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San Francisco DA Jenkins gets earful from blight-weary Tenderloin residents at town hall

San Francisco DA meets with blight-weary Tenderloin residents at town hall
San Francisco DA meets with blight-weary Tenderloin residents at town hall 03:19

SAN FRANCISCO -- A town hall was held in the heart of San Francisco's Tenderloin District where residents demanded change in their neighborhood. Many are fed up with talk and are demanding action and solutions to clean up the streets.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins initiated the town hall to reach out to concerned community members Thursday night. Attendees were divided over how to tackle the problem.

ALSO READ: Conditions worsen in San Francisco Tenderloin District, nonprofits say; Safety meeting to be held

At the town hall, there was no disagreement that drugs and violence have taken over the streets. The question is how to fix the problem. Since late May, there has been extra enforcement in the area with the state and federal government sending CHP and federal officers to work with SFPD and the sheriff's office.

"The arrests rates are through the roof, particularly for narcotics dealing. We have seen 1,000 cases submitted to our office from the police department during my first year in office. That is almost double what we were seeing the year before," San Francisco district attorney Brooke Jenkins said.

While the arrests are up, Jenkins highlighted a problem in prosecuting criminals.

"I'm going to step right onto this one -- the courts are the biggest barrier right now," she said.

When she took over the District Attorney's office, Jenkins said one of the first steps she took was to try to keep dealers behind bars during the legal process. She claims judges are not taking this issue seriously.

"We filed 100 detention motions for repeat and chronic drug dealers. For those that have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 open drug-dealing cases or people that have egregious amount of drugs when they are arrested. Only 16 of those motions have been granted," Jenkins said. 

It's not just drug dealers getting arrested. Police Chief Bill Scott says open use is no longer being tolerated.

"What we hope to get from this is: number one is to change the narrative that they can show up on the streets of San Francisco and do whatever they please and nobody is going to say anything and do anything. Well that day has to end and it has ended," Scott said.

There was some disagreement from the community about going after drug addicts. Some believe offering treatment is a better longterm solution. Jenkins said the key is to have both enforcement and treatment.

"We have a job to do and, if it was as simple as going out there and saying 'Hey, would you like treatment?' we wouldn't have a problem. The problem is: Yes, we have to be out there doing that outreach. That's going to capture some people ... but there is a lot that it's not capturing."

While there may be a difference of opinion about how to improve the conditions in the Tenderloin, most residents are hoping for some kind of change soon.

"It's about getting to solutions to make that possible. We can't keep taking about this. We need action and we need it now," said Josie Chand, a longtime resident who hopes the streets of the Tenderloin will one day be a place where families can feel safe raising their kids.

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