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From Kid to SFPD Captain, Rainsford’s Sunset Roots

By Michael Feliciano

Though decades have passed and demographics have shifted, the Sunset District continues to be familiar place for the captain of the Taraval Police Station, Nicholas Rainsford, who grew up in the Parkside District. 

“There were hardly any traffic lights along Sunset Boulevard when I was growing up, but the L-Taraval is still the L-Taraval,” Rainsford said. “A lot of things have changed, but at the same time, a lot has stayed the same.”

Rainsford at desk

Captain Nicholas Rainsford, the commanding officer of the Taraval Police Station, studies crime reports in his office located across the street from McCoppin Square, where he played as a child growing up in the Parkside District. Photo by Tyrone Bartoli.

As a child, Rainsford frequented McCoppin Park, Stern Grove and Ocean Beach as well as the local Safeway with his mother. He said he always looked up to the neighborhood police officers and firefighters. But it was the stories and photographs that his grandfather shared with him of his time as a police officer in Ireland that ultimately shaped Rainsford’s desire to one day become a police officer.  

Rainsford’s journey with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) began a quarter century ago, in 1994, at the Bayview Station, his first assignment. He then spent five years at the Tenderloin Station before being promoted to sergeant. Then he worked at the Fillmore Station for nine years before being transferred to the Ingleside Station, where he eventually became a lieutenant while serving with SFPD’s recruiting team. 

Now back at his home base as the recently appointed captain of the Taraval Station, Rainsford laid out three areas on which he intends to focus. They are car break-ins, home burglary and traffic safety. 

To prevent car burglaries, operations are typically run by the plainclothes team, otherwise known as the Taraval Neighborhood Team (TNT). They work undercover to go after perpetrators. 

“They do a great job and recently caught two burglars in one day,” Rainsford said. He stressed that residents should always remember to keep valuables out of sight as a precautionary measure in order to not attract any would-be thieves. 

Home burglary operations are in full effect as well and require a complete team effort that includes 12-15 special investigators and experts. This is another area where Rainsford believes assistance from residents in the community plays a major role. 

“Video surveillance retrieved is key to solving these crimes. The more video residents have of their homes, the better,” Rainsford said.

 Police officers will also canvas the neighborhood from time to time to survey homes and discuss with residents the best practices regarding alarm systems and ideal video surveillance placement around the home.

In order to address the traffic safety issue that has become a major factor in the Sunset District over the years, Rainsford and his team work to identify the five major intersections across the district that have had the most reported collisions and accidents. They then run an analysis on the primary factors causing the collisions and run traffic operations based on that data.

Rainsford also noted that there are non-profit organizations, such as SFSafe.org, which have been a big help and work closely with SFPD. This organization also offers free site surveys of homes and aims to educate homeowners on how best to prevent burglaries.  

With all the work the SFPD puts into stopping and preventing crime, Rainsford emphasized that partnering up with other city agencies, including the Judiciary Department and district attorney’s office, remains essential. 

“The police department isn’t the end-all be-all for solving the City’s social ills. It’s our job to bring our best work possible to the courtroom and make sure our cases are prosecutable. We’re just one piece of the puzzle, but we’ll always do our part.”

To follow the neighborhood crime statistics, newsletters, the community meeting calendar and other information provided by the Taraval Police Station, local residents can visit http://www.taraval.org. 

Categories: Uncategorized

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