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This Homeless Man Was Issued a Citation for Eating Pizza at a Bus Stop

This Homeless Man Was Issued a Citation for Eating Pizza at a Bus Stop



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The San Francisco Police Department cited the man as a ‘way to get him to move along’

“He was being a good sport about it,” a homeless shelter worker said.

Homeless advocates are searching for answers after an elderly homeless man was issued a citation on March 5 by the police for eating pizza at a San Francisco bus stop. The man brought the citation — which simply read “PC 640 (b)(1) Eating in the shelter” — to the Coalition on Homelessness, where the confusing note was leaked to the media.

To be clear, although food and drink are technically not allowed on San Francisco’s public transportation system, Muni, it is not illegal to eat in a bus stop, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency confirmed with the San Francisco Examiner that such a citation is not listed in their fee schedule. The San Francisco MTA further confirmed that commuters are “rarely” cited even for eating food on a train or trolley. The original law states that violators may be cited for “eating or drinking in or on a system facility or vehicle in areas where those activities are prohibited by that system.”

Police stated that the citation was issued soon after a stabbing at a nearby homeless shelter and that “concerned officers” were trying to get the man to “move along.”

Kelly Cutler, a staffer at the Coalition on Homelessness who originally tweeted out the citation, told SFGate that the elderly man who originally approached them had a “good attitude” about the whole thing. “He laughed about it. He kept saying he bought the pizza for his friend on her birthday.”

The citation originally stated that he was due in court on Wednesday, but Cutler expected the case would likely be dismissed because of the man’s homeless status.

“Whose quality of life are you talking about?” Cutler told SFGate. “The officer can say, ‘Move along, move along.’ The problem is, there’s nowhere to move along to.”


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


A knife, a threat and one more frightened SF woman left dismayed by city inaction

1 of 10 Esther Stearns poses for a portrait at McCovey Cove where she was on September 12 when a man wearing only hospital bottoms and no top or shoes came up to her waving a knife. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019. San Francisco, Calif. Jana Asenbrennerova / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 10 Police officers stand guard during a protest following an arrest on 17th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

3 of 10 Police officers Alan Katz (left) and Chris Simpson patrol on foot at Powell and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 10 Police officers search a man after he was taken into custody at Grove and Market streets in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle 2018 Show More Show Less

5 of 10 Mayor London Breed leads a contingent of pedestrians on Gough Street in Hayes Valley to City Hall for a Walk to Work Day rally in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Paul Chinn / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

6 of 10 Mayor London Breed answers a question from Chronicle reporter Heather Knight during an interview at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., onTuesday, February 5, 2019. Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 10 State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, at the CA Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center on Friday, May 31, 2019, in San Francisco, Calif. Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

8 of 10 San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is giving his Chief's Report to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in San Francisco, CA. Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

9 of 10 A homeless man, who neighborhood residents allege uses colostomy bags and throws full ones onto the street in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, sits in a wheelchair as he waits for the bus at the bus stop at Geary Boulevard and 22nd Avenue on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Show More Show Less

10 of 10 (12:18 a.m.) A tent is set up in the 800 block of Market St. in San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Guy Wathen / The Chronicle 2019 Show More Show Less

Esther Stearns owns Stagecoach Greens, a miniature golf course in Mission Bay that highlights the famously fun and whimsical side of San Francisco. But on Sept. 12, while making a video for her business near McCovey Cove, she encountered the city&rsquos increasingly notorious dark side.

A disheveled man who appeared to have just been released from a hospital because he was wearing only blue hospital bottoms with no shirt and no shoes began ranting incoherently near Stearns and her friends. Then, the man pulled out a small knife, got in the women&rsquos faces and repeatedly yelled, &ldquoWho wants to get cut?&rdquo

Stearns, 59, showed me her call log from that day. She phoned 911 at 11:41 a.m., 11:48 a.m. and 11:53 a.m. It wasn&rsquot until 11:55 a.m. &mdash 14 minutes after the first call &mdash that police responded. According to Stearns, they took the man&rsquos knife, but said his words hadn&rsquot constituted a criminal threat and did not arrest him. The man talked about his freedom of speech and just walked away.

Stearns said it&rsquos heartbreaking to see fellow human beings left to deteriorate and scary to be a victim.

