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Old Town Violence and Vandalism Down, Police Costs Up

Police department may face hard cuts to continue the success of the Neighborhood Response Team.

The Old Town neighborhood has witnessed a significant decrease of violent crime and vandalism since the establishment of the Neighborhood Response Team, according to a report issued Wednesday by Police Chief Mike Massoni.

Massoni said that the Neighborhood Response Team, a police unit aimed at combating gang violence in the neighborhood, has resulted in a 37.5 percent decrease in violent crime and a 44 percent decrease in vandalism in a presentation to the city council.

However, though the success of the Neighborhood Response Team has tallied nearly 300 arrests and 20 handgun confiscations, the continuation of the program may result in the elimination of others deemed vital by the members of city council.

“When you get down to the bare bones,” Massoni said, “Cops on the street are my number one priority.”

The team, comprised of one sergeant and three officers, is a significant cost, Massoni said, and cuts must be made in other areas in order to maintain a balanced budget.

Among the proposed cuts made by Massoni to the council are the Gang Resistance Education and Training courses offered to sixth graders, middle school-aged children and South City families, the Hispanic Citizens Academy, high school drug resistance programs, the Citizen Academy, stranger danger classes and the Every 15 Minutes program.

“There’s not a lot of fat to trim,” Massoni said. “The only way to do this is to make the hard cuts.

The NRT was established in January 2011 after a rash of gang-related violence resulted in the killings of five young men. The city allocated $1.4 million to fund the team for a two-year period.

Councilmember Mark Addiego was vocal about his disappointment concerning the list of potential cuts presented to the council.

“Your department is bigger than these items,” he said.

Councilmember Kevin Mullin said that the programs being considered for elimination are instrumental to prevention and integration and the police department should be more aggressive in finding alternative options.

“There may be an interest in finding additional county resources,” Mullin said. “We’re going to have to be creative.”

Massoni said a possible solution would be the reorganization of the department, which could result in long-term savings.

In order for the Neighborhood Response Team to become a permanent element of the South San Francisco Police Department, Massoni requested that the council raise the staffing level of sworn officers from 79 to 83.

“There’s still some issues out there, and we’re not done with it,” Massoni said.

The police department would like to expand the efforts of the team citywide to ensure that gang-related crime is not prevalent in other neighborhoods.

The team will also be in higher demand, Massoni said, as the state of California begins to feel the weight of the statewide realignment of the parole system.

The realignment will cause an influx of prisoners on parole, Massoni said.

“They’re being released pretty much to their own devices, and they’re being released before they should be,” Massoni said.

The increase of police officers will allow the department to make sure those on probation will be visited regularly, Massoni said.

Mayor Richard Garbarino said he was not yet prepared to make a decision on the proposed increase, as the council would like to hear the police chief’s alternative budget proposals.

“I think the commitment is there for the NRT,” Garbarino said.  

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Andy Lieberman March 22, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I'm glad to read that things are improving in Old Town, and I hope that the police department can find ways to keep lots of officers on the streets there and in the rest of South City. We have had problems with people coming to use and sell drugs on our quiet cul-de-sac in Westborough, and the police have been very responsive every time we call for which we are appreciative!
Helena Jack March 22, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Maybe the police can now focus on prostitution and pimps doing business at local hotels like the Ramada on Airport.
Starchild March 22, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Drug sales/use and prostitution are not real crimes. There is no public consensus behind arresting people for these things. Real crimes have victims. It is bad enough that police and other government services are funded by stealing money from people without their consent. It is doubly unacceptable for them to be using this stolen money to criminalize innocent people. It is a basic issue of human rights. We don't have the right to censor behavior that offends us. If it is the violence associated with drug sales and prostitution to which you object, then let the police go after the *violence*, which is the real problem, and which is a *consequence* of those activities being forced into the black market. Leave peaceful people alone. Thank you.
Starchild March 22, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Noteworthy from the article -- Observe that the authorities pose the choice as being between cutting the Neighborhood Response Team or cutting other programs or services. What they conspicuously avoid mentioning is the possibility of cutting staff salaries or benefits, even though the public would quite likely see this as a better solution, given that government employees typically get significantly more pay/benefits than people doing similar work in the voluntary sector.
David Jones March 23, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Massoni is deluded with visions of intellectual adequacy. At the rate the Rank and File is being decimated due to "internal conflicts" the City of South San Francisco will go broke just paying litigation and settling lawsuits. It's like a wolfpack on a dead carcass.
Austin Choi March 23, 2012 at 05:45 AM
The SSF PD has done a fairly good job overall. It would be great if all of the programs could stay intact, but it doesn't look like it will be possible. As for government employees, they get the pension and other benefits, such as job security, due to the significantly lower salaries compared to the for-profit private sector, which can also fire people at will. It's an even tradeoff.
Henry G. May 05, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Most citizens of SSF have no idea how bad its getting on our streets. Thats because SSF police are doing a fine job keeping things at bay while working with a tight budget. If the response team is cut/dismantles, crime in Old Town will rise and the gangs will regroup to commit crimes, terrorize citizens, etc. Then people like "Starchild" will cry, "Where's SSF police? What are they doing?" SSF police is know amoung city/county leaders to be top notch along with Daly City, San Mateo, and Redwood City police forces. While Millbrae, San Carlos, and Half Moon Bay forces are gone, and Pacifica is next on the chopping block, our PD is strong! Support them.

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