The SF Department of Emergency Management and the Mayor's Office announced Friday that they would be opening a new join "command center" on Market Street near Civic Center, in order to coordinate with the SFPD, CHP, and public health department to try to shut down open-air drug markets.
The latest city effort to disrupt the open-air drug-selling in and around U.N. Plaza — or to move it elsewhere, as will likely happen — is a soon-to-be-installed "command center," which will officially be called the Drug Market Agency Coordination Center.
The Chronicle reported on this Friday afternoon, and it appears to be a component of Mayor London Breed's earlier discussed effort to crack down on both dealers and users of illegal drugs. In a statement, the city said that the command center will attempt to disrupt drug markets "with the ultimate objective to identify paths to recovery for those sick with substance use disorder."
The new outpost — similar to something the SFPD had parked in UN Plaza in 2018, that "command van" pictured above which clearly had no long-term impact — may open as soon as Monday.
The statement says, "In San Francisco, people suffering from substance use disorder are in crisis on the streets on a daily basis, and fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses have reached epidemic levels. This situation is exacerbated by rampant open air drug markets, many of which are located in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods. While medical and public health, social services, law enforcement, and other local government agencies are actively addressing this threat to health and safety, the welfare of residents and cumulative conditions of the neighborhoods demand more coordinated action."
As the Chronicle notes, this latest move comes almost a year after Breed, in the wake of the recall of DA Chesa Boudin, has sought to ramp up arrests and prosecutions of drug crimes — something new DA Brooke Jenkins has pledged to do as well.
And police data shows that more arrests are going on in the city — with 340 just last month, the most drug-related arrests in SF in the month of May since 2017. As the Chronicle points out, most of these arrests were for possession or selling of drugs, but six incidents were "Loitering Where Narcotics are Sold/Used."
Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes the Tenderloin, has been vocal in his objection to the latest crackdown and rhetoric, saying the city should instead be sticking to its overdose-prevention plan.
"We have been informed that the Mayor’s Administration is preparing to start arresting people for public drug use," Preston tweeted last week. "Arresting people for drug addiction is not 'moderate' nor 'commonsense.' It’s reactionary, cruel, and counterproductive."
Breed later directly called out Preston during her appearance before the Board of Supervisor at last week's meeting, calling on supervisors to "support the arrest of those who are struggling with addiction" and adding, "Compassion is killing people."
Whether or not any of this will work in Breed's favor politically — or whether this new command post will work at all in cleaning up mid-Market — remains to be seen.
Breed also told the board last week that the federal government was preparing to intervene in some undisclosed way, so we can likely expect a new DEA sweep of the Tenderloin and SoMa like one they conducted back in 2016. In that sweep seven and a half years ago, the feds said they made 48 arrests with the help of the SFPD, some of them dealers living in the East Bay who were Honduran nationals.
Clearly that sweep did little to disrupt the infrastructure of drug-selling in SF. As one fentanyl user, Jared Benson, who came to the city from San Jose told KQED's California Report this week, "Out here it's everywhere. You don't have to look for the drugs out here. The drugs will find you."
Photo: The SFPD's mobile command center via LDVUSA