Video shows street barriers aimed at curbing alleged sex work torn down in SF's 'red-light district'

Stephanie Sierra Image
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Video shows street barriers destroyed in SF's 'red-light district'
Video shows new street barriers aimed to curb alleged sex work torn up in San Francisco's "red-light district."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Neighbors in San Francisco's Mission District are calling the city's attempt at curbing the uptick in alleged prostitution and violence - ineffective and dangerous.

"That s**t they did... ain't gonna work," said Nico, a long-time Mission district resident. "All it's going to do is frustrate the neighborhood."

SFMTA put up temporary road barriers along four blocks of Capp Street between 22nd and 18th Friday morning to address concerns of alleged sex workers crowding the neighborhood. But video sent to the ABC7 News I-Team shows the barriers didn't last long.

EXCLUSIVE: SF residents say this street has turned into 'Las Vegas Strip' with alleged sex workers

"It's like every night pimps and prostitutes come and take our street hostage and neighbors are shut in." Here's what a group of San Francisco residents witness on a nightly basis.

In one clip, a white Tesla is seen driving through the barrier less than an hour after it was put up Friday, according to one neighbor who caught it on camera. Photos captured over the weekend show several barricades were destroyed, pushed down, or moved off the street.

As of Monday morning, SFMTA replaced some of the broken barricades, but residents don't expect it will last long. Others complain the problem has just moved down the street.

"What's the situation looking like now?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"It's the same," Nico said, speaking about the alleged sex workers. "All they're going to do is move down the street."

RELATED: SF supervisor considers sanctioned red-light district amid ongoing sex trafficking problem

Multiple neighbors, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from known pimps in the area, told the I-Team the alleged sex work shifted back to Shotwell Street over the weekend.

We asked several neighbors if they noticed a difference with the barricades.

"It is helping," said one anonymous resident. "Less noise... no rampant gunshots."

"Did you see fewer women on the street this weekend?" Sierra asked another neighbor.

"Uh, not yet. Not yet."

RELATED: SF residents debate effectiveness of barriers installed in hopes to curb sex work on key street

Ruben Billalobos has lived off 22nd Street in the Mission for 30 years.

"I noticed fewer cars driving by," he said. "But it's still going on."

On a typical weekend night, Billalobos says he usually counts more than 20 women crowding each block. But, he says the barricades helped reduce the traffic over the weekend.

"I counted 13 girls this weekend," he told the I-Team. "Usually it's 23... but it's still bad."

"Where do you think they're coming from?" Sierra asked.

"Oakland," he said.

MORE: Video showing alleged sex workers soliciting outside East Oakland school sparks call for action

Video showing alleged sex workers soliciting right outside St. Anthony's in East Oakland is raising concerns about human trafficking in the area.

Billalobos says he witnessed a limo drop off women along 22nd and Capp Street Saturday night and saw them escorted to streets without barriers. He said one of the women told him she was from Oakland.

Nico told the I-Team that most of the pimps and the women working the street in this area typically come in from the East Bay. The Mission native has lived in the area for 47 years and says he's never seen the problem this pervasive.

"They just escort them down the street," Nico said. "The barriers will just move the problem somewhere else."

The city is working to install permanent concrete or water barriers to replace the existing ones but told the I-Team that the options needed are currently out of stock.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live