Noe Valley Voice July-August 1998

Rowdy Teens Nag Residents Near Billy Goat Hill

By Dodie Hamblen

School days are over, but residents are afraid that their problems with teens and vandalism in the Upper Noe area have just begun. On June 3, a woman was temporarily trapped in her car by a group of rowdy teenagers on 30th Street at the corner of Noe.

Said one witness who preferred not to give her name, "This gang of 14-year-olds who'd been partying up on the hill at the end of 30th Street [Billy Goat Hill] came down in pack formation and decided to use all of the neighborhood cars as their highway, walking up and down on the hoods, tops, and trunks of cars. I watched my neighbor trapped in her car as one of these kids jumped on the hood."

The incident occurred between 7:30 and 8 p.m. The victim was terrified but unhurt, and the hood of her car was dented. The teens were scared off by neighbors. When police officers arrived, they were unable to locate the vandals.

According to the witness, who lives on 30th Street, this has been the most alarming of a series of recent disruptions. Since May, groups of restless teenagers have been "coming down from the Diamond Heights area and tagging and damaging cars," she said. "Some of these kids are hanging around on the school grounds [Kate Kennedy Children's Center on 30th Street] and drinking, doing drugs, and setting off firecrackers."

When contacted at the Ingleside Police Station, both Captain Rick Bruce and Patrol Officer Clodagh Coles, who covers the 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift in the Upper Noe neighborhood, said they had no knowledge of the June 3 incident. They said that apparently no one had logged a police report, perhaps because the woman who had been trapped in her car suffered no physical injury and only minor damage had been done to her car.

The police admitted, however, that they'd seen an increase in graffiti and other vandalism in the Upper Noe area.

"Summer has started," said Officer Coles. "We've had complaints about vandalism, and about kids hanging out and throwing items on Billy Goat Hill. But I don't think the kids are coming down from Diamond Heights. It is more likely that these kids filter over from 30th and Mission. Kids hang out at 30th and Mission to get noticed. There's the Safeway and the bus stop. There's a lot going on there."

Still, Coles assured local residents that she would start patrolling the neighborhood more frequently.

Franklin Courtade, principal of Mission Education Center, which shares the Kate Kennedy building on the corner of 30th and Noe, hopes Coles will keep an eye on his school.

"Over a recent weekend, someone climbed up to the second-floor balcony and knocked the word 'Kate' off the side of the building," Courtade said. No Trespassing signs have now been posted on the property, although the schoolyard remains unlocked.

Graffiti has picked up, too. "We paint it out right away," said Courtade, adding that he is grateful to the neighbors for their help in blotting out the tags. "The neighbors are our biggest protectors."

Courtade has seen no evidence of drinking or drug abuse, but he has noticed the kids hanging out on Billy Goat Hill in the evenings.

Sue Bowie, co-chair of the residents group Upper Noe Neighbors, says any reports of crime or vandalism are "very much a concern" of her organization.

Bowie lately has noticed more graffiti on buildings around the neighborhood. However, she said she was unaware of a problem with kids on Billy Goat Hill.

Her co-chair, Janice Gendreau of 28th Street, is familiar with the "loud talking late at night" coming from the hill. But she's more worried about signs of drug-dealing in the vicinity of Upper Noe Recreation Center at Day and Sanchez.

Both she and Bowie invite people to air their complaints at the next meeting of Upper Noe Neighbors. It will be July 23, 7:30 p.m., at the recreation center.

"We're going to talk a lot about Upper Noe Rec Center, and how we can get more money to improve it. And Police Officer Jennifer Moreno will be there to discuss any issues related to crime or gangs," said Gendreau.

Police Captain Bruce also stresses the importance of reporting crimes and suspicious activity.

"Oftentimes people don't want to call because they figure it's a low priority," he said. "But people really do need to call us, so we can know what's going on."

Bruce noted, however, that much of what the kids are doing may not be illegal and that there is no enforceable curfew law. But when the police are made aware of the problem areas, they can increase their patrols and act as a deterrent.

Another good way to discourage crime and vandalism is to become a neighborhood watchdog, he said. Residents who'd like to start a watch group on their block should call Project SAFE at 673-SAFE. They are also encouraged to attend Ingleside's community meeting on the second Tuesday of the month. It takes place at 7 p.m. at the Ingleside Police Station, #1 Sgt. John V. Young Lane, located in Balboa Park off San Jose Avenue.

The 30th Street resident who reported the incident on June 3 suggests that we throw our support behind organizing summer youth activities.

"There are good kids who use the gym at Sanchez and 30th, but sometimes these other kids hang around outside, causing trouble," she said. "I really wish we could get some sort of 'Prop X' passed that would allow spending to get more summer programs going. What it comes down to is a lot of kids with a lot of energy and too much time on their hands."

Noe Valley residents should note that the Ingleside Police District covers the part of the neighborhood that lies south of Cesar Chavez Street. The station number is 553-1603. Those who live north of Cesar Chavez fall in the Mission Police District, 558-5400.