The vast majority of people arrested in San Francisco’s crackdown on open-air drug markets have been from out of town, according to police data. One recovery advocate says people from other counties and states see the liberal city as a sanctuary for illicit activity.
‘Everyone knows that San Francisco kind of takes a hands-off approach to law enforcement,’ recovering addict-turned-activist Tom Wolf told Fox News. ‘So they know that if they come to San Francisco they can get high, they can probably score a free tent, get money from the government and get food stamps and health insurance all while living on the street for free.’
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said two weeks of the crackdown on open-air drug markets in the Tenderloin neighborhood yielded 45 arrests. Of the drug users arrested, only three reported being from San Francisco.
‘The majority of the people that we are coming in contact with … they don’t live here,’ Scott said at a recent San Francisco Police Commission meeting.
Scott called the statistics ‘surprising’ but could only offer anecdotal answers for why more than 90% of alleged users were not local. He said he has spoken with people on the streets, asking why they chose to do drugs in San Francisco.
‘I’ve gotten answers like, ‘Drugs are cheap and plenty available, and you’ve got an environment where it’s permitted,’’ Scott said.
Wolf was addicted to heroin and homeless in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in 2018. His sixth arrest landed him in jail long enough to get clean and reevaluate his life, he said. Now, he is a recovery advocate and has often criticized city and state officials’ approach to the drug crisis.
‘The fact of the matter is that San Francisco is a regional magnet for homelessness,’ Wolf said. ‘We have robust services, everybody leaves you alone, and we have the cheapest drugs in California right here in San Francisco. That all has to change if we want to save the city.’
At least a dozen of the individuals arrested had other warrants, Mayor London Breed noted in a Board of Supervisors meeting last week.
‘People abscond from their law enforcement obligations or their legal obligations in other counties and come to San Francisco to disappear off the grid,’ Wolf said.
San Francisco police are targeting drug sales and ‘blatant public illicit drug use,’ according to Scott’s presentation at the police commission meeting. California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the California National Guard are also assisting local law enforcement at the behest of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
In just six weeks, CHP seized enough fentanyl in San Francisco to kill more than 2.1 million people, according to Newsom’s office.
Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin. It is responsible for the majority of accidental overdose deaths in San Francisco, according to the medical examiner.
Wolf thinks fentanyl is ‘changing the game’ by increasing overdose deaths and causing more people to demand action.
‘Voices like mine and others that have decided to speak up and say we’ve had enough,’ Wolf said. ‘We’re coming with lived experience from the streets saying, ‘Look, I lived this. I promise you, what we’re doing right now isn’t working.”
He added, ‘It’s forcing our political leaders to listen and hopefully take some action.’