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.

“These are the communities where we have the highest rates of severe and fatal injuries,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider told the Police Commission. “Whatever the Richmond Station has been doing — what are their best practices? How did they get to 56 percent?”

In response, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr promised to “work with Captain Silverman. We’ll find out how he’s getting it done.”

As we reported in May, a fast-growing share of SFPD’s tickets are being issued to people walking and biking. The department generally seems to have made no progress on “Focus on the Five” since then, and may even have moved backward.

The department-wide rate of tickets for “the five” in September, at 25 percent, was lower than previous rates as high as 33 percent. In that month, even the SFPD Traffic Company — the unit specifically dedicated to effective traffic enforcement — “focused on the five” only 24 percent of the time.

In an update presented to the Police Commission this month, Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali didn’t even mention “Focus on the Five” statistics until Commission President Suzy Loftus requested them. Instead, he touted an aggregate increase in overall traffic citations.

“Clearly, there is a need to make some improvements,” said Ali, who recently attended the first national Vision Zero Symposium in New York City. “I know Chief Suhr and our deputy chiefs are in constant conversation with officers to make certain that, in the course of all their duties, that they’re focusing on these areas.”

“You see a general increase significantly, dealing with the hazardous behaviors that go beyond the five,” Ali continued, apparently not comprehending either “focus” or “the five.”

Ali touted a new training video, developed with Walk SF and the SFBC, explaining the five vehicle code violations to officers, who apparently still need further training.

Ali also pointed to an overall decline in traffic injuries of 15 percent compared to last year, but it’s not clear if that’s at all attributable to unfocused traffic enforcement. City studies recently showed that car traffic in SF has dropped by as much as 22 percent in the last few years.

In the Richmond, Silverman said officers have focused enforcement against speeders on Fulton Street along Golden Gate Park, especially near a senior center there. Those efforts were featured in a September segment of KRON 4’s People Behaving Badly, where host Stanley Roberts said some drivers were caught topping 60 mph on Fulton, despite speed limits of 25 to 35 mph.

Two children were run over by turning drivers on outer Fulton this spring. In March, police cited a driver who hit both a boy and his babysitter in a crosswalk at Fulton and 37th Avenue. In April, 3-year-old Nikita May was run over by a pickup truck driver, while riding his training bike in a crosswalk at Fulton Street and 43rd Avenue.

Silverman said catching speeders is especially important to curbing traffic violence. “Injury goes up dramatically with speed,” he said.

When asked what he sees as the main challenges faced across the police department, Silverman said all stations have been coping with a “historically low level of staffing” this year. But that only seems to bolster the case for using limited enforcement resources most efficiently.

“You always have competing demands on officer time,” said Silverman. “The collisions we want most to stop are the injury collisions, and they are usually caused by” the top five violations. “Some of the other violations don’t lead to as much conflict.”

Here’s a station-by-station breakdown of SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” rates in September [PDF]. Data for previous months can be found on the SFPD website.

SFPD Total
Focus on the Five Tickets: 2755 / Total: 11146
Rate: 25%

Richmond
Focus on the Five Tickets: 798 / Total: 1365
Rate: 58%

Central
Focus on the Five Tickets: 130 / Total: 1030
Rate: 13%

Southern
Focus on the Five Tickets: 41 / Total: 649
Rate: 6%

Mission
Focus on the Five Tickets: 82 / Total: 441
Rate: 19%

Bayview
Focus on the Five Tickets: 207 / Total: 1087
Rate: 19%

Park
Focus on the Five Tickets: 184 / Total: 712
Rate: 26%

Northern
Focus on the Five Tickets: 153 / Total: 920
Rate: 16%

Tenderloin
Focus on the Five Tickets: 72 / Total: 570
Rate: 13%
(Note: 245, or 43%, went to pedestrians)

Ingleside
Focus on the Five Tickets: 244 / Total: 743
Rate: 33%

Taraval
Focus on the Five Tickets: 339 / Total: 1218
Rate: 28%

Traffic Company
Focus on the Five Tickets: 488 / Total: 2071
Rate: 24%

  • SF4SF

    Good job Tenderloin Station. 1/3 of pedestrian deaths are pedestrian fault. We want Vision Zero not Vision 2/3. I’ve driven the Tenderloin. You know where the risk is and you are ticketing appropriately. Try to keep us safe by resisting the pressure from the Vision 2/3 lobbyists.

  • murphstahoe

    cool story bro

  • bobster855

    “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.”

    WTF???

  • the_greasybear

    Bias, bias, bias.

  • RichardC

    So under your logic, 1/3 of tickets should go to pedestrians, and 2/3 to drivers endangering pedestrians (ie Focus on the Five violations). How is that consistent with the numbers the Tenderloin Station is posting?

  • SFnative74

    I can only hope that one day rhetoric will be followed by action. This isn’t rocket science, and yet too many SFPD captains can’t – or won’t – figure it out. Getting killed or seriously injured in a traffic crash should be taken as seriously as getting killed or seriously injured by a bullet. Chief Suhr is ultimately accountable for the numbers we see above. Without a real and sustained commitment from the SFPD to enforce the most egregious traffic violations, we might as well stop pretending about Vision Zero.

