SFPD's Sixth Street Substation vs. Black Market Street Hustlers
Back in October, at least one Mid-Market drug dealer wasn't worried about the prospect of a new SFPD substation on Sixth Street, just around the corner from his workspace.
"People are gonna adapt," said Bishop, the 27-year-old the hustler in our feature story Black Market Street. "Somehow, someway, we'll find a way around it."
That'll now be put to the test. The substation opened this week, to much fanfare. And the ongoing chess match between the cops and Black Market Street hustlers will enter a new chapter.
City leaders are excited about the new station. "Central Market Safety Hub," Mayor Ed Lee calls it. Mid-Market is the city's up-and-coming tech hub. But it is also home to one of the city's most lucrative open air weed trades. Clearly, one of the substation's top purposes is to dampen this illicit industry across the neighborhood. "The low-level drug dealing we see on sixth street is unacceptable," District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim told the Examiner.
As we wrote in Black Street Market, the hustlers in the neighborhood -- particularly on the stretch of Market between Fifth and Eighth Streets -- have benefited from sparse police patrols, to the frustration of nearby business owners. Marwan Eadeh, who co-founded World of Stereo, which sits at the corner of Market and Jones, calls the police every day -- the presence of dealers likely scares of customers. The black-and-white would roll up to the corner, the drug dealers would disperse, and then after 10 or 15 minutes, the cruiser would leave, and the hustlers would return. It was a daily cycle.
The substation, the SFPD has indicated, will indirectly mean more officers on patrol, particularly on Sixth Street: officers won't have to travel as far to file paper work.
But the Tenderloin police station sits just two blocks from the Market and Jones corner -- essentially the same distance as the substation-- and that hasn't seemed to have much of an impact. The real impact is likely tied to actually having more officers on patrol.
Employees at World of Stereo theorized that the drug dealing "got worse a couple of years ago" because medical marijuana was legalized, which gave some dealers the ability to legally carry their product, and because the city officially classified marijuana offenses as law enforcement's lowest priority. An equally likely cause, however, might have been the decrease in patrol officers on Market Street. In 2009, there were 32. By last year, there were 16.
As one beat officer explained in the feature, staff reductions had reduced the number of undercover "buy-busts," which are often the most effective strategy for catching drug dealers.
"Nowadays, buy-busts and extra foot patrols are a luxury," the officer said. "It's all about what is the most effective use of the officers we do have in terms of public safety."
Those extra foot patrols are apparently on the way. The number of Market Street beat officers is back on the up-and-up. There's now 24, and Chief Greg Suhr told the Chronicle that there will once gain be 32 beat officers as "the next two or three" police academy classes graduates.
The Sixth Street Substation may not be the driving force for crime reduction some see it as. Rather it may simply stand as one symptom of the city's sharper focus on cleaning up Mid-Market. A potential two-fold increase in beat officers is another symptom.
Bishop and many of his colleagues, of course, have posted up on Market for years. They were there when the SFPD assigned 32 beat officers in 2009, and they plan to still be there whenever the SFPD assigns 32 beat officers again.