for the August 2013 crash at 6th and Folsom streets.

“This was not a mere accident, and I’m relieved to hear from the jury that something wrong was done, and I’m very sorry that the police missed that,” Denis Le Moullac, Amelie’s father, told KQED. “One can only be relieved to hear that our daughter had done nothing wrong. This is not really something that deeply consoles us, but it satisfies us.”

The finding that Le Moullac was not at fault for her own death reinforces the finding of SFPD investigators after footage of the crash was presented to them by Marc Caswell, then a staffer for the SF Bicycle Coalition, who tracked down the video himself after a memorial and rally held at the scene of the crash. Earlier that day, SFPD Sergeant Richard Ernst had parked in the bike lane to make a point of blaming Le Moullac for her own death.

“After we held the memorial for Ms. Le Moullac, and Sergeant Ernst had acted so outrageously, we were standing on the corner cleaning up when I had a pang of doubt that the SFPD had treated this case as seriously as I would have hoped they would,” Caswell recalled. “So, I decided to just ask the businesses — and I am so honored that my small action led to some amount of resolution for the Le Moullac family from this terrible injustice.”

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SFPD Traffic Commander’s Strategy for Safer Streets: Finger-Wagging

For SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali, the reason so many people are getting killed by drivers on SF’s streets apparently has nothing to do with the fact that every station but one is failing miserably to adhere to the department’s “Focus on the Five” enforcement strategy.

SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali. ##http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/video?id=9386826##Photo: ABC 7##

SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali. Photo: ABC 7

Nor is it because SF’s streets are overwhelmingly designed to put motor vehicle movement first, rather than the safety of people walking on them. That’s according Ali’s comments in yesterday’s column from the SF Chronicle’s Heather Knight, who didn’t seem to question Ali’s take.

Apparently, Ali’s strategy for making streets safer is to keep wagging fingers at the victims who “took major risks” and died. “The hope is that the public will change their behavior voluntarily,” he told Knight. Ali said he’s “been accused of blaming the victim,” then proceeded to blame last year’s victims.

“A lot of it is just really, really bad behavior,” Ali told Knight. “If we play this kind of sterile, numbers-only game, people surmise that it’s fairly innocuous behavior that’s causing these fatalities when in fact it’s very clear what the behaviors are.”

It’s “clear” indeed for those who do pay attention to numbers and statistics. SFPD’s data shows that the five most common causes of pedestrian injuries are all driver violations: speeding, running red lights, running stop signs, violating pedestrians’ right-of-way in a crosswalk, and failing to yield while turning. A year ago, SFPD’s top brass promised that officers would devote at least 50 percent of traffic citations to those violations under its “Focus on the Five” campaign.

But Ali, who has previously told media that confused Asian immigrants are to blame for many crashes, shirked those responsibilities in yesterday’s column. He also showed that he’s missed the point of Vision Zero. Crossing the street wouldn’t be such a “major risk” if city agencies implemented design and enforcement measures to slow driving speeds and minimize the chance of crashes, even when people make errors.

“It’s really troubling that the San Francisco Police Department sees this only as an individual behavior problem, considering that six percent of streets account for 60 percent of severe and fatal injuries,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “Until they actually meet [their Focus on the Five] goals, I really don’t think it’s important appropriate for them to call on individuals to change their behavior.”

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Second Sleeping Man Killed by a Driver at the Same Driveway

For the second time in two years, a homeless man was run over and killed by a driver exiting the same garage exit on Third near Bryant Street in SoMa.

Drivers have struck and killed two people lying on the sidewalk in front of this garage in the last two years. Photo: Google Maps

The SF Chronicle reports:

Randy Jacobs, 53, fell asleep Friday night in the driveway of a private apartment garage at Third and South Park streets, in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, before a vehicle leaving the complex ran him over about 6:40 p.m. Jacobs was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the driver of the SUV was not negligent, so charges are not likely to be filed in the case.

“When the vehicle was exiting the garage, he was unable to see the guy sleeping there,” said San Francisco police Officer Grace Gatpandan. “The car was exiting and just ran over the victim.”

The driver, a 55-year-old man, failed to see the victim in front of his car and killed him “accidentally” as far as the SPFD is concerned. Not “carelessly” or “negligently.”

A similar scenario played out in November 2012, when a 28-year-old woman was absolved of any responsibility when she drove forward and ran over 55-year-old Elvis Presley. The report on Friday’s incident didn’t say whether the driver was also pulling forward.

Let’s remember that this driveway is also a sidewalk. Falling asleep there isn’t a smart move, but that’s beside the point. It’s the person driving across the sidewalk who needs to exercise caution and make sure that the path is clear. But it seems clear that running over a person lying on a sidewalk is “not negligent” in San Francisco, where the rule is cars over people.

