SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU)— The San Francisco Police Department is stepping up foot patrols in Fisherman's Wharf after years of complaints from merchants about an uptick in crime.
For the first time in more than three years, officers will be conducting nighttime foot patrols.
Foot patrols have been lean at the Wharf for several years because of low staffing levels at SFPD.
Captain David Lazar says thanks to more funding from the Mayor's Office and the Board of Supervisors, four new foot beat officers will be making the rounds from 2 p.m. to midnight every day.
"Two years ago, we only had one daytime foot patrol officer,” said Capt. Lazar. "I added three more last year. Then just last week, we added four more officers."
That makes a total of eight foot beat patrols and merchants couldn't be happier with the start of the tourist season upon them.
"It'll be a deterrent for sure, I mean there are some criminal operations down here that have lookout and when they see the cops come, they scatter," said Troy Campbell, who spearheads Fisherman's Wharf's Community Benefit District. "That's great! That's what we want!"
The Wharf draws more than 10 million tourists each year. They come to visit Alcatraz, ride the street car and taste crab. What they don't expect to experience, says Campbell, is car burglaries, the homeless, and street crime.
"A lot of people experience culture shock when they come,” admitted Campbell, who's been working with other business owners and police for years, trying to rid the streets here of pickpockets, illegal vendors, and scam artists. "I've seen minors lose hundreds of dollars,” he said, showing us a photo of three men he says run games on the street, swindling money from unsuspecting tourists and driving real business away.
When KTVU asked merchants about the street scams, they pointed to the sidewalk in front of Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum as a hotbed for illegal activity. "There are always people playing games there," said one store manager who did not wish to be named. "There's guys out there all the time trying to take money from tourists and when employees from the museum try to chase ‘em off, they've been assaulted. One time, one of them even got maced in the face."
Merchants have also been vocal about the homeless' lack of sanitary conditions. They say they've urged authorities to conduct frequent sweeps to clear the street of tents. Sidewalks, alleys, and gutters filled human feces and urine need to be hosed down. Fisherman's Wharf has also become a hotspot for thieves who break into cars, stealing tourists' luggage, wallets and cameras.
"Having a foot beat officer is a huge deterrent [to crime]" said Lazar. "The officers will be engaging everybody they see. Someone may think twice about committing crime on the block when they see two uniformed officers walking down the street. We really we want to send a message to the residents and visitors that Fisherman's Wharf is a safe place."