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SF officials tout results 1 year into Tenderloin / SoMa drug crackdown

San Francisco law enforcement making progress on crime crackdown in the Tenderloin
San Francisco law enforcement making progress on crime crackdown in the Tenderloin 03:50

SAN FRANCISCO – Officials in San Francisco on Wednesday marked one year since the start of a multi-agency crackdown on drug sales in the Tenderloin and South of Market, touting the program's results and pledging the crackdown would continue.

According to Mayor London Breed's office, San Francisco police have seized 199 kilos of narcotics, including nearly 90 kilos of fentanyl, 48.2 kilos of methamphetamine, 15.5 kilos of cocaine and 8.39 kilos of heroin.

Along with the drug seizures, 3,150 people were arrested as part of the crackdown over the one year span, including more than 1,000 suspected dealers.

The numbers do not include arrests and seizures from other neighborhoods in the city. 

On May 29, 2023, the Drug Market Agency Coordination Center was launched, bringing local, state and federal agencies to target drug dealing, public drug use and illegal fencing of stolen goods.  

"We have brought unprecedented levels of coordination to tackle the drug markets on our streets and we are not letting up," Breed said in a statement. "The partnerships we put in place are getting fentanyl out of our neighborhoods and with new technology being deployed and more officers joining our ranks, our efforts will only grow stronger over the coming year."

At the start of the crackdown, police were initially deployed along 7th Street near Mission and Market streets near United Nations Plaza. The latest phase focuses police and other city resources around the plaza along with the San Francisco Public Library at night.

"Our officers have made tremendous progress over the last year in dismantling San Francisco's pernicious drug markets," said Chief Bill Scott. "We will continue to increase our efforts in making arrests and seizing these poisonous drugs off our streets.

As for prosecutions, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins' office announced that 394 felony narcotics were presented this year through May 25, with 344 cases filed. Over the same timeframe, there were 101 felony narcotics convictions and 70 guilty pleas to other cases.

However, arrests, seizures and prosecutions only paint a part of the picture of conditions in the Tenderloin.

"Incarceration by law enforcement has not been proven to be able to assist or change the conditions for people who use drugs, and the same thing applies here. Even if we're getting some substances off the streets, we still have a lot of substances on the streets. People are still able to get drugs on the streets," said Michael Diszepola. 

Michael Diszepola helps people with substance abuse issues get the services they need here at GLIDE Memorial Church in the Tenderloin.

"For us, we want to look at, what are the circumstances that people use drugs are under on the streets, or people with mental illness on the streets and how can we make access points for them available," said Diszepola. 

Diszepola and the rest of the staff at GLIDE work daily with people who often buy drugs off the street.

He said one of the biggest health concerns they see is the type of drugs available in the city.

"The reality of the matter is the supply is not safe," said Diszepola. 

Diszepola said what he believes needs to be done to help more people is a fuller more flexible approach to getting those with substance abuse issues off the streets and into treatment.

"We just need to continue to invest in these type of programs and what we've been seeing is to some degree a demonization of or a polarization of it's either this, it's either law enforcement or its harm reduction and that's not what we see a viable. We think all of the options really should be available," said Diszepola. 

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