SF launches street crisis response team

San Francisco has introduced a pilot program as a replacement for armed law enforcement to handle non-violent-related 911 calls, according to a press release from San Francisco Mayor London Breed. This was the city’s response to the police brutality that occurred earlier this year in the United States.  

Partnered with the San Francisco Fire Department, the Street Crisis Response Team the task force will include a behavioral health clinician, peer specialist and a medical professional. They will be responding to mental health and addiction related emergencies so law enforcement can have more time to respond to higher priority 9-11 calls according to the press release.

“This is the first of at least six teams that will start over the coming months with the goal of operating citywide, seven days a week,” Breed said in a tweet

In 2019, around 45% of police use-of-force incidents in San Francisco involved Afican Americans, while 21% of incidents involved Latinos, according to the San Francisco Police Department data center.

“Social workers, psychologists, peer health workers who have experience accessing mental health and substance use care, and other civilian responders have the experience and training to respond to mental health crises unlike armed police officers,” SF State Criminal Justice Studies assistant professor Dilara Yarbrough said

Police calls go through the Department of Emergency Management where they get assigned a priority based on the call. Priority A calls which has a response time of seven minutes which includes imminent danger of life and major property damage on scene. Priority B calls are for incidents where a crime has just occurred when there is a potential danger of life and the average response time is 20 minutes.

The purpose of this new crisis unit will be responding to Priority C calls where the scene has no present of potential danger of life. The average response time of these calls are 60 minutes. Diverting all low priority calls to this response team, will allow armed law enforcement to focus on the public safely and respond with high priority calls. 

“They will be responding to non-violent calls from 10 a.m to 6 p.m, Monday through Friday, starting in the Tenderloin.” tweeted District 6 supervisor Matt Haney

Haney also stated the program will expand to six teams with 24/7 hour coverage in the upcoming months and will be followed by an Office of Coordinated Care, and a SF Mental Health Services Center.

 The $5 million budget for the new Street Crisis Response Team will come from the General Fund according to Mayor Breeds two-year budget proposal. With the Business Tax Reform passing in November, SF can direct approximately $18.5 million to the pilot program over the next two years. 

“The goal of this pilot program is to meet people in distress with the right services and professionals who can get them the help they need.” said Breed in a press release. “We need to end the cycle of people not getting treated, only to be released back on the street once again.”