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
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
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
Street Harassment is an especially hard to quantify but pervasive
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
This data journalism article is a Minerva Quest Report. It was reviewed to
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