Safety and Security a Priority
The recent explosion of a house in a quiet Sunset neighborhood was traumatic for residents and raises larger public safety questions.
A resident of the home was arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including illegal drug manufacturing and manslaughter. The blast and fire killed one person and severely injured another. The homes on either side were destroyed. Homes across the street had their windows and even garage doors blown out. Several parked cars were damaged.
I was at City Hall in a public safety committee meeting when I received a text about the explosion and three-alarm from the fire chief. I immediately went to the scene on 22nd Avenue.
In the days after the explosion, I heard from many residents throughout the Sunset who wondered: Is a home on their street dangerously manufacturing drugs behind the garage door? How many homes double as hidden drug labs or sell other illegal products and services? What can be done to prevent another tragedy?
These are questions we need to work with police and fire officials to address. Anyone found to be engaging in dangerous and illegal activity should face consequences. Running a drug lab that blows up a house and causes death and mayhem in a neighborhood is as serious as dealing deadly fentanyl in an open-air drug market. Both crimes should be prosecuted in San Francisco.
My office held a closed town hall for residents of 22nd Avenue most affected by the house explosion and fire. The meeting was closed to the media and general public. The affected residents needed a safe space where they could express their concerns and speak directly to officials to learn what resources are available to assist them.
I convened the following city department heads:
• Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson briefed us on the incident response and follow up.
• Police Captain Robert Yick gave updates on the criminal case (the suspect of the drug manufacturing lab was arrested and charged with multiple felonies).
• City Assessor Joaquin Torres described how owners of damaged homes can apply for property tax relief.
• The director of the Department of Building Inspection explained when repairs can be done with and without permits.
• Mary Ellen Carroll, the director of the Department of Emergency Management, told us how the City provides a coordinated response during and after tragic events.
I know this was a traumatic experience for residents living on 22nd Avenue. It disrupted our sense of stability and safety in our homes and neighborhood. I stand with District Attorney Brooke Jenkins who is prosecuting this crime. There must be consequences for serious crimes in San Francisco to let people know such dangerous and reckless behavior will not be tolerated.
We will do a public town hall about public safety in the near future.
I will also investigate possible legislation to ban the delivery and use in residential neighborhoods of the type of industrial grade equipment needed for dangerous drug labs.
Scarce Police Resources
The day after the explosion, I did a merchant walk on Irving Street with the Sunset police captain to speak with store owners about their safety concerns. They want more police help, but we have a severe shortage of officers.
The police station serving the Sunset has lost half of its officers since 2020. On any given night, only four or five officers are patrolling an area that has a population of 130,000. Those few and overstretched officers cover a huge geographic area from Twin Peaks to the ocean and Golden Gate Park to Daly City.
When officers are sick or injured, others have to work overtime. We can’t go a night without officers. Overtime funding is essential. That’s why I’m co-sponsoring Mayor London Breed’s police funding measure.
I’m committed to investing in our police department so it can retain and recruit officers. We are short more than 500 officers and hundreds more are expected to retire in July. I attended the recent police academy graduation and there were only 12 new officers in the class.
I’m also committed to changing the narrative about police in San Francisco. Our officers are diverse and committed to serving at the highest standard. Our police department is a model of reform and has been praised by the California Department of Justice for already implementing more than 90% of needed reforms. We need to let people know that it is honorable to be an officer in San Francisco.
Joel Engardio is the District 4 representative on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Categories: City Hall
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