San Francisco mayor pledges for second time to crackdown on open-air opioid drug sales
“Let's be clear: Selling drugs is not legal. Using drugs out in the open is completely unacceptable,” Mayor London Breed said
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Mayor London Breed pledged for the second time in a year Wednesday to crack down on open-air opioid drug sales and rampant public drug use that she says is destroying the city.
What's different this time, she said at a news conference, is that police officers have support from new District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey, both of whom she appointed and she says share her desire for accountability and enforcement.
The political appointees face voters in the Nov. 8 election. Breed is up for reelection next year in a city where frustrated voters already ousted a politically progressive prosecutor in June. Chesa Boudin clashed with the mayor over her plans to increase the number of police officers to battle drug dealing, saying that money should be spent on housing and drug treatment.
“Let's be clear: Selling drugs is not legal. Using drugs out in the open is completely unacceptable,” Breed said. “There needs to be consequences, for the seniors, for the immigrants, for the kids who are trying to just live their lives.”
Jenkins, appointed by the mayor in July to replace Boudin, said that upon taking office, she revoked 30 plea offers to fentanyl dealers that she considered too lenient.
She has announced a new policy informing fentanyl sellers they could face murder charges if their goods are linked to an overdose death. She said that people who receive five citations by police for consuming drugs in public will be referred to an alternative community court for treatment.
“We are a city of compassion. But compassion is not leaving people to languish on the street, potentially to die of overdose. It’s using the tools that we have to propel people to change their lives,” Jenkins said.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said officers began ramping up arrests for drug dealing in June, and since then have issued more than 350 citations to people using drugs in public. In the last three months, his office said, officers have made over 260 felony arrests for narcotics sales.
Dorsey, a police spokesperson who was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in May to replace a newly elected state legislator, said he would work with fellow supervisors to craft solutions. Dorsey represents much of the downtown area that suffers from illegal drug dealing.
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju said in a statement Wednesday that he appreciated the mayor's efforts to expand treatment and services, but that relying on police and punishment does not deter crime and drug use.
“Prosecuting subsistence-level drug sellers will do nothing to disrupt the supply and demand, and arresting someone using or selling drugs can often lead to worse health outcomes, like accidental overdoses,” he said.
In December, Breed announced new initiatives aimed at curbing open drug dealing and other crimes, saying it was time to get aggressive and “less tolerant of all the bull —- that has destroyed our city.” She received immediate pushback from other elected officials who said she was simply reviving a tired war on drugs that was bound to fail.
Despite her announcement, drug dealers and users continue to cluster in the city's Tenderloin and downtown areas.