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Only One SFPD Station is “Focused on the Five” for Safer Streets: Richmond

An officer from SFPD’s Richmond Station clocks speeders on Fulton Street, including some topping 60 mph in this 25 mph zone. Image: KRON 4

Nearly two years after SFPD announced its “Focus on the Five” program, only one of the 10 police stations is actually meeting its goal of issuing at least 50 percent of traffic citations for the five most common violations that cause pedestrian injuries. Department-wide, that rate was an abysmal 24 percent in September, the latest month for which data is available [PDF]. Southern Station, which covers crash-plagued SoMa, had the lowest rate with just 6 percent.

SFPD Richmond Station Captain Simon Silverman is the only captain following the “Focus on the Five” campaign. Photo: SFPD

SFPD’s Richmond Station is the only station meeting that goal. Richmond officers surpassed the target, in fact, issuing 58 percent of their September traffic tickets to drivers speeding, running red lights, running stop signs, violating pedestrians’ right-of-way in crosswalks, or failing to yield to pedestrians while turning. The SFPD’s data shows that just those five driver violations cause a plurality of pedestrian crashes in SF, which is why SFPD’s top brass have repeatedly promised to target them and save lives.

“It’s not particularly complicated,” Richmond Station Captain Simon Silverman told Streetsblog. “You just have to dedicate yourself to doing it consistently.”

Silverman’s station has exceeded the 50 percent “Focus on the Five” goal all year, with a 56 percent rate this year to date. No other station has come close.

“It shows that it is possible” to meet the goals, SF Bicycle Coalition Policy Director Tyler Frisbee recently told the Police Commission, which has urged SFPD to pursue them. “We hope that it serves as a beacon for the rest of the police force.”

To sum up his view on traffic enforcement, Silverman said commonly-accepted but dangerous behaviors, like speeding and distracted driving, need to become as much of a taboo as drunk driving has.

“People need to view safe driving as a community obligation,” he said. “I think what happens is, when people are in their cars, they’re isolated from their environment. It’s like being in their living room, but traveling at 35 miles an hour. So I think they’re kind of disconnected, and not necessarily thinking as much about other people as they should.”

The Richmond District is not the city’s most dangerous for walking and biking. Yet the districts with the highest rates of injuries — namely Central, Southern, and Tenderloin — have the lowest “focus on the five” rates. Those stations issued just 13, 13, and 6 percent of their tickets, respectively, to “the five” violations in September. That pattern has held throughout the year.

Tenderloin officers didn’t issue any tickets to drivers violating pedestrians’ right-of-way in September, despite its hundreds of crosswalks. However, they did manage to issue 245 tickets — 43 percent of their total – to pedestrians.

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How SFPD Caught One of the Violent Panhandle Bike Thieves

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFPD says it has arrested one of the bike thieves who assaulted six people biking on the Panhandle in October and stole their bikes. Lieutenant Jason Sawyer of SFPD Park Station’s Investigations Unit said police “have no doubt” that the juvenile male was one of the assailants who threw bottles at bike commuters and jammed sticks into their spokes late at night.

Sawyer said police caught the suspect by setting up a sting after one of the victims saw their bike on sale on Craigslist. The victim contacted police, who initiated a faux sale to arrest him. Typically, bike thieves sell the bikes to a third party first, he said.

“He was not the smartest crook,” said Sawyer. “He basically committed the crime, and was right there selling the bike as well.”

Police must still prove that the suspect was directly involved with the attacks, but they “have no doubt,” Sawyer said. “As soon as he knew we were looking at him, all these robberies stopped. There were a rash of them within a few days — all very violent. Nothing since.”

In a blog post, the SF Bicycle Coalition gave “many thanks to the SFPD for responding swiftly to our calls, and for following through on the investigation.”

“Biking on the Panhandle needs to remain safe and comfortable, serving as a busy and important connector for people biking between the Eastern and Western neighborhoods of our city,” the SFBC wrote.

Sawyer said police can’t release many details on the ongoing investigation, or information about the suspect, because he’s a juvenile. He has been charged with possession of stolen property in the juvenile court system, but charges for the robberies haven’t been brought yet since the victims haven’t been able to identify their assailants. “It was dark and they were very terrified,” he said.

“We know he did it; he knows that we know he did it,” said Sawyer.

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Are Mayor Lee, SFPD, and SFMTA Serious About Ending Hazardous Parking?

Image: KRON 4

Mayor Ed Lee, along with the heads of the SFPD and SFMTA, vowed yesterday to crack down on double parking and “box blocking” as part of broader “Congestion Management Strategy to improve traffic flow and safety.”

It’s a big promise, upending SF’s history of lax enforcement towards parking violations that routinely make streets more dangerous and snarl transit. So it remains to be seen: Are city leaders really committed to a sustained crackdown on motorists who illegally disrupt streets for their personal convenience? Or will SF merely witness another short-lived gimmick that will falter once police and parking control officers return to their blind-eyed ways?

