Despite Increase In Arrests, San Francisco Still Plagued By Rampant Drug Crisis

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Jake Smith Contributor
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San Francisco continues to grapple with a major drug crisis despite an increase in arrests of drug dealers and users in the city, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed have vowed in recent months to crack down on the city’s drug crisis – largely driven by fentanyl – leading to a growing number of arrests, according to the Chronicle. But local residents of the hardest-hit areas of the city, like the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, said that they’ve noticed little change in the crisis and criticized the elected leaders for failing to address the root causes of the issue. (RELATED: ‘Drugs Are Helping Me To Not Go Crazy’: Blue-City Addicts Say They’re Locked In A Cycle Of Abuse)

“The streets are the same,” Amin Hadwan, owner of pizza ship in Tenderloin, said to the Chronicle. “I see the same faces doing the same things.”

Newsom announced in June that he would double the amount of state police officers patrolling the streets of San Francisco to help address the crisis. Part of the plan revolves around arresting drug offenders and subsequently offering them treatment, but few of these offenders accept the help, according to the Chronicle.

Law enforcement agencies found that of a sample of 303 arrests involving non-sales-related drug charges for people qualifying for rehabilitation, only nine accepted the offer, according to the Chronicle. Breed told the Chronicle that “people find their path to treatment in different ways.”

“We don’t want people to continue to be comfortable doing what they’ve been doing, [like] public drug use and dealing. There has to be accountability,” Breed told the Chronicle. “We are giving the Tenderloin community a lot of support and attention, and we want to turn things around. … But things are not just going to turn around in a few months.”

Critics of Breed and state officials claim the crackdown focuses too narrowly on drug users, when the locus of attention should be violent crime, drug dealers and overdose deaths, according to the Chronicle. Supervisor Dean Preston called the crackdown a “ramped-up war on drugs” that has expended numerous resources to little avail.

“We are literally running around arresting people who are addicted to drugs — like, I can’t believe how far [backward] we’ve gone,” Preston said at a recent public event, according to the Chronicle. “It’s millions of dollars, and for what? The whole thing is a complete failure.”

“Have they sharply reduced open-air drug dealing in the Tenderloin? The answer is no,” Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, said, according to the Chronicle. “To show such little progress in all this time is inexcusable, and it’s because Chief [Scott] fails to change a failed strategy.”

San Francisco is on track to have its worst year for overdose deaths in recorded history, according to the Chronicle. A one-night study found that approximately 3,400 people were spending the nights in homeless shelters and 4,400 were sleeping on city streets.

Newsom and Breed did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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