Back in March, I introduced you to University Heights resident Emad Mirgoli. He had at least two experiences where the cops did not respond to his calls for help. One of those incidents happened while he was crossing a bridge near his home.
Here’s what happened: Mirgoli said a man, who was doing drugs and appeared to be homeless, threatened him with a knife and then a group with the man followed Mirgoli home. He called 911, but after the operator offered to give him the police department’s non-emergency line, he hung up and focused on getting home safely.
After I shared his story, I received emails about other people’s experiences with the police.
One woman told me her relative was punched in the face while walking out of a restaurant in Hillcrest. No one responded to her 911 call. A business owner told me he has started lying to the cops – exaggerating the level of emergency – to get them to respond quickly when homeless people enter his restaurant.
We followed up. I teamed up with Will Huntsberry to tell the story of how some workers in San Diego’s urban core have grown accustomed to slow or nonexistent police responses to potentially violent interactions with homeless people. Some told us they don’t know what to do, and others are alarmingly taking the law into their own hands.
There was a video circulating on social media of a large man slamming a homeless man’s face into the ground in Mission Hills. Huntsberry followed up on that incident and learned that the homeless man had punched a store owner, before an unknown man stepped in. The horrific moment caught on camera, also captured a comment by an observer who said, “I can’t believe the police haven’t come yet.”
It’s worth noting: Workers told us that most interactions with homeless people don’t rise to the level of a serious confrontation. But the few that do quickly become violent, and they happen almost on a daily basis.
How the cops see it. One police officer recommended that resident use common sense and walk away from interactions that can turn violent. And that not all calls rise to the level of emergency some people think they should.
But at the same time, police leaders say cops are exactly the people who can and should respond first to incidents with homeless people.
Also: In the latest VOSD Podcast episode, I get into what stories we uncovered and big takeaways from this story. Listen to the latest episode here or wherever you get your pods.
This was a busy week at Voice of San Diego. Our reporters broke a lot of news and had some compelling narratives. Grab some cafectio and let’s get into it.
Chisme You Wouldn’t Know Without Us
San Diego Unified is closing its iHigh Virtual Academy to middle and high schoolers. This news came as the current school year is winding down and three months before the start of the next one, Jakob McWhinney reported. Parents and teachers were shocked by what they described as an “abrupt notice.” McWhinney asked the district why they closed it and spoke with parents about the decision. Read about iHigh here.
If you ride transit, you might wonder why the little machines that are supposed to validate your ticket at trolley stops or on the bus sometimes don’t work. Well, you’re not the only one. MacKenzie Elmer revealed that the Metropolitan Transit Systems new payment tech Pronto is having issues. Not only is it a huge inconvenience for riders, but it’s costing the agency millions in farebox revenue. Read about Pronto here.
Commercial Street has been packed with homeless camps for months, but the city recently cleared it. Now, you might have noticed this one if you drive down Commercial Street, but our Lisa Halverstadt got some deets on what happened. Read more here.
Read These Ones
Andrew Keatts pulled together a beautiful story on a community that has been forgotten by San Diego at large, but not by the few who grew up there more than 60 years ago. It’s the story of Frontier, a once thriving, diverse community that the city of San Diego bulldozed, and in its place put the San Diego Sports Arena and its vast parking lot. Residents shared their childhood memories with Keatts. Read the story of Frontier here.
If you listen to the VOSD Podcast, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m not a sports person. But this column by Scott Lewis on Major League Soccer coming to town is a must-read. He unpacks past efforts to bring MLS to town, and explains how San Deigo State University maintained its promise that the stadium it planned to build would attract an MLS team. Here’s my favorite line, “Six years ago, that site in Mission Valley was a sad reminder of civic incompetence, failed visions and betrayal. Now, it’s set to be the hottest place in town.” Read his column here.
The situation with San Diego police remind me of the “Arsonist’s Dilemma”. Its an anecdote about firemen who believe that they are not respected or paid enough by the public. So to get more respect, they begin setting fires they can rush to put out. The idea is that if there are more fires, and it takes too long for firefighters to get to fires and put them out, the city politicians will pay more attention, and budget more money to pay firefighters salaries and to hire more firefighters.
The same motivations and incentives appear to be a play with delays in police responses to 911 calls outlined in your articles. If police stop responding to 911 calls, or take to long to respond, city hall politicians question the police chief, who tells them the solution to the problem is to give him more money to hire more cops and pay them more. If the politicians cave into this kind of extortion, the delays or ignored calls will only increase, since by failing to do their job, the police are more likely to get a bigger budget, more staff and higher pay.
The only viable alternative would be for the politicians and the police chief to fire cops who refuse to do their job, in case the non-response and delayed response problem would only get worse. I don’t think this mayor and city council members hired by the voters to deal with problems like this are capable of finding solutions that work for the public, the cops and city taxpayers. Since most of there won election with labor union money, they’re likely to just keep throwing more taxpayer money at the problem.
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