Shooting in San Francisco’s Tenderloin Wounds 8, Prompts Call for Action

A San Francisco police officer rousts a man sleeping on a Tenderloin sidewalk. (KQED)
A San Francisco police officer rousts a man sleeping on a Tenderloin sidewalk. (KQED)

A Sunday night shooting in San Francisco’s Tenderloin that left eight people wounded is prompting renewed calls for the Police Department to take action to clean up one persistently crime-ridden block in the neighbohood.

Capt. Jason Cherniss, of the department’s Tenderloin station, said the shooting occurred after a fight broke out about 8:55 p.m. Sunday at the corner of Turk and Taylor streets.

“At some point, one of the individuals involved in the fight retrieved a gun, semi-automatic, and fired into the crowd,” Cherniss said Monday. The suspect — identified only as a male — then fled the scene in a car driven by someone else. Those shot suffered wounds to their arms and legs, Cherniss said.

San Francisco General Hospital reported five of the eight people wounded in the incident were treated and released. Three others have been admitted in serious condition.

“Enough is enough,” said Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. He said he and others in the neighborhood have been calling on the city for years to crack down on crime on the block of Turk Street where Sunday night’s shooting occurred.

“Nobody died here,” Shaw said. “Does that mean things will continue until someone does die? Or it has to be a child who’s shot? Or a tech worker who’s shot? What does it take when we have demonstrable evidence that the situation’s out of control on lower Turk for the police to respond?”

Shaw said the situation at Turk and Taylor is “atypical” of the rest of the Tenderloin, a neighborhood that has a reputation for street crime, is a haven for many homeless San Franciscans and is widely recognized as the last bastion of affordable housing for low-income residents. Shaw’s organization did a study in 2011 that found violent crime on that first block of Turk Street — between Mason and Taylor — is eight times higher than the rate in the rest of the neighborhood and 35 times the rate for San Francisco as a whole.

“The question I think people are probably wondering is, in a city as prosperous as San Francisco where we have money coming in and we have tech companies moving in right around the corner, why do the police allow this to continue year after year?” Shaw said.

Shaw added that Police Chief Greg Suhr has visited the block and faults him for not committing more officers to stop drug dealing and other crime.

Capt. Cherniss credited Shaw and others in the community for their attempts to stabilize and revitalize the Tenderloin, and said he agrees more police officers are needed in the Tenderloin. He’s quick to add, though, that increasing the police presence on lower Turk is not an answer in itself:

We need to look at the social situation that gives rise to issues like this. Down at the end of Turk, we have three or four SROs (single-room-occupany hotels). We also have some businesses down there that are not really participating in good community-building efforts, ones that stay open all night long, selling alcohol or products that really aren’t promoting public safety. So you end up with situations like you had last night.

But Cherniss said Sunday night’s shooting “is not indicative of the trajectory of things” in the Tenderloin and that he’s confident that a turnaround is coming.

“It may sound a bit cliche, but if it’s ever going to happen it’s going to happen in the Tenderloin,” Cherniss said. “We’re seeing some great gains out here. We’re seeing people investing in the neighborhoood and coming in here and really staking their claim and caring about what’s going on.”

As it happens, “KQED Newsroom” did a special segment on the Tenderloin and its ongoing social, political and law enforcement issues last January. Here’s the video of the report, featuring correspondent Spencer Michels:

This post includes reporting from Isabel Angell of KQED News.

  • robotsrule

    Yep, everything will be fine once all that internet cash comes in and cleans out all the poor people. Yay gentrification! (sarcasm)

    • Tony

      San Francisco doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Growing wealth disparity is a problem this whole country faces. Gentrification is not a dirty word. The reality is a healthy city is always changing. The real problem isn’t change, but the lack of effective support to ensure the rise of the new wealth brings positive change for everyone else as well. This is a difficult situation, and some of the answers may be outside of the scope of local government.

      • Cummbottom

        Well the concern? Argument topic prevalent__ordeal those. Residing political incorrect “Tenderloin” well. When fellow residents look down. Up self disdain understand. Neighborhood struggle of personal. Social acceptance yes there police precincts. Once, no the politics concern less. Than most since there not. New executive elite detest any. Social blight guess what before. Anyone ridicule Tenderloin narcotics everyone.

        Neighborhood in San Francisco don’t go there. Limit attitude cops tired “DA”. Lenient verdict on same criminals whom protected. There part of just can’t stop. Basically addictions and criminals only. Area to perform unclothe business. Soon going be displace with redevelopment. Board of Supervisors aware of external narcotics. Transactions and illegal counterfeiting for Chinatown. Learning justice dept of San Francisco. Corrupt Tenderloin should destroy drug. Trade can’t certain interest. Groups makes profits of naïve besides. You seen harsh upon those. Not working downtown whom also. Consume narcotics those affluent seldom care. About humans just profits!

        • Tony

          Sorry, but was this text run through google translate or something?

    • besidesg

      better the wealthier people left. (sarcasm) like in detroit.

      • robotsrule

        It wasn’t just wealthy people that left Detroit, it was the middle class as well, all created by the auto industry. So it’s a poor comparison. San Francisco has functioned perfectly fine for a century with a reasonable stratification of poor, middle class, and affluent peoples. Now we’re being told it’s only going to be a city for the rich and we all have to accept it. I was here first, and I don’t accept it.

  • Ronbenet Jamsey

    Put the bums and the crazies on alcatraz. It’s a great place to fight and pass out and crap your pants.

  • MaeB.

    Nice piece. I live on the border of those forty blocks, and the TL always mystifies me. Sometimes it is so full of vitality and humor and soulfulness and gritty, unique, urban energy and unexpected beauty. Other times I feel I’ve dropped into some kind of ghastly, disease-ridden underworld and it is basically The Last Judgement by Hieronymous Bosch. It’s sad, but probably the case, that once the awful part of the TL is swept away or cleaned up or rezoned or whatever, the beautiful part will probably be gone as well. I don’t like or trust Randy Shaw, but he’s right that the TL is basically the last neighborhood in SF where non-millionaires will live. And pretty soon it, too, will be gone, replaced with boutiques full of ethically-sourced, unethically priced coffee and artisan duds and doodads for tech homeowners in their twenties. So goes the city…

  • Daphne Daniels

    I once was once offerred (separately, by different people) — a virtual pharmacy as I walked the two blocks of Leavenworth between Eddy and Golden Gate — I could have bought roxy, molly, cheeba, methadone, crystal, and of course I was also helpfully offered the general, “whatchoo need”… but I don’ need to buy any of it. I watched the dealers scout the cops who were walking their beat and just move to the next block. So obviously drug dealing is a problem, and no, the police aren’t doing enough and won’t be until there are police *stationed*, not strolling, on every corner, and actually making arrests. It is not impossible to stop the dealing on these corners if there is a will to do so. But on that same walk on that sunny afternoon, I was also offered sincere good afternoon wishes by several of my fellow humans. There are good, but down-and-out people in the Tenderloin. P.S. I’m a tech worker and I feel more at home in the Tenderloin than I do in the Marina (like, oh my gawd… gag me with a spoon!)

  • Mario Grillo

    Captain Cherniss,so what if there are SROs there? We have to put up with it,not contributing to it!

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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