How (un)safe is 16 Turk Street? Analyzing reports of crime and harassment around Minerva’s San Francisco residence hall

By Emma Stiefel for the Minerva Quest

This piece is part one of a series about crime and safety around the 16 Turk Street Minerva residence hall. The second article in the series will explore Minerva administration and student responses to safety risks.

Note: The data collection and interviews for this article were collected before the April 29th shooting outside the 16 Turk Street residence hall. As a result, that event and its aftermath are not directly reflected in this article, but will be discussed in the next piece in this series.

Warning: this article discusses crime and street harassment and includes detailed descriptions of traumatic experiences.

In 2019, Minerva began using 16 Turk Street as its main San Francisco residence hall. The building’s location on the edge of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood has consistently spurred concern about the risks students face when they venture outside. Prior to 2019, students were housed at two other locations: 1412 Market Street and 851 California Street.

Of the 59 Minerva students who responded to a Quest survey, 26 (44%) said 16 Turk was the least safe residence hall they’d lived in. Some students have tried to avoid living at 16 Turk Street and question why Minerva administrators would house students in the area at all. In light of these ongoing conversations, the Quest investigated the threat of crime around 16 Turk in comparison to the two other residence halls Minerva has used in San Francisco.

The Quest’s investigation revealed that the area surrounding 16 Turk is significantly less safe compared to previous Minerva residence halls in almost every way. More incidents are reported near the building and a greater proportion of the crimes reported are violent. Minerva students report experiencing crime and harassment more often when living at 16 Turk, and most students feel unsafe going about their daily lives in the area.

This might seem like a foregone conclusion to anyone familiar with the area around 16 Turk. As someone who’s lived in 16 Turk since Fall 2020, I certainly wasn’t shocked by most of the statistics this piece includes.

But it’s important to understand the extent to which verifiable risk and experience of crime overlap with perceptions of safety. It’s also important to quantitatively compare 16 Turk to the other residence halls Minerva has used. That’s what this article does — keep reading to learn more.

This data journalism article is the first in a two-part series on this subject. The second article will explore how the student community and Minerva administrators have responded to the safety risks discussed below.

More crime is reported around 16 Turk in general

According to San Francisco Police Department incident report data, an average of approximately 15.9 incidents per day were reported within a 300 meter radius of 16 Turk in 2019. The data reflects incident reports, not just confirmed crimes, and includes reports of non-criminal emergencies like overdoses as well as non-criminal violations of the law like traffic infractions. Coordinates for each incident report are mapped to the nearest road intersection, rather than the precise location of the incident. Scroll down to the Methodology section for more details on what specifically this data includes.

The above map displays the total incidents reported near each San Francisco intersection in 2019. The larger and darker the circle over an intersection is, the more incidents were reported near there. Click on an intersection to see exactly how many incidents were reported near there in 2019.

The amount of incidents reported within a 300 meter radius of 16 Turk is over three times higher than the rates for both the residence halls Minerva has used in the past: 851 California Street (approximately 3 incidents/day) and 1412 Market Street (approximately 4 incidents/day).

What might surprise students is that incident report rates around 1412 Market are closer to that of 851 California than 16 Turk Street. This may seem counterintuitive because 1412 Market and 16 Turk Street are both located in the Tenderloin neighborhood — which might suggest similar crime rates — whereas 851 California is in the elevated Nob Hill neighborhood where one might expect low incidence of crime.

The data examined here can’t explain why so many more incidents are reported near 16 Turk compared to 1412 Market Street. It may be the case that the underlying risk of crime is similar in both locations, but 16 Turk is in a busier area and therefore has more incidents. It may also be the case that 16 Turk is actually significantly riskier. More likely, a combination of these reasons contributes to the differing outcomes in these two locations.

Crime around 16 Turk is more likely to be violent

In addition to having higher general crime rates, the area around 16 Turk Street also has more reported incidents of violent crime — defined here as assault, robbery, homicide, rape, and sex offenses.

The above map displays the violent crimes reported near each San Francisco intersection in 2019. I defined violent crime as assault, robbery, homicide, rape, and sex offenses. The larger and darker the circle over an intersection is, the more violent crimes were reported near it. Click on an intersection to see exactly how many violent crimes were reported near there in 2019.

