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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cops Claim Pot Clubs are Crime Magnets, Won't Provide Evidence To Back It Up

Posted By on Wed, May 12, 2010 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge According to the SFPD, this sort of stuff is happening all the time out in the Sunset. They've got evidence to prove it -- er, somewhere.
  • According to the SFPD, this sort of stuff is happening all the time out in the Sunset. They've got evidence to prove it -- er, somewhere.
San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon has pledged to drag his department out of the Stone Age, using the COMPSTAT system he helped pioneer in Los Angeles to log crime statistics and follow prescient trends.

Evidently, however, crime around cannabis dispensaries on Ocean Avenue isn't included in COMPSTAT's data banks. Either that, or Gascon is stalling -- while multiple sources confirm SFPD officers are trolling the vicinity in an attempt to ferret out information justifying the department's assertions that pot clubs cause crime.

In a February letter, Taraval Station Captain Denise Schmitt wrote that "[cannabis] dispensaries have experienced take-over robberies, burglaries, shootings, stabbings, fights and homicides," and told a police commission hearing that her experiences policing the Ocean Avenue dispensaries was her basis for making that claim. It was Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus who called bullshit on Schmitt's claims, and asked Gascon two weeks ago to provide to the commission the raw data supporting Schmitt's assertions of rampant crime stemming from Ocean Avenue dispensaries.

A terse Gascon told DeJesus that he'd bring the numbers to the next commission hearing. But he didn't. Last week, the chief asked for more time, and said he'd have the numbers for today's meeting. But he won't be making his presentation tonight, either, DeJesus told SF Weekly.

click to enlarge if you've got any damning pot club stories, Chief George Gascon would love to hear from you.
  • if you've got any damning pot club stories, Chief George Gascon would love to hear from you.
if you've got any damning pot club stories, Chief George Gascon would love to hear from you.
All this strikes her as a bit fishy. "Can't someone look at the COMPSTAT numbers and figure this out [immediately]?" she asked. "With [COMPSTAT], you're supposed to be able to look at any police district and find out where the crime is. This is important information we need to have."

Meanwhile, as Gascon stalls for time, saying that his 2,000-officer department is understaffed and can't free up the people needed to scour the information, multiple sources have confirmed to SF Weekly that police officers have been spending time walking the Ocean Avenue corridor, asking merchants and passers-by if either the 1944 Ocean Avenue Collective or the NorCal Herbal Relief Center at 1545 Ocean Avenue have been causing any trouble.

DeJesus says she's heard that, too, and representatives from district supervisors have been doing the same walk, asking for tales of trouble, according to Dolly Sithounnolat, of the Ocean Avenue Revitalization Collaborative.

SF Weekly placed calls to area organizations, including the OMI Senior Center, which is next door to 1944 Ocean. But no stories of trouble-making were to be found. "They [the pot club workers] are easy to talk to, and they're nice," said an employee who wished to be identified only as "Tracy, a neighbor."

"I've been working here for three years, and I haven't seen any trouble at all."

Aides to Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and John Avalos, who represent the area, said neither pot club has generated much in the way of community complaints.SF Weekly placed calls to both pot clubs, but was told managers and owners weren't available.

DeJesus hopes that SFPD can produce the evidence sometime before May 20 -- that's when the Planning Commission will host a bound-to-be-contentious hearing on the proposed pot club on Taraval Street at 32nd Avenue, which prompted Schmitt's letter in the first place. By that time, our state-of-the-art crime-tracking system may well turn up the elusive reports on "take-over robberies, burglaries, shootings, stabbings, fights and homicides."

Unless, you know, they don't exist.

Photo of Gascon | Shawn Calhoun

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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