By Jonathan Farrell
With a population of more than 59,0000 residents, the work of the San Francisco Police Department’s Richmond Station on Sixth Avenue covers an area the size of a large suburban town. Newly appointed station Captain Chris Canning recognizes that keeping the community safe is a daunting task that requires the help of the community.
“Identifying strategies to deal with issues and reaching out more to communicate with the community is a top priority,” Canning said.
Canning is a Bay Area native and a second-generation SFPD officer. He has 15 years of experience with the department.
After graduating from the San Francisco Police Academy in 2007, he worked as a patrol officer serving the Tenderloin, Mission, and Southern Police Districts.
“In my role as a sergeant, I worked in the Mission District, the Criminal Investigations Unit and the Homicide Detail,” he said.
Canning said his experience has given him insight and the determination to face the most pressing challenges the Richmond District has been struggling with lately, including traffic safety, vehicle burglaries, car vandalism and graffiti along the merchant corridors.
“Richmond Station Officers will focus their visibility and traffic enforcement efforts in locations experiencing traffic safety concerns,” he said. “Similarly, officers will be maximizing their visibility and conducting strategic enforcement in areas impacted by vehicle burglaries,” he added.
Canning said car vandalism and vehicle theft in the neighborhood has been mostly catalytic converter theft.
“It’s not just here in San Francisco, it’s everywhere,” he said. “So much so that Federal law enforcement officials are involved as catalytic converter theft has become an enterprise of organized crime proportions.”
A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device that converts toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less toxic pollutants by catalyzing a chemical reaction.
“It’s the traces of precious metals in the converter device that thieves are after,” Canning said. “Some of the metals they seek are in high demand, including platinum, palladium and rhodium; the sale of stolen car parts of various kinds is prolific. In some instances, it’s an underground operation, or hidden market, which can be elaborate.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, catalytic converter theft in California has risen significantly in two years from less than 1,500 to more than 52,000 in 2021, according to Carfax,
“Usually, catalytic converter theft occurs late at night or in the early hours of the morning,” Canning said. “It’s been our strategy to have officers in places where this theft occurs and at key hours, like late at night.”
Canning emphasized the importance of having the help of the community.
“To do our job effectively and to be nimble in our response to put a stop to crime we need eyes in many places,” he said. “Those eyes are the eyes of the community.”
Citing that many crimes of various kinds are not reported, Canning said he wants people in the Richmond District neighborhood to be comfortable reaching out to Richmond Station.
“Currently, I host a community meeting once a month. I’m shifting it from the virtual Zoom format to in-person. And, I would like to have community meetings in places in the neighborhood other than at Richmond Station,” he said.
Being able to meet with people where they are in the neighborhood, such as at a local restaurant or church/synagogue, is an approach that Canning would like to do in the near future. He hopes people will offer available venues that can accommodate a meeting space.
Community policing, or community-oriented policing, is a strategy of policing that focuses on police building ties and working closely with members of the neighborhoods. Richmond Station uses the methods of community meetings, foot patrols and homeless outreach, to coordinate with multiple city agencies to actively assist people in homeless situations.
“I’m very much looking forward to meeting and working with everyone in the Richmond District community. Please don’t hesitate to reach out,” he said. “Especially if there is anything the Richmond Station staff family can do to help.”