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Friday, May 14, 2010

Cops Can't Link Crimes Near Pot Clubs to Pot Clubs

Posted By on Fri, May 14, 2010 at 8:45 AM

Is he robbing you because there's a pot club 100 feet away? Or just because he's robbing you? The cops have no idea.
  • Is he robbing you because there's a pot club 100 feet away? Or just because he's robbing you? The cops have no idea.
Glide Memorial Church is an oasis in the Tenderloin, a sanctuary amidst some of the starkest examples of human wreckage many of us will ever see. Nobody would call Glide dangerous -- or suggest shutting it down to curtail the robberies, assaults, drug-dealings and other crimes which occur nearby on Ellis Street or a block away on Jones, to which the lines to receive the church's free meals often stretch.

So what, then, does a car broken into at 16th and Mission or a shoving match on Howard Street have to do with the nearby marijuana dispensary? Very little, admitted the San Francisco Police Department, during a long-awaited presentation on crimes related to medical cannabis dispensaries delivered to the Police Commission on Wednesday night.

"Consequences with having a medical cannabis dispensary in the community range from serious crimes including homicide and robbery to quality of life issues such as loitering, additional refuse in the air, and, yes, double-parking," said Commander John Loftus, as he recited a grand total of 32 "reportable incidents" (ranging from fraud to sexual assault to "suspicious occurrences") within a 100-foot radius of two pot clubs on Ocean Avenue over a period of over two years.

Sounds plenty scary -- But Loftus soon admitted "there is no definite connection on any of the reported crimes to these clubs."

Loftus' command performance came at the, well, command of Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus , who hit the roof after reading a letter issued by Taraval District Station Captain Denise Schmitt, in which she described a litany of crimes connected to pot clubs.

Will this be blamed on the pot club over yonder?
  • Will this be blamed on the pot club over yonder?
Loftus admitted he couldn't link any of the crimes on 16th and Mission to the nearby Medithrive dispensary at 1933 Mission, nor could he link any of the robberies reported there or on Howard Street near Emmalyn's to that pot club. There has been exactly one homicide connected to a dispensary in the past few years, Loftus reported. Royshawn Holden, 23, was shot and killed after exiting Mr. Nice Guy dispensary on Valencia Street in September 2008.

Since pot clubs are a primarily cash-only business and are, by definition, chock full o' pot, they're attractive to criminals, Loftus said. That may be the case -- but crime has actually decreased in areas where pot clubs have opened up since 2005, admitted Loftus, who used to work in the SFPD's robbery division and witnessed the drop in crime.

That revelation prompted an outcry from attorney Patrick Goggin, who called the SFPD report worthless.

"No evidence has been presented connecting these alleged crimes and the operations of the dispensaries," he told the commission. "I don't get anything out of this report, with all due respect."

DeJesus did. Blasted at Wednesday's hearing and beforehand for taking an outspoken stance on the issue, she nonetheless sprang onto her soapbox once again to chide the SFPD for "dividing communities over medical marijuana.

"This commission has an obligation to make sure this department is honoring [the state's] medical cannabis laws," she said. "...The department shouldn't be out there politicizing to prevent something that is entirely legal. And if you guys" -- her fellow police commissioners -- "can't see that, I am surprised. I really am surprised."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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