Targeted enforcement against drivers who block chronically-plagued SoMa intersections was among an array of enforcement and bureaucratic reform efforts that Lee announced. For some reason, drivers haven’t been regularly ticketed for this in decades. But now, ”There will be no tolerance of blocking the box,” Lee told reporters. ”Those that do will face the hefty fines already on the books.”

At the press event, held to inaugurate the SFMTA’s new Transportation Management Center, Lee also warned double parkers: SF is “a city where some actors and actresses in their vehicles, or in their delivery trucks, seem to think that double parking is helpful to themselves — yet [don't] understand the impact.”

But double parking with impunity is “part of San Francisco’s history.” That was actually declared at a supervisors hearing last year by Lea Millitello, then the SFMTA’s director of security, investigations, and enforcement, and previously an SFPD lieutenant. Specifically, she was referring to double parking at churches on Sundays, but everyday experience shows that the exemption extends to everywhere and every day.

So it’s clear that the mayor, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr will have to do more than just flip a switch to overhaul the prevailing culture among drivers and enforcement officers, who typically just shrug at each other when a car stops cold in a bike lane, transit lane, intersection, or sidewalk.

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SFPD to Cite Driver Who Hospitalized Woman While Backing Up

SFPD said a ticket will be issued to a driver who hit a woman last Wednesday while backing up on 16th Street near Pond Street, next to the Eureka Valley Branch Library. In initial reports, police said the driver had not been cited:

The woman was hit at about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday near the intersection of 16th and Pond streets, about a block from Market Street and two blocks from Castro Street, San Francisco police Officer Gordon Shyy said.

16th and Pond Streets. Photo: Google Maps

The driver of the vehicle, described as a man in his 60s, was reportedly backing into a parking spot when he hit the pedestrian, Shyy said.

The victim was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with trauma to her head that was initially considered life-threatening, according to police.

However, Shyy said the woman is now in stable condition and recovering from her injuries.

SFPD spokesperson Gordon Shyy told Streetsblog that the driver will receive a ticket for violating California Vehicle Code 22106, which states, “No person shall start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked on a highway, nor shall any person back a vehicle on a highway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

Charges are unlikely to be filed, as the District Attorney’s office has said charges typically won’t stand unless the victim dies, thus proving recklessness.

But even in two similar cases, drivers were never charged or cited. Last December, 84-year-old Chinatown activist Isabel Huie was killed by a 76-year-old driver who apparently lost control while parking on Jackson near Stockton Street. In October 2012, a 28-year-old driver ran over a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk on Third Street near Bryant. She was pulling forward out of a garage.

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It’s the Little Things: A Notably Positive SFPD Encounter on My Bike

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Last night, I was biking home on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset when I encountered an all-too-familiar sight: A double-parked car. I signaled and moved to the left to pass the car, in view of an SFPD cruiser behind.

At Irving Street near 10th Avenue, where drivers routinely double park, I had a refreshing encounter with an SFPD officer. (This photo was taken at a separate time.) Photo: Aaron Bialick

Normally, I’d expect the police to move along, doing nothing about this kind of situation. Other bicycle riders have reported far worse encounters with the SFPD.

But to my surprise, the driver of the police cruiser stopped behind the double parker and used their horn to buzz at them until they moved.

This might seem like a mundane encounter, but it left an impression since it’s so rare. I’m just not used to police actually caring about drivers who pose hazards to people biking or walking, or delaying Muni, even when the behavior is clearly illegal. Usually they just move along. When you get around by bike in SF for a while, it’s something you sadly can come to expect.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but if SF is fortunate, this officer’s little deed is not just a sign of a good apple, but rather of a larger shift in priorities at SFPD. Maybe it’s related to recent pushes from the top to pursue Vision Zero, or to crack down on double parking. Of course, citations might be more effective, but whoever the officer was — presumably from Taraval Station — thank you. The little things can speak volumes about SFPD’s attitudes.

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Witness: Hit-and-Run Driver Fled With Victim in Sunroof, Tried to Toss Booze

The car involved in the crash, post-clean-up. The driver reportedly traveled three blocks after striking the victim, whose legs were sticking out of the sunroof.

A drunk driver who hit a man crossing the street at Valencia Street and Duboce Avenue Sunday continued to drive with the victim hanging head-first inside the sunroof, according to a witness who saw the vehicle stop outside his home on Market at Guerrero Streets.

After continuing for three blocks past the scene of the crash, the driver, 29-year-old Luis Ayala of Redwood City, and his passenger then attempted to “ditch a bunch of booze and bail,” and left ”a paper bag with booze a few yards from the car,” said the witness, who declined to be identified.

“The scene was graphic, blood all over the windshield, a lifeless body half in the sunroof with broken legs,” he said.

Even after the initial clean-up, blood could still be found on the rear of the car.

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