Northern Station Leads Rise in SFPD “Focus on the Five” Citations
4:59 PM PDT on September 18, 2015
SFPD traffic citations issued for "Focus on the Five" have hit an all-time high of 32 percent, as the SF Examiner reported earlier this week.
The rate of tickets issued for the five most dangerous driving violations in this year's second quarter was up 34 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to stats presented by SFPD Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix last week. The numbers show a dramatic improvement over last year's period, when tickets to people walking and biking increased at a far faster rate.
While Richmond Station's "Five" rate of 63 percent is still the only one to exceed the SFPD's 50 percent mandate, several other stations are leading the way. The largest increase was seen at Northern Station, where "Five" tickets jumped 125 percent to a rate of 41 percent.
Northern Station Captain Greg McEachern doesn't seem to share Park Station Captain John Sanford's fixation on addressing complaints about innocuous bike violations. In a July interview with Hoodline, McEachern explained his take on the situation Page Street, a popular bike route which runs through both districts:
I've gotten feedback from the community about traffic concerns in the Page Street area, but not in particular about bicyclists coming through. What I always tell my officers when we do our enforcement is that we don't target any specific entity of traffic—pedestrian, bicyclist or a vehicle. What we do is we respond to a location and we look for what violations are occurring.
We don't focus on any one specific thing—what we're trying to do is save lives. I think everyone would agree that there are violations of traffic laws by everyone; we'd be naive if we thought that it didn't happen by all groups. We focus on what we feel we need to focus on to make sure that collisions go down, and that we reach the Vision Zero goal of reducing fatalities by 2020.
It's worth noting that the officers who reportedly cited bike commuters passing to the left of the car queue on Page were part of SFPD's Traffic Company, not Northern Station.
Three other stations have reached "Focus on the Five" rates above the average: Ingleside is at 38 percent (a 30 percent increase from the same quarter last year), Taraval is at 40 percent (a 94 percent increase), and Bayview is at 33 (a 10 percent decrease). The Traffic Company's rate rose by 100 percent, to 31 percent.
Sanford's Park Station increased "Five" tickets by 41 percent, to 28 percent, and reportedly issued no tickets to bicyclists during the quarter from April to June, which preceded his bike crackdown.
SFPD officials said in July that tickets to bicyclists and pedestrians can be counted as "Focus on the Five" tickets. But until the stats for the next quarter (July to September) are released, it won't be clear if the department is serious about adopting that revision of the campaign.
At a supervisors hearing last week, Mannix didn't indicate that the premise of the campaign -- to focus limited enforcement resources against the most dangerous driving behaviors -- had changed. "We focus primarily on vehicles because they do the most damage in any kind of collision," she said.
At the bottom of the list for "Five" rates was Southern Station, at just 11 percent. Mannix said the Traffic Company is "primarily responsible" for traffic enforcement in that district, which is mainly comprised of SoMa.
Tenderloin Station's rate also jumped 111 percent, but only to 18 percent. The station still issues a majority of SFPD's pedestrian citations, with 27 percent of all Tenderloin traffic tickets going to pedestrians that quarter.
SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Chris Cassidy said the SFPD's "recent improvements are heartening for street safety advocates," but that "it's really critical that the SFPD continue increasing their attention to the five most dangerous traffic violations."
"SFPD's dedication to smart enforcement is crucial to eliminating traffic deaths in our city," he said.
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