As the chart below shows, 16 Turk Street has especially high rates of assault — the second most common crime in the area. On average, almost two assaults (1.88 assault reports/day) are reported within a 300 meter radius of 16 Turk street each day. The rate of assault near 16 Turk is over six times the amount reported near 1412 Market Street (0.28 assault reports/day) and 851 California Street (0.12 assault reports/day). For students who live in 16 Turk and are used to hearing street fights and the occasional gunshot from our rooms, this is hardly surprising. The most common crime near each residence hall is theft.

Minerva students experience more crime around 16 Turk

The relative crime rates around each residence hall align with most students’ perceptions of safety — 16 Turk Street is more dangerous than 1412 Market Street, which is more dangerous than 851 California Street.

Experience with crime reported by Minerva students on the Quest’s survey broadly reflect the general trends discussed above, though the sample size of 59 respondents does not fully account for student experiences. 16 students told the Quest that they had been a victim of a crime in or near a Minerva residence hall. A majority of those students (9) reported that the crime occurred near 16 Turk Street. Consistent with general crime statistics, 1412 Market Street had the second highest number of crimes (5) reported near it. The crimes that students described included assault and threats of violence, theft, sexual harassment, and rape.

Minerva has its own reporting forms students can use to report safety incidents and, as a branch campus of Keck Graduate Institute, is legally required to publish crime data based on these forms and police calls for service in an Annual Fire Safety and Security Report. Minerva’s data, however, show less incidents than have been reflected in Quest’s survey.

The true rate at which Minerva students are the victims of crimes and street harassment is difficult to quantify. The Quest survey obviously doesn’t include the experiences of all students because not all students responded. It’s possible students were more likely to respond if they’d had problems on the street, which may mean that the prevalence of crimes committed against students is somewhat exaggerated here.

Presented with Quest’s findings, Kayla Krupnick Walsh, Minerva’s Dean of Students, and Jason Lindo, Minerva’s San Francisco Director of Student Life & Operations, wrote that “The numbers that are quoted in your report do not match the numbers of reports that have been made to staff and therefore we once again encourage students who are the victims of crimes or concerned they may have been the victim of a crime to speak with their Community Manager or City Director as soon as possible so that we may support them and work toward longer term resolutions.”

Several Minerva students told the Quest they haven’t reported incidents to Minerva because they didn’t think it would be worth the effort. One anonymous M’22 student described four separate incidents of assault and harassment in downtown San Francisco. She concluded her response by writing “None of these incidences were ever reported to Minerva building staff because I did not see what use they could be [and] found [it] to be a waste of time [and] effort [and] emotional expenditure on my part.”

How students respond to crime and the ways Minerva has and has not supported them will be further discussed in the next article in this series. For the purposes of this data-driven report, I simply want to emphasize how difficult it is to comprehensively quantify a topic as sensitive and complex as crime and harassment.

Street Harassment is an especially hard to quantify but pervasive problem

Street harassment is even more difficult to understand through data. The incident report data explored in the maps and charts above don't fully reflect catcalling and other types of sexual harassment. While some of these offenses are illegal under California law, they tend to go unreported. But this type of harassment significantly influences how safe students, especially women and female-presenting students, feel in a neighborhood.

“What usually makes me feel safest is how often female members of the community experience altercations,” Ri Bouthiller, an M’20 alum who is nonbinary yet often perceived as a woman, told the Quest. “People got robbed at knifepoint in Buenos Aires, but I didn't feel unsafe because no locals were harassing me.”

The issue of catcalling underscores how gendered experiences of safety are. Male-presenting students are generally more likely to say that they feel safe in a neighborhood and less likely to experience harassment and crime. Female-presenting students are more likely to feel unsafe in a neighborhood because of harassment, and many plan their daily routines to avoid times and locations they deem risky. These students are also more likely to be the victim of a crime or harassment, as the chart below shows.

Though mentioned less frequently in survey responses and interviews, students also face racist and homophobic street harassment. Peleg Shilo, a male M’23 student, told the Quest that he was called anti-gay slurs by an assailant in downtown San Francisco. He also noted that “I am not gay, nor do I believe I ‘look gay’.”

Over the past year, Asian and Asian-presenting students have increasingly faced harassment and threats due in part to racist rhetoric about the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating prejudice. Nathan Torento, an M’21 student from the Philippines, said that street harassers have called him anti-Asian and anti-Chinese slurs and threatened to kill him on multiple occasions in downtown San Francisco.

It didn’t matter to harassers that Bouthiller is nonbinary, Shilo is not gay, and Torento is Filipino, not Chinese. Obviously, someone who chooses to yell slurs and threats at strangers isn’t going to correctly grasp that person’s identity. Yet the discrepancy is worth emphasizing because while many students are aware of how they are perceived (correctly or not) by others, some may be the targets of harassment they don’t expect.

