New police captain looks to reduce crime in Haight with plan

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- Police are cracking down on quality of life crimes in one of San Francisco's most famous neighborhoods as the new captain at the department's Park Station rolls out the new strategy called "Haight Street Heat."

"It's dealing with the issues that matter most to the community," said Captain John Sanford.

He was assigned to the station just two months ago but told KTVU that in that short time, it's become clear that something needs to be done.

Captain Sanford says the station is overwhelmed with calls from residents and merchants about fighting, illegal parking, loitering and drug use.

"They shouldn't constantly be interfered with by people blocking the sidewalk. They shouldn't be interfered with people stepping in front of them offering them drugs," Sanford said.

Officers have been ordered to crack down on violations such as selling pot outside businesses, letting dogs roam freely without a leash and turning sidewalks into boxing rings.

That's what happened a few weeks ago outside Haight Street Tobacco when two men got into an argument over marijuana.

"We try to tell him, 'No fighting, please!'" said store owner Yarng Altwal.

The store's surveillance camera captured the fight that ended with one man knocked unconscious.

Altwal told KTVU he welcomes the stepped up enforcement.

"Yes, absolutely. We love that," enthused Altwal.

Captain Sanford said the campaign also includes informing the homeless people and transients in the neighborhood about resources.

He insisted that the enforcement doesn't mean officers are hardening their stance on the homeless.

"Whether it's a tourist, whether it's a resident, whether it's a merchant, or a homeless person, if they are committing crimes, that's what I"m concerned about as the district captain. That's what we're stepping up enforcement on," Sanford said.