San Francisco Mayor London Breed told the Board of Supervisors this week that keeping street ambassador programs and adding supplemental funding for police and prosecutors will contribute to the city’s efforts to make its streets safer.
Breed on Tuesday requested the policymakers to support a series of actions that intend to increase public safety.
One is extending the current contract for street ambassador programs put on by Urban Alchemy and Mid-Market Ambassadors in the Tenderloin and Downtown neighborhoods. The programs work to welcome visitors and assist pedestrians. The city’s Budget and Appropriations Committee is currently reviewing a request to extend through the end of the year the program’s grant, which is presently set to expire at the end of June. The matter was carried over Wednesday to the committee’s next meeting on March 15.
On Tuesday, Breed mentioned that many of the community ambassadors who are part of these programs are people of color who were formerly incarcerated or homeless.
“When we talk about alternatives to policing, they are a perfect representation of what we’re trying to do,” Breed said. “Not only do they serve as non-police presence on the street, but they also train and uplift people who deserve a second chance.”
Hiring police and prosecutors
Breed also asked the board to quickly advance a $26.7 million budget supplement she proposed in February that would fund police overtime and hire more prosecutors in San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office.
The supplement would work as a quick fix to the city’s severe police staffing shortage, deploy retired police ambassadors for beat patrol presence and hire more attorneys that can tackle fentanyl drug dealing cases, she said.
The San Francisco Police Department cited that between 2021 and 2022, it saw an overtime increase of 121 percent in order to respond to basic needs and have a greater presence in Downtown.
“This is about public safety right now. I know we need long-term strategies to address our significant staffing shortage, and we are working on that,” said Breed. “But every day, I hear from residents — and I’m sure you all do too — and small businesses who want us to do more around public safety. I’m hoping that we don’t continue to delay.”
Breed also said she’s introducing a three-year contract with the police department to offer retention bonuses and recruitment incentives to keep seasoned officers and onboard new ones. The contract would make the police department have the highest paid starting salary in the region.
Breed said police staffing is a national crisis.
“It’s one we have to tackle aggressively with local solutions,” she said.