San Francisco approves plan to fight drugs and crime in Tenderloin

Officials in San Francisco have approved an emergency plan to fight soaring crime and drug use in the city’s blighted Tenderloin district.

The 8-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors Friday came after a proposal made by Mayor London Breed earlier this month that included a heavier police presence in the neighborhood.

Some critics worry the plan could penalize drug addicts and homeless people, Fox News reported. And Board President Shamann Walton and Supervisor Dean Preston, who dissented, said more policing could negatively impact African Americans. 

The declaration allows the city’s Department of Emergency Management to bypass layers of bureaucracy and set up a temporary center where people can get drug treatment and counseling. 

It does not call specifically for increased police presence but San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said cops “can’t turn a blind eye to people killing themselves on the street.”

On Wednesday, Breed tweeted: “When someone is openly using drugs on the street we’re going to give them the option of going to the services and treatment we’re providing. But if they refuse, we’re not going to allow them to continue using on the street.”

Critics worry that the new plan could target homeless people in the area.

Breed added that “the families in the neighborhood deserve better.”

Deaths from drug overdose have increased more than 200 percent in San Francisco in the past three years. In 2020, over 700 San Franciscans fatally overdosed, more than the number who died from COVID-19, according to the emergency proclamation. 

Nearly 600 people have died from an overdose this year already, according to city officials, with half of those deaths occurring in the Tenderloin and South of Market areas.

A person walks on the street in the Tenderloin.
Part of Mayor London Breed’s plan includes establishing temporary centers for drug treatment and counseling.

Both San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and public defender Mano Raju oppose Mayor Breed’s emergency plan.

“If arrests and prosecutions alone could solve the drug crisis in this country or in this city, it would have been solved long ago,” said Boudin, who is facing a recall campaign. “We’ve invested over a trillion dollars in fighting the so-called war on drugs, and where has it gotten us?”