Prioritization of narcotics arrests and prosecutions in addition to work to expand services and treatment
San Francisco, CA – Mayor London N. Breed, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, and Police Chief William Scott today provided an update on the City’s strategies to confront open-air drug dealing in San Francisco. In a briefing at Police Headquarters, the City’s top public safety officials provided details on strategies and data, as well as examples of partnerships to improve outcomes. Supervisor Matt Dorsey joined the briefing to detail work being done at the Board of Supervisors to support these efforts, as well as to expand access to treatment.
At the briefing, Officials detailed new approaches they’ve undertaken in recent months to arrest and prosecute drug dealers. For example, in the last three months:
- SFPD officers have made over 260 felony arrests for narcotics sales and seized over 28 kilograms of narcotics, including 18 kilograms of Fentanyl alone.
- The District Attorney’s Office has increased felony narcotics charges filed by 95% over the same time period from the previous year.
Officials also discussed efforts to intervene with those using drugs on the street to better compel them to seek treatment. Over the last year, 4,500 people have been connected to specialty services for substance use in San Francisco. To expand on this, the Department of Public Health (SFDPH) recently launched a new Overdose Prevention Plan with targeted goals that include increasing the number of people in services and on medication to treat addiction. The Board of Supervisors is also considering a wide range of solutions to expand services and treatment under Supervisor Dorsey’s SF Recovers.
“The sale of drugs on our street is killing people and open-air drug markets are disrupting neighborhoods for our residents,” said Mayor Breed. “We need to be more aggressive with our arrests and prosecution for those dealing these drugs, while balancing that with an expansion of services and treatment for those struggling with addiction, so that people have an option to get the help they need. The flood of Fentanyl into our City is going to require all levels of government working together, including enforcement against those dealing drugs in our City.”
Since taking office, District Attorney Jenkins has implemented new policies to hold drug dealers accountable and disrupt open-air drug markets including revoking over 30 lenient plea deals, prohibiting drug dealers arrested with more than five grams of drugs from being referred to the Community Justice Center, and adding school enhancements for drug dealers accused of selling deadly drugs near schools. Additionally, the District Attorney has sought pre-trial detention for serious drug dealers, with a focus to admonish suspected drug dealers to warn them in open court that if found to have sold a drug that results in a death, they may face murder charges.
Between July 1 and September 25, the District Attorney’s Office was presented 214 cases with felony narcotics charges as the most serious charge. Of those cases:
- 183 cases were filed, compared to 90 for the same time period last year, representing a 95% increase.
- The filing rate which represents the number of cases filed over the number of cases presented for this time period is 86% compared to 69% for last year.
- 157 individuals were arraigned this year during this time period as compared to 78 last year, representing a 101% increase.
- The District Attorney has also filed nine motions to detain serious drug dealers and is advancing new legal theories and arguments to keep drug dealers off our streets.
The District Attorney also announced a new policy to help those struggling with addiction get connected to services and treatment through the Community Justice Center by bundling misdemeanor public drug use citations and requiring any individual with five citations be referred to the Community Justice Center to be able to access treatment.
“Since taking office, one of my primary focuses has been holding drug dealers accountable and disrupting open-air drug markets,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “I have worked to rebuild our partnership with the San Francisco Police Department and to do everything in my power to address the drug dealing and overdose crisis on our streets with every legal means available to us. We are starting to get dangerous drug dealers off our streets while restoring public safety and accountability. We are also taking important steps to help those struggling with addiction get the services and treatment they need.”
At the press conference, Chief Scott described the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) role and responsibility in enforcing the law and disrupting open-air drug dealing and drug use. Enforcement operations are driven by a multitude of factors, including community input, data analysis, calls for service, uniformed presence, observed street conditions, and plainclothes operations. In the downtown and Tenderloin neighborhood, which is the most heavily impacted by the drug crisis, SFPD has supplemented uniformed patrol officers with members from its Narcotics Unit, Traffic Company, and civilian ambassadors.
“Our officers are working hard every day to stem the rising tide of illegal drug sales, open-air drug use, and overdose deaths in San Francisco. I recognize that disrupting the open-air drug use and sales in our City is a complex enforcement challenge. I believe we can get to a much better place when we work together, and that is why we are here today. It is partnerships with other City leaders and agencies that are vital to our success. Our goal is simple: identify the dealers based on observed activity, make arrests, build strong cases, and save lives,” said Police Chief Scott. “This is about helping those who are suffering from addiction. It is about reducing harm to our communities and saving our children from bearing witness the toll on human life the drug trade is taking. This is about the people feeling safe in their communities. This is about holding those responsible for this crisis accountable for their actions.”
While enforcement operations vary, the goal remains the same: identify the dealers based on observed activity, make arrests, build strong cases, and save lives. So far in 2022 the SFPD has:
- Made over 600 arrests for narcotics sales and possession for sales citywide.
- And in the Tenderloin alone, seized over 68 kilograms of narcotics, 42 kilograms of which was Fentanyl.
Supervisor Dorsey highlighted his work around San Francisco Recovers, a first step toward a comprehensive citywide strategy to reduce drug overdose deaths, incentivize recovery for those struggling with substance-use disorders, and end street-level drug dealing and open-air drug scenes.
“Since January 2020, drug overdoses have claimed the lives of more than 1,700 San Franciscans, surpassing nearly twice over COVID-19’s lethality during the same time period,” said Supervisor Matt Dorsey. “San Franciscans are demanding solutions as big as our problems, and none of the problems facing our City right now are more visible, more destructive or more deadly than rampant street-level drug dealing, open-air drug scenes and overdoses. We need to implement real solutions to get people into treatment while holding drug dealers accountable for their crimes. I look forward to working with my colleagues at the Board, as well as the San Francisco Police Department and District Attorney’s office to make the progress San Franciscans deserve.”
The scoping resolution calls more than two dozen city departments and commissions to report to the Board of Supervisors to identify existing and needed resources, current policies and practices, and barriers to progress. It will be heard at the Oct. 13 Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting, in a process that will enable the Board to begin forging consensus on evidence-based solutions.