By Rob Cox
It started last spring. A group of neighbors were out on the sidewalk talking when another neighbor, Bob, walked down his front steps to his car parked at the curb. We all gave the “good morning neighbor” wave and continued our conversation.
The next thing we saw was Bob bounding out of his car looking astonished and a bit shaken. There was a homeless person in his back seat. The guy broke into Bob’s car, spent the night and trashed it.
Another neighbor walking across the street said “call the cops on this guy, he’s bad news”. And sure enough, when officer Fraser apprehended this man a block away he had 35 priors, including assault and breaking and entering. We found out he had been breaking into houses and terrorizing businesses - among a litany of other crimes. He has since been put in jail and we haven’t seen him since.
The small group of neighbors that filed complaints that day began talking about some of the not so nice events that were going on in our neighborhood. Topics included break-ins, gay rape, loud partying at 2 A.M., homeless people camping out on the street and on our doorsteps and the situation surrounding Halloween. The more we talked the more we were convinced we should do something about these problems as neighbors. So, we contacted San Francisco SAFE.
San Francisco SAFE is the city's leading crime-prevention education organization. They help residents, police, and community groups work together to create safe, vibrant neighborhoods by providing violence prevention education, public safety information and community organizing services. (www.sfsafe.org)
Hartford Street is a residential street that runs behind Castro Street and as such gets a lot of overflow traffic – both foot and vehicular – from the Castro Businesses. So, with a few neighbors taking the lead, we met monthly at the Eureka Valley Community Center and wrestled with these issues. Through these meetings we created the Hartford Street Neighborhood Association (HSNA). A local neighborhood association established to help advocate for a safe, informed and social environment on Hartford Street.
Since we have been meeting we have had at least two chronic criminals removed from Hartford. There has also been a notable decrease in people sleeping on the sidewalk and in doorways. We also helped with making sure the Cafe would meet its conditions of use before they were allowed to expand.
The group meets monthly and is working to help neighbors interact and keep each other informed about events and goings on and also provide activities that will help Hartford Street become a more familiar group of neighbors. The idea is to watch out for each other and become better neighbors. We also want to provide annual or semi annual get-togethers on our block.
If you live on Hartford Street you can stay informed by going to our Yahoo group and signing up. Go to: www.groups.yahoo.com/group/HartfordStreetNeighborhoodAssoc