While street harassment can significantly impact a students’ experience in a city, many students don’t report these incidents to Minerva or the police. A few respondents to the Quest’s anonymous survey struggled with whether to define sexual harassment, like catcalling and being followed, as crimes. Some students complained about repeated harassment but concluded it was not a crime, while a few reported these as crimes.

Why are crime and harassment more common near 16 Turk?

The data explored above establish that the general public and Minerva students are more likely to report problems in the area surrounding 16 Turk Street. Yet my analysis hasn't delved into the complex factors that can help explain why the Tenderloin and the streets close to 16 Turk have elevated crime rates.

The first possible explanation given by many Minerva students and the administrators who responded to Quest’s questions for this article is “homelessness.” In my conversations with Minerva community members for this article and as a student in general, I’ve noticed that homelessness and crime risk are often used interchangeably.

Carelessly associating homelessness with crime can further stigmatize this marginalized group. A few students who responded to Quest’s survey expressed concern that discussions of crime around San Francisco residence halls can become racist against the Tenderloin’s many Black residents and worsen stigma against homeless people. I share their concerns, so I want to openly address the issue here.

The crimes Minerva students described to the Quest provide anecdotal evidence that many incidents do involve individuals who appear homeless. It’s not hard to imagine why someone experiencing extreme poverty might be more likely to steal or why someone with an untreated mental illness might behave unpredictably and sometimes violently.

Yet many conversations amongst housed people neglect to address how frequently homeless people experience violent crime themselves. Implying that all homeless people are also criminals only reinforces efforts to criminalize homelessness and to move those living on the street out of sight without providing adequate services. A similar knee-jerk reaction to valid safety concerns is increasing police presence in the area, which disproportionately harms Black residents without addressing the deeper issues that imperil all community members.

Many within the Minerva community will go out of their way to mention some of the broader societal forces behind homelessness and crime. In their response to the Quest, Krupnick Walsh and Lindo noted that “the impacts of the lack of an effective American social safety net and the systemic racism in America are evidenced on the streets of San Francisco.” Bouthiller told the Quest that while signs of poverty and desperation in an area make her feel less safe there, “it's not that I’m scared of homeless people, but homeless people are normally a symptom of a greater problem in the area that makes me feel like I shouldn’t trust police in that place.”

The next article in this series will further discuss how the Minerva community has responded to safety risks in San Francisco and what we could do better. I want to conclude this piece, however, by emphasizing that the data and student stories discussed here are the result of a societal failure to keep everyone, including and especially homeless people, safe.


General data about incident reports that have been filed with the San Francisco Police Department are available here. The code used to analyze this data is available here. This data consists of incident reports made by members of the public and police officers and includes reported non-criminal offenses.

The anonymous Quest survey used to collect student experiences with safety and crime is available here; the fully anonymized dataset is available here.

Precise location data about reported crimes and incidents was generally not available. The San Francisco incident report data provides the nearest intersection rather than the specific location where a report was made. Students sometimes provided specific locations in their survey responses but mostly referenced a general area. Some instances of crime and harassment, such as a perpetrator following a student to a residence hall, couldn’t be easily mapped to a single location even if the data were available.

For the San Francisco incident report data, an intersection was defined as being ‘near’ a residence hall if the distance between it and the residence was less than a defined radius, based on latitude and longitude coordinates. The full code is available in the file linked above. I tested four different radii for defining proximity, and the average per-residence hall daily crime rates for each are included in the “Average daily incident reports near San Francisco residence halls” chart.

Defining proximity using a fixed radius from a residence hall doesn’t fully reflect how students navigate and experience an area. The radius may include locations many students avoid — while living in 16 Turk Street, for example, I have never visited the intersections of Turk and Taylor Street or Eddy and Taylor Street because I don’t feel safe there, even though they are on the same block as the residence hall.

I only used public incident report data from 2019 because of how the coronavirus pandemic impacted trends. Daily incident reports dropped sharply after the onset of the pandemic and implementation of public health measures in early 2020. I filtered out pandemic-era data because I want this analysis to generalize to the long-term future, during which incident report rates will presumably return to pre-pandemic levels.

This data journalism article is a Minerva Quest Report. It was reviewed to ensure that it adheres to our content guidelines and category definitions. If you believe that it has violated a content guideline, please reach out by completing this form. If you have any other feedback, please get in touch by emailing