San Francisco’s crackdown on drug markets in the city’s notorious Tenderloin district has yielded almost as many arrests in the first seven months of the year as there were in the entirety of 2022. But most of those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law are not from the Golden City, police say.
"Cities like San Francisco that have robust services, lax enforcement, and cheap drugs have become regional magnets," Bay Area activist Tom Wolf told Fox News.
Officers have made 502 arrests for drug sales as of July 23 in the Tenderloin, Mayor London Breed announced Thursday. San Francisco Police Department Tenderloin Station made 566 such arrests in all of 2022.
Police have detained 191 people for openly using drugs in the Tenderloin and adjoining South of Market neighborhood during the past two months, a police spokesperson told Fox News. Of those, only 27% identified as San Francisco residents.
"We recognize that our previous methods of combating the drug crisis must evolve," SFPD Police Chief Bill Scott told Fox News in a statement. "We will not tolerate people coming from outside our city to sell, buy and use drugs at the expense of the people who live, visit and work in our city."
Scott said officers have increased "plainclothes operations and buy-busts" in order to catch more dealers.
Wolf, who once was addicted to heroin and homeless in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, has long criticized the city's handling of the drug crisis. He said homeless activists and politicians have "largely ignored" data suggesting people flock to the Bay Area for its cheap drugs and lax policing, fearing it will "further stigmatize the homeless."
"Unfortunately, ignoring it has caused millions of dollars to be wasted on the wrong things and homelessness has gotten worse as a result. Not better," Wolf wrote in a message to Fox News.
But this year, Breed pledged to bolster police staffing and crack down on open-air drug markets in San Francisco, particularly the Tenderloin neighborhood.
"There's too much open drug use and disruptive behavior in our neighborhoods," Breed tweeted Thursday. "We can’t stand by while people’s lives deteriorate on our streets."
Police in the Tenderloin have seized around 260 pounds of narcotics so far this year, an amount that has already surpassed the approximately 225 pounds seized in all 12 months of 2022, according to the mayor.
"This level of fentanyl taken by [Tenderloin] officers has ballooned," Breed wrote on Twitter. The amount seized year-to-date is 541% the amount seized by the same time in 2021, she added.
California Highway Patrol and the California National Guard began assisting local law enforcement with the drug clampdown earlier this year at the behest of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
"I’m proud of the CHP and CalGuard’s lifesaving efforts to shut down the Tenderloin’s poison pipeline and hold drug traffickers accountable," Newsom said in a previous statement.