The SF Police Department says they arrested 23 people in two nights during “night operations” last week in Civic Center’s long-beleaguered UN Plaza, as they continue their uphill battle to clean up that area.

Shortly before last November’s APEC Summit came to San Francisco, Civic Center’s traditionally sketchy UN Plaza was transformed into a skate park in hopes of changing its blighted landscape. (Though this displaced the twice-weekly farmer’s market there, whose vendors were not at all happy over being formed to move about a half-block over.) And for good measure, last month Rec and Parks had bits of the popular LED forest display Entwined installed at U.N. Plaza in hopes of spiffing up the area. These moves have generally improved the look and feel of the plaza during daytime hours, but at night, the unsavory elements would generally return.

NBC Bay Area had a report on Friday of last week that the SFPD was doing what they call “night operations” at the plaza to put a dent in the nighttime criminal activity. That report noted that “officers made several arrests Wednesday night, the first night of the new enforcement effort.”

But SFPD put out a statement Monday saying they had arrested 23 people total on two separate nights last Wednesday and Friday, and the department strongly indicated that many of these were drug-related arrests.  

“Open-air drug markets will not be tolerated in San Francisco,” SFPD Chief Bill Scott said in the release. “We are making progress in combatting this problem, and we are committed to sustaining the effort. I want to thank our officers for their tireless work. They are working long hours, often on overtime, to make our streets safer for everyone.”  

We will note that announcement does not mention what the 23 arrests were for. It does note later in the release that “Public Works crews issued seven notices of violation, impounded seven sets of goods, removed 11 sets of abandoned items from the public right of way, and issued 287 verbal warnings,” over those two nights. So clearly there is some chasing off illegal street vendors component to this.

And maybe it would complicate the prosecution of these cases for SFPD to announce how many of the arrests were directly drug-related. But Chief Scott also told NBC Bay Area for their report that “We're really stepping up our efforts at night to try to shut down these illegal vending markets and people that are out using.” So it may be reasonable to figure that some drug "using" arrests are involved here.

SFPD says that these night operations are part of the new-ish Drug Market Agency Coordination Center (DMACC), which has brought SF Sheriff's Department deputies into the street-level enforcement of drug crimes.

According to today’s SFPD release, since that effort started late last spring, “the SFPD and Sheriff’s Office have arrested 2,351 people for possession with the intent to sell, public drug use, and outstanding warrants charges.”  

Related: The LED Forest ‘Entwined’ Has Now Sprouted Up at Civic Center, Too [SFist]

Photo: Jay Barmann/SFist