More Police Are Promised for Hillcrest : Crime: Civilian patrols will also be trained in an effort to end the recent spate of attacks.
San Diego officials announced Monday that they will assign more police and train civilian patrols in an effort to stem both crime and criticism in North Park and Hillcrest, which have been hit by numerous assaults recently, including a weekend hate crime that killed a 17-year-old.
“There’s no question in my mind we need to put more resources in this area right now,” Police Chief Bob Burgreen said during a news conference at City Hall. “We are going to be there now until we catch them.”
Burgreen, however, sought to distinguish a six-month spate of assaults from the Friday night stabbing that killed John Robert Wear, a Twain Junior-Senior High School student. Police consider the attack on Wear a hate crime because his assailant called Wear and his two companions “faggots” before kicking and stabbing the young man with a 6-inch knife.
Wear’s attack “was not a part of the ongoing series,” Burgreen said. “It was an isolated incident.”
In the days since Wear’s death, the gay community has blasted the police for inadequately protecting the homosexual and lesbian neighborhood that includes Hillcrest. During a meeting Sunday with police, almost 200 people gathered at a coffeehouse to express their rage and demand better law enforcement. Another meeting to announce the new security measures was held in the neighborhood Monday night.
“When there were six killings in Clairemont, we saw action,” said Anthony V. Zampella, publisher of Bravo!, a magazine geared to gays. “This is gay-bashing--a person was killed Friday night because (his attackers) thought he was gay. Hate crimes are not yet treated like a crime.”
City Councilman John Hartley called a news conference Monday afternoon to present a multi-pronged plan aimed at catching Wear’s attackers, as well as the assailants responsible for a series of beatings and muggings that have been described by police as “wildings.”
“We take this seriously, and we are going to do everything we can to make those neighborhoods safe,” Hartley said.
Starting today, his office will screen volunteers for a civilian patrol. The volunteers, armed with mobile phones donated by PacTel, will be trained by police and deployed on the streets of Hillcrest and North Park from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., which has been the prime target time of the attackers.
So far, about 40 people have volunteered for the street duty, Burgreen said, and they will be trained to act as the “eyes and ears” of the police. However, the volunteers are not expected to act as law officers.
“We don’t need people going out into the street trying to take the law into their own hands,” Burgreen said.
He said he has formed a special task force and increased the number of police, uniformed as well as plainclothes, assigned to the area. The additional manpower--assigned on and off since the attacks began last summer--has not yet paid off.
On the night of Wear’s attack, 10 additional officers were patrolling the area, seven in uniform, three in plainclothes.
Burgreen has also assigned a mobile police unit to heighten the police presence in the neighborhood. The specially adapted recreational vehicle will be parked initially at 10th and University avenues, and will be moved to other locations “until this nonsense is stopped,” he said.
In addition, local businesses and residents have pooled their resources to offer an $8,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Wear’s attacker. People who want more information about the fund, dubbed “Uptown Strikes Back,” can call 235-TIPS.
Police describe Wear’s attacker and the man’s companion as white males with closely cropped hair, or “skinheads.” In a series of 35 assaults that have occurred since June, the attackers have been black and their victims white men and women, both heterosexual and homosexual.
Police at first said 52 attacks had occurred in the area since July. On Monday, Burgreen corrected that figure, saying it was “inflated” because a detective inadvertently released the wrong number.
The assailants have been able to persist since June because they have targeted a large area and have struck with little regularity--anywhere from a week to four hours between attacks, Burgreen said.
“For the most part, the victims were victimized because they were by themselves,” he said.
At the news conference, Burgreen and city officials sought to focus on the full-court press police are now staging.
The combined efforts are designed to send a forceful message,” Councilman Ron Roberts said. “Here’s a community that has woken up and is ready to hit back.”