In response to San Francisco's growing fentanyl crisis, California state police and the California National Guard will partner with local law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking and open-air drug dealing in the city.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday a new collaboration between the California Highway Patrol (CHP), California National Guard (CalGuard), San Francisco Police Department, and San Francisco District Attorney's Office to help address the city's fentanyl crisis, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The announcement came after Newsom, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Mayor London Breed's chief of staff toured the Tenderloin district to observe the situation firsthand.
Under the new agreement, the governor directed the CHP to identify ways to assist local law enforcement, including providing personnel, resources, technical assistance, training, and drug trafficking enforcement in key areas such as the Tenderloin. CalGuard was also directed to identify specialist personnel and resources to analyze drug trafficking operations, focusing on dismantling fentanyl trafficking rings.
Although details about the number of state police officers to be deployed and the duration of their deployment were not available on Friday, Newsom's office issued a statement indicating that the agreement would lead to a new collaborative operation between the four agencies. The operation aims to dismantle fentanyl trafficking, disrupt the drug's supply in the city, and hold large-scale drug trafficking operators accountable.
In a statement, Newsom acknowledged San Francisco's lower violent crime rate compared to similar cities but emphasized the need to address public safety concerns, especially the fentanyl crisis. He stated that the new partnership would provide more law enforcement resources and personnel to crack down on crime linked to the fentanyl crisis and improve public safety and confidence in San Francisco.
“Through this new collaborative partnership, we are providing more law enforcement resources and personnel to crack down on crime linked to the fentanyl crisis, holding the poison peddlers accountable, and increasing law enforcement presence to improve public safety and public confidence in San Francisco,” Newsom said.
Mayor Breed expressed her gratitude for the critical support, noting that local agencies could use additional assistance.
“Our Police Department and District Attorney have been partnering to tackle this issue and increase enforcement, but our local agencies can use more support,” Breed said.
However, the announcement is expected to spark polarized reactions in San Francisco, where debates over how to tackle the city's drug epidemic crisis and whether cracking down on drug dealing is an effective solution continue to rage.
The Tenderloin and South of Market districts are at the epicenter of the city's drug and homelessness crises, with open-air drug dealing and drug use on sidewalks. New data reveals a 41% increase in overdoses in San Francisco during the first three months of this year compared to the same period in the previous year. Accidental drug overdoses claimed 200 lives during this period, with the majority involving fentanyl.
The new partnership will focus on holding drug suppliers and traffickers accountable without criminalizing those struggling with substance use. While details about state involvement and potential changes to city agencies' approaches are still forthcoming, city officials have been requesting support from state and federal governments to address the escalating issue.
Mayor Breed has made efforts to crack down on drug dealing and enforcement since December 2021, increasing police presence on the streets in response to complaints from business owners, the Chronicle reported. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, appointed by Breed last year, has made fentanyl trafficking in the Tenderloin one of her top priorities and increased the filing of felony narcotics cases compared to her predecessor.
However, some critics argue that the new initiative represents a dangerous and failed War on Drugs, emphasizing the need for more investment in drug treatment rather than increased law enforcement. Others, like San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, are calling for the creation of a joint task force to address the crisis.
Governor Newsom's office highlighted that Friday's announcement builds on his Master Plan for Tackling the Fentanyl and Opioid Crisis, which includes an expansion of CalGuard-supported operations that led to a 594% increase in seized fentanyl and $1 billion statewide put toward the problem last year.