After decades of confusion and dysfunction, San Francisco’s police, sheriff, district attorney, courts, and mayor’s office are crafting a plan to track, prosecute, and get services for the persistent offenders who rack up dozens of citations and blithely ignore them, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. A small group of bad actors – primarily chronic inebriates – drain city resources, distract law enforcement officials, and frustrate residents who can’t understand why someone can be cited repeatedly for the same offense but never seem to face any consequences nor get the help they need.
A new city controller’s report provides the framework for change. “This has been an urban legend for 20 years,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty. “There is no reason why we can’t correct this byzantine, dysfunctional, outmoded method of handling citations.” The report reinforced what critics have been saying, finding that almost half of all quality of life citations are dismissed in traffic court – three times the rate of other citations. “What we’ve been doing is shuffling paper,” said Cristine DeBerry, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff. Police, prosecutors, and courts now are targeting chronic offenders with 20 or more court warrants. “These guys fall through the cracks,” said Capt. Joe Garrity. “Everybody knows they need to get into services, but cops feel like they are spinning their wheels.” A new database is being created to allow officers and prosecutors to view a person’s complete criminal history. This will help police and prosecutors identify people with multiple warrants.