  • coolbabybookworm

    So many great comments from Captain Silverman, it’s a breath of fresh air compared to the other station captains.

    In regards to Commander Ali’s statements, I have seen increased enforcement on Market, for example, of the forced right turns and enforcement such as that might be adding to the increase in citations overall. That said I think these citations are focusing more on traffic flow rather than high injury behavior. Traffic flow is important and that can be the other 50% of citations issued, but I think Captain Silverman makes the point well that “the collisions we want most to stop are the injury collisions, and they are usually caused by” the top five violations. “Some of the other violations don’t lead to as much conflict.”

  • voltairesmistress

    Great reporting. I hope news outlets will pick up this revealing story.

  • Ryan K

    How is measuring what tickets cops are handing out any kind of measure of what the problem areas are or what violations are actually occuring? The more relevant information is what actually generated the five items on the list. For that we click on the link to the SFPD data and get… another streetsblog article from 2 years ago. And in that article, we finally find a link to… 5 year old SFMTA data. Coincidentally, that article quotes the SFMTA report as saying that 1/3 of vehicle-pedestrian collisions (in 2009, mind you) were caused by pedestrian error. One third of all collisions seems to me to merit a place for ticketing wayward pedestrians on this top five list. And doing so would not deemphasize the motorists responsibility, it would just make sure that the pedestrian realizes he has a responsibility, too.

  • CamBam415

    Enforcement in SOMA is a total joke. I see cars running red lights daily and have requested enforcement multiple times at 3rd & Berry (in front of the Giants Team Store at the ballpark) and have never once see a cop there let alone had a call or email returned. Cars run that light several times an hour and it is a busy pedestrian intersection too.

    And how does an organization like SFPD have no accountability within its leadership ranks? If a station captain can’t get the job done, get someone who can.

  • gneiss

    The logical fallacy in your thinking is that somehow there needs to be some kind of “fairness”, even though the top five behaviors that cause death and injury on our streets are speeding, failure to yield, failure to turn, running red lights, and turning improperly into intersections. Please, let me know the next time a pedestrian causes a direct injury to a motorist – then it might be “fair” to start ticketing more pedestrians.

    You are so normalized to bad behavior by motorists that it probably doesn’t even register when you see someone double parking on our streets that it represents a danger to other street users, But, I bet that each pedestrian you see walking against the light probably makes your blood boil, and confirms your bias that the real danger to pedestrians are themselves.

  • voltairesmistress

    Not to excuse the Tenderloin station for failure to site motorists . . . but of all the places in the city, the Tenderloin sees some of the most bizarre pedestrian behaviors. Knowing that just about any time someone might be crossing or just standing in a lane, I’ve just slowed down a lot there. But it is a neighborhood where some residents put themselves in a lot of danger, and you don’t see a lot of that in other neighborhoods where it is mostly drivers doing risky things.

  • 94103er

    It also would be a *very* busy intersection for bikes if it weren’t in the maelstrom of incredibly awful ‘planning’ that is the South Beach/Mission Bay area. It’s the kind of place where you’d like to ride with your kids on the Promenade but if you take a wrong turn you end up on what’s basically freeway-like roads.

  • Hunter

    Agreed, I live in the TL and there are lots of crazy walkers. BUT there are also lots of crazy drivers (and several people have been killed in our neighborhood by them), and as the story states: “Tenderloin officers didn’t issue any tickets to drivers violating pedestrians’ right-of-way in September…” People who are killed by reckless driving are very rarely jaywalking—take for example, 6 year old Sophiu Liu killed this year two blocks from my house—so this isn’t really doing our citizens much good in the long haul.

  • Hunter

    I would encourage anyone frustrated with these stats to email Mayor Lee, your District Supervisor, and your local SFPD station. If they hear from enough of us, they will be annoyed into action. Anyone have an email for Capt. Greg Suhr?

  • GetHubNub

    They don’t like doing their jobs, they prefer politics to doing work.

  • GetHubNub

    That’s the way it’s always been for the SFPD as far as I can recall back into the 1990’s. They are poorly managed with a lot of freedom to make their own decisions to do as they so please. They aren’t monitored at all. They’re a bunch of individuals out there wandering around doing whatever they so please.

  • GetHubNub

    The city of San Francisco’s politics prevents the SFPD from providing its citizens with good police services. It’s politics is run by corrupt criminal elements. They give the police certain pleasant jobs they enjoy over serving the public that takes a back seat. The political relationship between city government and the police has been very cozy to prevent the police from denoting corruption so they do very little to make the SFPD do a good job for the citizens. In other words, they’re more parasitic along with their keepers. They mostly don’t work for us.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Are you that crazy guy that kept posting to vote yes on L a few months ago?

  • mike

    Noe valley – You are a complete idiot for defending those filthy loser protesters in Minneapolis when that car drove through them. Those pathetic losers on the street are holding people hostage who are driving to work and driving home. And you are defending those scumbags in the street who have nothing better to do with their lives but stand in the middle of the street and protesting a thug loser like Michael Brown? LOL people like you are so stupid. I pray that these losers get in front of my car and hold me up in one of their loser protests. Would be pure satisfaction to run over 2 or 3 of these complete trash losers.

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