San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins is looking to shift some blame for the city's ongoing fentanyl crisis to the county's judges, who she says are too lenient in allowing drug suspects back onto the streets.
Jenkins made the comments — and this was not for the first time — at a Tenderloin Public Safety Town Hall on Thursday night, where she was flanked on a panel by SFPD Chief Bill Scott and Sheriff Paul Miyamoto.
"The courts are the biggest barrier,” Jenkins said, per the Chronicle. "We do everything we can and you can see the same person out on the street the same day. Repeat and chronic offenders are selling the most deadly substance we’ve seen in this city. That tells you something about what has been going on in the courtrooms of this city. The judges are not taking this seriously. The judges are ignoring it."
The judges would probably disagree with that assessment, but Jenkins went on to say that while drug arrests were way up this year, judges had denied requests to keep suspects detained pending trial in all but 16 out of 100 cases.
Chief Scott touted the fact that police have been cracking down on open-air drug use, and that this effort has only just begun.
"We are arresting people who are using in public," Scott said, per KTVU. "We barely did that at all last year. We have made hundreds of arrests. And really this collaborative effort is only two months in the making."
But among the 100 or so Tenderloin residents at the meeting, there was pushback on this approach.
"Drug war mentality does not work. It’s short term. Nothing you’re proposing is sustainable in any way," said one speaker, per KTVU.
Scott reassured the room, as the Chronicle reported, "A plan has been laid out, and I believe you will see a difference. It’s not going to solve all the problems, but you will see a difference."
The plan Scott's referring to involves the help of CHP officers, who have been deployed to the Tenderloin to help deter crime and make arrests. And Mayor London Breed announced the crackdown on open-air drug use and dealing in May, saying that people would be arrested for being visibly intoxicated and/or in possession of illegal drugs.
So far, the effort has not resulted in any or many individuals agreeing to seek treatment or get city services. But a recent investigation by Mission Local suggested that many of these arrestees are just being shuffled through the system and read boilerplate offers of assistance as they're exiting jail — offers that they'd often be inclined to take if they were more clear or compelling.
Jenkins said on Thursday night, speaking to KTVU, that obviously drug users are not the focus of her efforts. "We certainly are most interested in the people who are selling and who are peddling death on our streets that is killing our most vulnerable populations," Jenkins said.
Interviews by the Chronicle with Honduran nationals who had spent time selling drugs in San Francisco — part of a sweeping recent investigative piece that took reporters to an area of Honduras that is filled with evidence of San Francisco ties — suggested that it was well known to migrants from there that getting busted for drugs in SF was not a big deal, and one is usually quickly let out of jail. This knowledge, those interviewed said, helped encourage people to take the risk of being arrested in order to make some quick money.
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