&ldquoI can&rsquot outrun this guy,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThis has become an inhospitable place for vulnerable populations like older women, like any older people.&rdquo

The frightening encounter and discouraging outcome was one of dozens of similar stories shared with me after last week&rsquos column about a woman sexually assaulted by a man who appeared to be high or have untreated mental illness outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It seems that just about every resident of the city has a story of walking in San Francisco and being yelled at, spit on, lunged at, punched or kicked by a stranger exhibiting deranged behavior. And many don&rsquot feel confident the San Francisco Police Department will take their calls seriously or that City Hall has any sort of grasp on solving San Francisco&rsquos severe twin crises of drug addiction and untreated mental illness.

&ldquoThere&rsquos an acceptance of incivility and threatening behavior that is not an acceptable way for people in a dense city to live with each other,&rdquo Stearns said.

Mayor London Breed said in an interview she hears these stories too &mdash and they&rsquore not OK.

&ldquoI understand that this is a problem,&rdquo she said. &ldquoWhat&rsquos happening, unfortunately, is we see these people, we see that they&rsquore in crisis, and we don&rsquot have all the tools we need to address these issues until something happens.&rdquo

But the &ldquosomething&rdquo that happens after a crime is committed isn&rsquot very satisfying either. They&rsquore taken to either jail or San Francisco General Hospital&rsquos psychiatric emergency room. There aren&rsquot nearly enough treatment beds available for longer-term care, so they&rsquore often quickly released &mdash sometimes still in their hospital garb.

&ldquoThey&rsquore right back on the streets in the same place, creating the same conditions they did before,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThe problem is everyone wants a solution, but we have to be able to force people into treatment.&rdquo

The mayor said she&rsquos glad the city has opted in to state Sen. Scott Wiener&rsquos expanded conservatorship program to compel treatment of mentally ill people who are too sick to know they need help. But that will apply only to people who&rsquove been 5150&rsquoed &mdash taken to a psychiatric emergency room for a 72-hour hold &mdash eight times in one year, which is a very high bar.

Think about it. That&rsquos someone posing an imminent danger to themselves or somebody else at least once every six weeks, on average, for a year. Only then can the city require the person to receive long-term help.

Breed said she&rsquod like to see more loosening of the state law to allow the city to compel more people into treatment. But in reality, neighboring counties bound by the same law are conserving far more people per capita than San Francisco, partly because of a looser interpretation of the term &ldquogravely disabled.&rdquo

Under California law, people can be conserved if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their own food, clothing and shelter.

Many people in San Francisco clearly fit that third definition, but the city rarely conserves them because it doesn&rsquot have anywhere to treat them and due to concerns over violating their civil liberties. San Francisco lost treatment beds during the recession, and it hasn&rsquot restored them despite its budget swelling to $12.3 billion a year. And it&rsquos obviously struggling to cope with the repercussions.

Breed said she joined the city&rsquos street medicine and homeless outreach teams Tuesday for a walk around the Civic Center. Outside the Main Library, they talked to an alcoholic homeless woman known for cursing out passersby. She had just been released from the hospital when the mayor encountered her on the sidewalk. The group couldn&rsquot convince her to accept help &mdash or even drink water on a brutally hot day.

&ldquoThis is not something we should allow to continue,&rdquo Breed said. &ldquoThis is a situation where we should have the ability to do more whether they agree to wanting help or not.&rdquo

That&rsquos true &mdash and Breed does have power to do more by pressing for every treatment bed in the city to be used every night, to continue to open more beds, to urge more gravely disabled people to be compelled to accept treatment, and to open more sobering centers, including a proposed center specifically for people addicted to meth. Of course, her continued push for more shelter beds and supportive housing units is essential, too.

There&rsquos also clearly a need for Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott to have a conversation about the role for police officers to play in addressing this crisis. While countless city residents have told me over the years they feel dismissed by officers when reporting scary street behavior, Breed and the Police Department are adamant these stories are simply not the true.

&ldquoI know that&rsquos not happening,&rdquo Breed said of officers discouraging people from pressing charges or not taking complaints seriously. She said she&rsquos accompanied police on some of these calls and never sees them act dismissively of course, police might be more careful when the mayor is standing right there. Breed added that the department is understaffed and having a hard time recruiting.


Watch the video: Homeless Man Asks For Food #shorts (August 2022).