By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – Following through after her strong words earlier in the week, San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared an official State of Emergency in the Tenderloin. According to a release from her office, that will allow the city “to waive certain laws to quickly address the crisis of people dying of drug overdoses on the streets of the neighborhood as part of the Mayor’s Tenderloin Emergency Intervention Plan.”
“. Similar to the City’s COVID-19 Declaration of Emergency, this action will eliminate bureaucratic barriers, allowing the City to quickly respond to the conditions relating to the health and safety of the people in the Tenderloin,” the Mayor’s release stated. “The overdose problem has worsened, particularly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the recent rapidly deteriorating conditions in the Tenderloin caused by the opioid crisis put the lives of San Franciscans in serious risk.”
“The situation in the Tenderloin is an emergency and it calls for an emergency response,” said Mayor London Breed. “We showed during COVID that when we’re able to use an Emergency Declaration to cut through the bureaucracy and barriers that get in the way of decisive action, we can get things done and make real, tangible progress. We will use that focus and coordination to disrupt the illegal activity in the neighborhood, to get people the treatment and support they need, and to make the Tenderloin a safer, more livable place for the families and children who call the neighborhood home.”
The Declaration of Emergency must be ratified by the Board of Supervisors within the next seven days, and will exist for no longer than 90 days.
“We are losing over two people a day to drug overdoses, mostly to fentanyl, and mostly in the Tenderloin and SoMa. This is a public health emergency demanding a crisis level response, with massive urgency, coordination, and determination to confront this epidemic,” said Supervisor Matt Haney.
The Supervisor added, “We’ve demonstrated during the pandemic that our city can step up with solutions to match the scale and threat of a deadly epidemic. We need an emergency response for drug overdoses, with immediate rapid crisis intervention, outreach and coordination on our streets, with expanded treatment and detox. We have to act now with everything we have to save lives. This official declaration of an emergency will give us the tools we need to respond with the speed and scale required.”
District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who has been under fire and facing a recall, did not immediately have a response.
Neither did elected Public Defender Mano Raju, however, earlier in the week, he pushed back against Mayor Breed’s comments in Tenderloin.
On Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed launched emergency police intervention in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has taken efforts to tamp down on the alarm about crime in San Francisco, but apparently that patience has ended as on Tuesday, she launched what she termed an emergency police intervention into the Tenderloin Neighborhood.
“It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end,” she said. “And it comes to an end when we take the steps to more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerate of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.”
She said that she is targeting “a pipeline of illegal drugs that has been fueling a surge in gun violence and deadly fentanyl overdoses.”
SFPD announced this week, that drug enforcement in the Tenderloin seized over 950 grams of drug including 600 grams of fentanyl, and the arrests of 17 suspected drug dealers, 14 of whom had previous arrests in San Francisco.
San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju immediately fired back.
“We recognize that the Mayor and many of our elected leaders feel pressured to address issues that have been amplified in the press, but the Mayor’s proposal to massively expand police presence in San Francisco is regressive and harmful to those who are already underserved and overpoliced,” Raju said.
He added, “It also cuts against the promises Mayor Breed made to divest from law enforcement in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd.”
Raju argued that, “policing is a back end response — it does not address the underlying reasons why crimes associated with poverty status take place, issues including economic need, mental illness, addiction, disease, or trauma.”
Rather, “we should focus our resources on sustainable, evidence-based solutions that keep people healthy and out of the legal system by providing meaningful services to those suffering from substance abuse disorders and alternatives to street level sellers – including housing, treatment, job training, and employment.”
Reformer have attempted to pushback against the wave in San Francisco, arguing that the data does not support the notion that there is a crime wave. But Breed’s comments on Tuesday will go a long way toward undercutting that argument.
Raju pushed back however, arguing, “The reality is, the actual rate of retail theft in 2021 is down in San Francisco compared to reported thefts in 2018 and 2019 according to SFPD data, and the overall shoplifting incidents reported to the police are below their levels before the start of the pandemic.”
Raju added, “Expanding the carceral state is not the answer. We have tried that for decades and are still suffering the effects and human impacts of that.”