San Francisco police said Thursday they are shifting tactics in their fight to reduce vehicle burglaries and other property crimes by increasing foot patrols and seeking to prevent more crimes before they happen.
Police Chief William Scott said the department will increase staffing at all district stations starting this Saturday and nearly double the number of officers assigned to foot and bike patrols, which currently stands at less than 100.
To make the change, the department will be redeploying officers from other areas, including the patrol bureau task force, a citywide unit created in 2015 that has targeted serial vehicle burglars and thefts. The unit will be shut down, and its officers, who have made 228 arrests, will be redeployed to district stations.
The department's narcotics task force will also shrink.
Scott said the department will continue to make arrests and use plainclothes officers to conduct sting operations and target serial thieves.
The increased uniformed presence is expected to help prevent vehicle burglaries, which have increased 28 percent citywide over the past year, from happening in the first place.
"We believe foot beats are a visible deterrent to crime," Scott said. "We really intend to get in front of crime as much as we can to really prevent crime on the front end."
The strategy of increased visibility has already paid off in some areas, Scott noted.
Police stepped up patrols in the Twin Peaks lookout area after a July 16 fatal shooting and saw auto burglaries drop from an average of 44 a month to only one between July 17 and Aug. 16, Scott said.
In the Dolores Park area, where residents have been rattled by incidents including an apparent gang-related triple shooting in broad daylight earlier this month, an increased uniformed presence has met with a positive response.
"In policing, the fear of crime is just as bad as crime itself," Scott said. "If people don't feel safe, we're not doing our job."
The exact increase in patrol staffing will vary from one district to another, based on the need. The Mission District, for example, will see its staffing nearly quadruple because that area has had one of the largest increases in vehicle burglaries. Vehicle burglaries have increased 182 percent there over the past year, from 601 to 1,693.
Other districts, such as Central, Park and Taraval, will see their staffing double or nearly double.