Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Entertainment Commission and Cops Set to Square Off Over Club Violence

The Crime section of SFGate is running an article with the rather alarmist title "Summit Aims to Stem Bloodshed at SF Clubs" that is less interesting for the facts it reports - two shootings outside local clubs during New Year's Eve (and what was the party at the 9th Street warehouse, anybody got any tips?) and two cases of assault - than it is for what happens further down the column, when the police begin to complain that, because of the Entertainment Commission, they have less leeway in dealing with violence in clubs.

As Robert Davis, the executive director of the Entertainment Commission, points out in the article, the police are fully empowered to issue citations whenever they want, but they don't have the authority to impose new rules on clubs and bars, which is under the purview of the Commission. That's the real issue - when the police were responsible for regulating clubs, their basic solution was to close everything down, which is what led to the formation of the San Francisco Late Night Coalition and the Entertainment Commission. Reading between the lines of this article, it seems that the police are jockeying for a change that would return the authority for regulating clubs back to them.

What's really interesting, though, is the statement made by the police spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina, who says "One of the common threads we see is that violence is happening very close to closing time or after." Strange, the same problem was plaguing England when they had a mandatory pub closing time of midnight, and then, when they liberalized the licensing laws, studies showed that there was a significant drop-off in violence.

Most of the chowderheads who commented on this article seem to think that the solution is more police, but maybe the real solution is to let San Francisco become a 24-hour city; then you wouldn't be dumping everyone, in whatever condition, into the streets all at the same time. One of the more insightful comments is that we no longer have a real club district that would make it easy for regular patrols to keep an eye on things; indeed, as gentrification has come to SoMa, it's forced clubs to exist in isolated pockets, often in pretty sketchy locales. Maybe liberalization of closing hours and zoning would do more to improve the overall vibe than throwing more cops (and more money) at the problem.

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