My husband’s family should feel safe in San Francisco. We all should.

What Will It Take To Feel Safe in San Francisco?

By Joel P. Engardio

My husband’s family loves visiting San Francisco, but now they are hearing about the attacks on our residents. They can’t believe this is happening in such a wonderful city. And they wonder what can be done to keep everyone safe.

Recent statistics say violent crime is down in San Francisco, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Last week, we saw the horrific video of an elderly Chinese man being robbed and then assaulted with a metal pole. While police were investigating that crime, another equally disturbing video surfaced this week that shows a man dragging a middle-aged Asian woman down the sidewalk to steal her purse in Chinatown. Only a few months ago, three Chinese seniors were beaten on video in plain view on a Chinatown street.

And earlier last year, an 89-year-old grandmother named Yik Oi Huang was robbed and beaten into a coma while walking in her neighborhood park in Visitacion Valley. She eventually died from her injuries. Then not long after, a 74-year-old woman was abducted while walking near McLaren Park. This madness has to stop.

Community-based solutions
I’m vice president of Stop Crime SF and our Court Watch program followed Yik Oi Huang’s case and provided support for the victim’s family. The case left many in Visitacion Valley neighborhood fearful. For years, community advocate Marlene Tran tried to sound the alarm about crimes against our immigrant communities. I asked Marlene to join the board of Stop Crime SF because we are committed to ensuring our immigrant, working-class neighborhoods are not forgotten.

Marlene recently helped formed a group called Communities As One along with other concerned residents and community leaders. They are recommending actions City Hall must take to keep all of our communities safe. The actions include subsidizing the installation of security cameras and offering seniors wearable safety devices for summoning help. They are also calling for more police foot patrols.

More police resources needed
Increased police resources to deter and investigate crime are key. San Francisco’s police staffing, however, is much lower than other cities. Washington DC has 55 police officers for every 10,000 residents. Chicago has 44. But San Francisco only has 26. Our police officers are stretched thin. They are forced to work twice as hard under tough conditions.

San Francisco has a police-staffing crisis. Last year, the number of officers who retired or left the force was nearly 10 percent of the sworn staff. And less than half of recruits were able to finish the rigorous police academy to become new officers.

When horrific videos surface that show any of our residents hurt, we rely on our police officers to keep us safe. Increasing police resources is an essential part of the solution.

We need to let police officers focus on preventing crime instead of serving as front-line social workers. We need more social workers to reach homeless people suffering from mental illness and get them treatment before they endanger themselves or other people. Severely mentally ill people having psychotic episodes on the street have attacked bystanders and then ended up in the criminal justice system. Jails should not be de facto mental health facilities.

We must be willing to prosecute
The next most important solution is prosecuting hardened criminals when they are caught. Chesa Boudin, our new district attorney, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was “very disturbed” by the recent videos. Let’s hope this means he will prosecute the perpetrators of these disturbing attacks.

If we’re going to prosecute violent offenders, we need to have adequate facilities that offer rehabilitation programs. Our dilapidated jail at the Hall of Justice should be replaced. And if the perpetrator qualifies for a diversion program, we need facilities to accommodate them.

We all deserve to feel safe
My husband Lionel Hsu came to the United States from Taiwan for graduate school and became a U.S. citizen in 2011. He grew up in poverty and is now a Silicon Valley software engineer. He is living the American dream. He also regularly goes to a temple in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And last month, he made a special trip to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown to buy treats for his friends for Chinese New Year.

He should feel safe — as an immigrant, as someone with Chinese heritage and as an American — when walking anywhere in San Francisco. He should feel good about his family visiting here.

We all should.

Joel Engardio is a candidate for supervisor on San Francisco’s westside in District 7. Learn more about his views on local issues at

Originally published at on February 28, 2020.

Forward-thinking + pragmatic Democrat, civil liberties advocate, award-winning journalist, Westside SF homeowner. My local views at

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