Residents of the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco’s highest-crime neighborhoods largely praised the Christmas Eve Board of Supervisors vote to approve Mayor London Breeds crime crackdown and expanded drug treatment plan on Monday, with an expanded police and drug treatment presence expected soon in the beleaguered district.
The Tenderloin has been one of the worst hit district by both the economic down turn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the rise in crime in San Francisco over the last few years. In response to the worsening situation, Mayor Breed announced a police crackdown on the crime surge there earlier this month, including more police in the neighborhood, getting more police funding for the area, amending the surveillance ordinance to bring back police cameras to high-crime areas, and disrupting the sale of stolen goods, especially those from retail stores. In addition, non-criminals would also be receiving additional help, with more social workers and public toilets being brought there, as well as a new temporary center for drug treatment and counseling.
However, the plan had been opposed by many, including Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton and District Attorney Chesa Boudin. They noted that the plan focused too much on a police increase and that more prosecutions would not solve the problems in the Tenderloin,
“I’m outraged at the human suffering, flagrant violations of laws and safety concerns for families in the Tenderloin,” said Boudin last week. “We can’t arrest and prosecute our way out of problems that are afflicting the Tenderloin. Arresting people who are addicted to drugs, jailing people who have mental health struggles, putting folks who are vending hot dogs or other food on the streets in cages will not solve these problems, and they are certainly not the only tools available.”
Breed’s plan for an increase of police had turned many Supervisors away, including Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, and Dean Preston, leading many to forecast that the plan would not be passed after all.
However, Breed assured the Supervisors later in the week that police funding would not be going up as a result, with the additional police there being adding in conjunction with a more focused on drug treatment effort focused on helping many of the streets as possible as opposed to arrests, although with police action still being very much a part of the action. In a series of tweets last week, she pointed out several social and police measures that would be put into place as a result of the emergency order.
Our TL Emergency Intervention Plan is clearly needed in the neighborhood. This is not a question of services or police. We must do both.
We're making big investments in housing, treatment, & outreach. But we need police to address violent crime, drug dealing, & illegal activity.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) December 22, 2021
The Mayor convinced many by Friday, resulting in an 8-2 vote in favor of her plan, with only Supervisors Walton and Preston voting no.
Positive, negative reactions to new order
While the emergency order will only last 90 days, the majority of district residents reacted positively to the news.
“A lot of us are still a little concerned about more police being out here, but if that means crime goes down and we don’t have to walk over [drug paraphernalia] on the streets anymore, we’re all for it,” said Tenderloin community activist Shawn Harris to the Globe on Monday. “The Tenderloin has always seemed to be the center of crime and drug use in San Francisco and we don’t want that. A lot of people around here have actually not wanted more help out of fear that a cleaned up Tenderloin would jack up prices and gentrify us and kick out all the lower income residents. We saw it happen in Haight-Ashbury, the Mission District and even Chinatown and, although it was never said out loud, it was generally avoided to keep things cheap here
“It’s just gotten so bad now that we really need this. We need a lot more people coming in to help with the drug and homeless problem, and yes, even more police here, which even a year ago would been unusual to hear. But that’s how quickly things have fallen apart.”
Business owners have also expressed support for the measure.
“Go on Yelp right now for businesses in the Tenderloin,” expressed Anna, a restaurant owner in the Tenderloin. “Look at the reviews. Drug addicts on the street and crime will always be there. My restaurant had some fun ones, including one where we got one star for having someone passed out on the street nearby them
“Get them help, get the area cleaned, and have the SFPD drive around a few more times to keep it that way. That’s all we’re asking. The order is supposed to go until around April, so that means tourists will start coming, so we might be back online for it with some fresh reviews. The city should really look into doing a before and after sort of thing to show what they are going to do here.
“The city has promised to help before, and you can see just how well that turned out here, but this time feels different. I hope this turns things around. There’s a lot of jaded and cynical people here, but I have some hope here still.”
Others, though, continued to express disappointment at an increased police presence.
“We need help with the addicts not more police,” added an area activist who declined to be named on Monday. “We fought so hard for those police improvements last year, for all that change, to shift community help from the police to counselors and people like that. And while members of the community are for more beds and addict help, especially with the winter months now here, we can’t backtrack so easily on the police. But here it is happening now. A lot of us can’t believe how quick they decided to walk back on the police and reforms.”
The social and police measures in the order passed on Friday are expected to be implemented in the area soon.