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Sunset safety program launched amid rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

San Francisco District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar and community leaders Thursday announced several safety measures and programs in the Sunset District in an effort to ensure the safety of the neighborhood, especially for its Asian residents.

Mar introduced his five-point plan on the busy corner of Irving Street and 22nd Avenue. His plan includes having more community-based organizations involved in keeping residents and businesses along commercial corridors, like Irving Street, safe from crime and violence.

He said at the press conference:

Public safety and crime are issues of great importance to our residents and our small businesses and especially our Chinese community here in the Sunset.”

On Irving Street, there have been high-profiled burglaries including at the popular Pineapple King bakery, which was burglarized twice in one night last year. In September, long-time business Frank’s Flowers, just down the block from Pineapple King, was torched and burglarized.

Part of Mar’s plan includes having community ambassadors deployed in the district to provide a safety presence. Ambassadors can also provide escorts for seniors and conduct wellness checks. Mar’s office said they plan to have four ambassadors for the Sunset.

Adrienne Pon, the executive director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, which manages the Community Ambassador Program, said it will be months until ambassadors hit the streets as the office is in the process of hiring new ambassadors.

In the meantime, Mar legislative aide Alan Wong started the Sunset Safety Squad last year during the rise of crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The San Francisco Police Department reported last week that hate crimes against the AAPI communities increased by 567 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.

Wong said many young people, who were upset about the violence, asked him what they could do to help, which is how he started Sunset Safety Squad as a way for the youth to get involved.

The group has about 40 volunteers and have logged over 500 hours walking along commercial corridors, such as Irving and Taraval streets, Wong said:

We’ve been doing regular safety walks in the neighborhood once or twice a week. We’ve been handing out whistles. We’ve been giving out information about the storefront vandalism relief grants that Supervisor Mar pushed forward.”

Another component of Mar’s plan is having the Self-Help for the Eldery’s escort program in the Sunset.

Anni Chung, president of Self-Help for the Elderly, said the escort program is to ensure the safety of seniors by having an escort with them as go to a doctor’s appointment or grocery shopping because they feel unsafe going alone:

We don’t want our seniors to ever not feel safe walking on the streets to District Four in the Sunset.”

Other initiatives include having 200 Ring video camera doorbells installed for free at homes of seniors in the Sunset, Mar said.

The supervisor was also able to get funding in the last budget cycle to create the Sunset Safety Network. He said the funding will be to hire a full-time community organizer who will bring all the neighborhood organizations, safety programs, merchants and the police together to create crime prevention and safety strategies:

This comprehensive approach will ensure that our community can feel safe again walking on our streets.”

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