How Does The City Count Human Feces?

Categories: Government
Okay, 2,499 to go...
Yesterday's Chris Roberts piece on cleaning human dung from the streets of the Tenderloin was so intriguing, it deserves not just one follow-up but a second.

So, yes, this is follow-up No. 2.

Department of Public Works spokeswoman Gloria Chan tells us the DPW responded to 2,500 calls between July of 2011 and the present day to scrub the Tenderloin's streets of human waste. We wondered -- how, exactly, is the department keeping track of this? Is it filing these calls under "E" for "Excrement, Human"? Or maybe "F" for "Feces, Human"? (Actually, the "human" is redundant; Chan says that, in the eyes of DPW, "fecal matter is fecal matter.")

If it's not categorized alphabetically, is there some sort of numerical code for excrement extraction, like traffic or parking violations? "Not another Code 72!" a frustrated DPW worker might intone.

Well, it's neither of these. But, for fans of feces-related double-entendres, the DPW's actual solution is even better.

It all starts with perturbed city residents dialing 311 and complaining to the operator about "human waste" or "feces" or any number of terms to describe you-know-what. That, along with the location of said waste is transmitted to the DPW's dispatch center. It is then assigned to one of many zones the department uses to subdivide the city. And, finally, "Whenever there's a report of human waste or something of such nature, including vomit, we send out a steamer," says Chan.

So, the tally of 2,500 calls to remove human waste isn't entirely accurate. That's how many steamer calls were made. "The caller could be saying it's urine. It could be Mountain Dew," notes Chan. "We don't know."

But we do know that something resembling urine or feces on the gritty Tenderloin streets is probably just that. And, for the record, Chan could not see the humor in the DPW categorizing assignments to clean human excrement off the streets as "steamer calls."

Those 2,500 steamer calls represent 39 percent of the city's total: Between July 2011 and the present day, 6,400 were logged. Whatever it is that's being cleaned off the streets, there's more of it in the 'Loin than anywhere else.

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Why does the tenderloin have a disproportionate share of such incidences?  Is it a lack of lavatory facilities or a lack of commitment/knowledge in using them?

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