San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on Friday that she is declaring an official State of Emergency in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco over high crime, public drug use, and other health and safety concerns.
The Tenderloin district, long considered one of San Francisco’s most prolific high-crime areas, has seen crime and drug use skyrocket in the last few years. A fainter police presence, as well as new arrest and conviction policies by DA Chesa Boudin, have seen crimes go up while arrests and convictions have gone down. Earlier this week, Mayor Breed attempted to reverse the situation in the Tenderloin by announcing emergency police intervention action. However, as that proved to fall short on what was actually needed, and since it addressed the crime issue more than the drug issue in the area, Mayor Breed announced the State of Emergency.
“When we look at the conditions on our streets it is really unfortunate, it is sad, it’s heartbreaking,” Breed said on Friday at the San Francisco City Hall. “We have to move quickly. Too many people are dying in this city. Too many people are sprawled out all over our streets. And now we have a plan to address it.
“The emergency declaration is really about removing obstacles so that we can go in and conduct the work we need to do to help the residents of the Tenderloin. Our goal is to get those services coordinated as quickly as we can in order to alleviate the overall suffering that people are experiencing in the neighborhood.”
Under the emergency declaration, city officials and workers will be allowed to respond to situations involving drug use and crime in the Tenderloin without red tape, waiving things such as contract procurement and zoning codes to get people who need help quickly. Among the largest problems to be dealt with are the rise of opioid and fentanyl abuse, with the city offering a more direct line of assistance under the emergency order.
Quicker assistance for those in need of help, along with a police presence to help root out crime in the district, is expected to deliver a one-two punch in taking down the neighborhoods many problems.
‘The people in this community are not safe and it’s not right’
“This is necessary in order to see a difference, in order to reverse some of the deaths from overdoses, and the assaults and attacks happening in this community,” added Mayor Breed on Friday. “When people walk down the streets of San Francisco, they should feel safe. They shouldn’t have to look over their shoulders; they shouldn’t have to be punched in the face randomly; they shouldn’t have to see someone sticking a needle in various parts of their body; they shouldn’t have to see someone laying out in the street and wonder, ‘What can I do to help them?’
“We are in a crisis. The situation in the Tenderloin is an emergency and it calls for an emergency response. At the end of the day, the people in this community are not safe and it’s not right. Part of the response to this is definitely police officers.
“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. We can’t wait for this to go through a layered process. We have to act quickly.”
We showed with the COVID Emergency Declaration that when we can cut through the barriers that get in the way of decisive action and we can make real, tangible progress.
We're going to take that same approach and coordination to make the Tenderloin a safer, healthier neighborhood.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) December 17, 2021
Many neighborhood groups and local lawmakers applauded Breed’s emergency declaration on Friday, noting that the Tenderloin had been overdue for more assistance for years and that the drug problem needed to be addressed as quick as possible.
“The overdose epidemic is taking the lives of nearly two people a day in our city. Most of those people are in the Tenderloin and South of Market and mostly from fentanyl,” said Supervisor Matt Haney on Friday. “As the supervisor of the Tenderloin, but also as a resident of the Tenderloin, we need an emergency crisis-level response to confront this deadly epidemic at the scale of the problem that we’re facing.”
Support, opposition of Mayor Breed’s emergency declaration
Mayor Breed also saw surprise support come from law enforcement groups, area Republicans, and others who have opposed efforts by the Mayor and city in the last few years to reduce law enforcement presence in the area in favor of other control methods.
“Everything that was said today only enhances our ability to do our jobs. Enforcement we have to enforce. We have to arrest drug dealers. We have to arrest people that are assaulting people,” said SFPD Chief William Scott this week.
Former police officer and current Bay Area security consultant Frank Ma added that “Breed and Boudin had been slowly dismantling effective law and order over the last few years, with it being accelerated after George Floyd. Look at where that got us. Already bad areas are now worse, and sadly, it’s the people that are suffering. They tried to do something good, responding to systemic racial injustice, and instead caused crime and drug use to go higher.”
“A lot of this seems like damage control by Breed. A lot of people actually think that. But, even if it is damage control, police are finally looking like they might get a hold back here, with drug usage looking like it will go way down too. It’s still way too early to tell for sure, but the state of emergency is at least a step in the right direction to combat crime and drug use.”
However, despite the linkage site offering fast help to those in need in the neighborhood, many pro-police defunding groups have denounced Mayor Breed’s new policies, most notably her support for more law enforcement training and hiring.
“The mayor’s plan includes moves to appropriate additional money to the San Francisco Police Department, expand coordinated sweeps of unhoused people, expand surveillance, and target unlicensed street vendors,” said Defund SFPD Now in a statement on Friday. “While we believe in doing whatever we can to secure basic resources and dignity, Mayor Breed’s latest proposal deflects from the failures of the city’s neoliberal policies by imprisoning vulnerable people in the Tenderloin.”
“We are disappointed that Mayor Breed would use the declaration of a state of emergency to increase the reach of criminalization rather than using it to meet people’s needs with respect and compassion.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors are expected to approve Mayor Breed’s Emergency declaration within a week. If approved the declaration would last for at least 90 days.