Residents Worry / Youth Violence - Muni Drivers Want More Cops;
San Francisco Chronicle : Feb 16, 1988. pg. A.1
Community leaders and representatives of San Francisco's bus drivers' union plan to ask today for more police protection to help stop youth gang attacks on Municipal Railway buses and in the streets.
The violence intensified this weekend in southeast neighborhoods of the city, when officers surrounded by a jeering mob had to fire a warning shotgun blast to disperse the crowd. Yesterday, police said they, too, fear conditions are turning explosive.
The loose-knit youth gangs "feel like it's a free zone," said Lieutenant Joaquin Santos, adding that the gangs virtually have taken over some blocks in the Visitacion Valley and Hunters Point areas.
Bobbie L. Brown, president of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, said he will meet today with Muni officials to request that additional "preventive measures" be taken to protect bus drivers and passengers from rock-throwing and other attacks.
Tonight, Muni and police officials plan to meet with the Bayview-Hunters Point Crime Abatement Committee to discuss ways to quell the bus-bashing and other youth crimes.
"We thought the problem would go away but it didn't," Brown said yesterday.
"I don't want to have to tell my people not to drive in those (high-risk) areas because there are a number of good people who rely on that bus service," he said. "But we've got to find some solution for protecting those people."
The Police Department last week beefed up its uniformed presence on high-risk Muni lines, adding police escorts for some buses, after two especially violent attacks. The Guardian Angels will also begin regular patrols tonight on 15-Third Street buses, where much of the violence has occurred.
Last Tuesday, a gang of 15 teenagers took over a 15-Third Street bus in the Visitacion Valley area and threatened the driver with a gun. The youths chanted, "Shoot the driver!" Instead, they shot out a bus window and fled.
A few days earlier, up to 200 teenagers pelted a 15-Third Street bus with rocks. The operator was able to drive the bus away without injury to herself or three passengers.
Since the additional police support began last week, Muni reported 10 minor rock-throwing attacks and other disturbances by juveniles. Police arrested a youth on Friday night for spitting on a passenger.
"The attacks have fallen off considerably in terms of the level of violence," said Muni's George Newkirk. "And the police are doing their job. I think things will settle down."
During the past two months, Muni has logged more than 100 "major disturbances" on buses, including rock-throwing attacks, fights and assaults on bus drivers.
Many of the attacks have occurred at night in the Visitacion Valley area. Others have hit the Bayview, Hunters Point and Outer Mission districts.
"We're going to monitor the situation very closely to determine whether (the problem) needs additional manpower," said Hadley Roff, deputy mayor for public safety.
Although attacks on buses have become the focus of recent attention, violence in the southeast end of the city has not been limited to attacks on buses, police said. Police officers in the Potrero Station have been joined in their patrols by 34 extra narcotics officers - and some have come under attack by unruly crowds.
In Visitacion Valley, police fired a warning shot into the ground late Saturday night as a crowd of 150 youths armed with baseball bats and tree stakes began pelting two officers with rocks and bottles.
The officers had just stopped three young men for speeding along Sunnydale Avenue and running two stop signs.
A crowd gathered around the police officers at Sunnydale Avenue and Santos Street at about 10:45 p.m. and began threatening them, said Santos of the Potrero Station.
"They said, `Leave them alone, we're going to kill you pigs,' " and were preparing to wrest the men from police, Santos said.
The youths retreated after one officer fired his shotgun into a lawn and other police cars began arriving in response to the officers' radio call for help.
Two 17-year-olds were arrested, one for driving without a license and the other for possession of cocaine. An adult, John Barkley, was arrested for outstanding traffic warrants.
Over the weekend, there were other violent incidents in the same area.
Santos said that on Friday night someone fired five shots at police officers who were making a drug arrest at Argonaut and Garrison avenues near a housing project.
An officer was hit in the shoulder with a bottle that shattered on impact, Santos said.
"They think they can do whatever they want to do when they get a large crowd of people to help them," he said. "The Muni rock-throwing is just one part of all this."