Turk Street Warzone: One Tenderloin Block's Violent Crime Rate 35 Times Higher Than City Average

A joint study by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the Central City SRO Collaborative found that a single block of Turk Street has recently seen an exponential spike in violent crime. Since 2009, the violent crime rate on the first block of Turk Street is 35 times higher than the citywide average.

Last year, when George Gascon was still a simple police chief and not yet the dashing chief-come-district attorney he is now, the Arizona transplant instituted an aggressive crackdown on violent crime in the neighborhood. The campaign, which relied heavily on undercover narcotics busts and was largely modeled off the LAPD's strategy of heavily focusing crime-fighting resources on specific high-crime areas, dramatically slowed the growth of violent crime throughout the Tenderloin. In the first thee months of last year, violent crime in the area rose by only one percent whereas the rest of San Francisco experienced a seven percent increase. This particular block of Turk Street however, experienced no similar violent crime slowdown.

Outside of those targeted sweeps, SFPD has slashed police staffing in the Tenderloin by 30 percent. "This is yet another example of the Tenderloin getting discriminatory treatment in receiving public services," Tenderloin Housing Clinic Director Randy Shaw told Beyond Chron, a blog operated by the clinic. "If we brought the folks freely selling drugs on our blocks out to Union Street, they would be removed within minutes."

Shaw and co-author Jonathan Nathan didn't pin the blame solely on an insufficient police presence; they also singled out one business, Tenderloin Liquor, whose customer base continually stirs up trouble.

The store allegedly violates city planning code regulations meant to curb the effects of alcohol outlets, such as selling malt beverages with more than 5.7 percent alcohol content, selling single servings of beer, and allowing drinking outside the store, according to the report.

Tenderloin Liquor owner Ahmed Said denied the claims.

"We've been here for 20 years and have no violations," he said, pointing to a large sign prohibiting loitering outside the store. "We run a legitimate business."

Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius, who recently waxed poetic about the Tenderloin's transformation into a gritty hipster haven, bemoaned the report's findings and accused SFPD of "throwing in the towel" on policing the troubled block.

This stretch of Turk is adjacent to a portion of Market Street that city officials and business leaders have their sights set on gentrifying. Where this block of Turk hits Market is the soon-to-be location of CityPlace, a 250,000 square foot shopping center. Situating the city's gleaming new consumer cathedral right next to the San Francisco's most crime-prone block will doubtlessly be bad for business.

SFPD recently signed the rental agreement on a long-promised policed substation, located at the nearby crime hotspot of 6th and Market; however, internal squabbling over logistical details has delayed its unveiling. Many are hoping this police substation will help alleviate some of the area's criminal woes.

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