San Francisco supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday to ban racially motivated 911 calls.
The Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, also known as the CAREN Act, was authored by Supervisor Shamann Walton in July and aims to prevent false emergency calls made with the intent to discriminate against a person’s race, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other bias.
“Communities of color have the right to go about daily activities without being threatened by someone calling 911 on them due to someone’s racism,” Walton said. “The CAREN Act will prevent these fraudulent emergency calls from happening. Rather than calling the police or law enforcement on your neighbor or someone who you think doesn’t look like they should be your neighbor, try talking to them and getting to know them. Let’s build relationships in our communities.”
Under the CAREN act, victims may be able to seek civil action and recover damages and attorney fees.
The ordinance is named after Karen, the social media moniker for people who call 911 with racist intentions. Several high-profile incidents have been captured on cellphone video showing people threatening to call police because of racial biases.
Cracking down on sideshows
Also during their Tuesday meeting, supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that would amend the city’s current transportation laws, and allow the San Francisco Police Department to impound vehicles found to be associated with sideshows in the city.
Involved vehicles could be impounded for 14 days for the first offense, 15 days for the second offense, and possibly more than 30 days any time thereafter.
The ordinance would also allow officers to arrest anyone found to be involved in organizing the illegal events.
The ordinance comes as police continue to investigate a fatal shooting that occurred near a sideshow event in the city’s Excelsior District that involved as many as 300 spectators and 50 vehicles.
“This is a phenomenon that’s not new to the Bay Area, that’s not new to San Francisco, but it’s something that under COVID has grown extremely out of control. We’re talking about residential neighborhoods,” Supervisor Asha Safai, the ordinance’s author, said. “We’re talking about spinning around and around in their vehicles for hours taking turns; blocking entire streets for blocks with cars; standing and driving into people’s driveways; videotaping and organizing it on social media.
“We are trying to send a message that we won’t tolerate this in San Francisco any longer,” he said.
“This legislation is really important for the city and for the police department, from an enforcement standpoint to have the weight of this board of supervisors behind this type of initiative,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, who helped Safai with the ordinance. He said that since Jan. 1 of this year, sideshows and stunt driving have resulted in over 2,043 emergency calls.
Safe sleeping sites for homeless
During Tuesday’s meeting, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced legislation called “A Place for All” that would require the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to create a network of safe sleeping sites for the city’s homeless residents.
“Despite investing billions of dollars in addressing homelessness over the years, we have never taken responsibility for the many thousands of unhoused people who can still not access a supportive housing unit, shelter bed, or hotel. A Place for All will finally ensure that all unhoused people have a safe place to spend the night so that no one has to camp on our streets, and that no neighborhood has to offer up its sidewalks as shelter of last resort,” Mandelman said.
If approved, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing would be required to create safe sleeping sites for up to 500 people within nine months, and then expand capacity to house more homeless people within 18 months.