There was reportedly not much California Highway Patrol presence on Day One of Gavin Newsom’s highly touted Tenderloin fentanyl crackdown, and it turns out the National Guard presence will only be “criminal case analysts” who will likely never be visible to the public.
It’s definitely ironic that Day One of Governor Gavin Newsom’s calling in the CHP and California National Guard to battle the Tenderloin’s fentanyl crisis occurred during a community promotion called “I Love Tenderloin Week.” And Newsom surely loves the headlines he’s getting from this, like “Fighting Fentanyl: CHP, Cal Guard Get to Work in San Francisco” (NBC Bay Area), “Gov. Newsom sends National Guard and CHP to tackle San Francisco's fentanyl crisis” (NPR), and “Finally! California Governor Gavin Newsom calls in the National Guard to crack down on fentanyl dealing in San Francisco after touring the decrepit Tenderloin District” (Daily Mail).
EXCLUSIVE: Governor Gavin Newsom will deploy California Highway Patrol officers to San Francisco to combat open-air drug dealing starting Monday.— Heather Knight (@hknightsf) April 28, 2023
“We cannot let this rampant crime continue,” he said.
By @mallorymoench and @SophiaBollag. https://t.co/55MpV2kDSF
But is this highly trumpeted operation actually doing anything? Monday was the first day of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) involvement, so the Chronicle took a look at what they saw on Day One in the Tenderloin.
“The Chronicle did not spot any patrols on a three-hour morning walk through the two neighborhoods where officials said officers would be deployed Monday,” the paper reports. “Half a dozen officials and people who live or work in the area said they didn’t hear or see any CHP officers in the afternoon.”
CHP spotted in the Tenderloin around 6:30 pm at Eddy and Taylor streets by Del Seymour, who shared this photo. Read more about what happened yesterday and reactions on drug dealing crackdown: https://t.co/rbbrncuifp pic.twitter.com/dTCbqDuBIT— Mallory Moench (@mallorymoench) May 2, 2023
One person did provide the Chronicle with a photo showing they saw two CHP cruisers, one of which is seen above. That person, Code Tenderloin founder Del Seymour, also reported that he “said he saw a couple officers on motorbikes, and around 6:30 p.m.,” but also, “He said he didn't see any officers get off or out of their vehicles to conduct enforcement.” And in fairness, there are some social media reports of people seeing additional CHP cruisers.
But there’s no sign that any arrests occurred. SFist reviewed the SFPD’s Daily Crime Report for May 1, and there were no drug arrests listed as yet. That report’s only Tenderloin incidents include a mention of “Shots fired” at about 4 p.m. on the 100 block of Eddy Street, and a laptop and backpack robbery at 11 p.m. on the 600 block of O’Farrell Street.
The California National Guard (CalGuard) presence seems it may have been oversold. Newsom’s original announcement said CalGuard would be “disrupting and dismantling fentanyl rings in the region.” The Chronicle got more detail that CalGuard was deploying 14 officers, and reporting that “their team of criminal case analysts was working to analyze drug trafficking operations in San Francisco.” So that may be purely investigative work that the public might not even see.
This operation may simply be off to a slow start, and it’s unfair to judge the results based on just one day. As the Chron points out, Monday was the first of the month, and therefore assistance benefits were disbursed, which may have driven some people off the street and into hotels. But at first glance, this operation brings to mind Mayor Breed’s Tenderloin State of Emergency Declaration of 2021-22, which generated lots of headlines and speeches, but not much in terms of results.
Image: CHP - San Francisco via Facebook