San Francisco Issues Six-Month Update on Operation to Dismantle Open-Air Drug Markets

Local and state law enforcement have made hundreds of arrests in the Tenderloin and SoMa over the last six months, seizing over 325 pounds of narcotics – including over 180 pounds of fentanyl
December 19, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies have made a significant increase in drug seizures and arrests in the first six months of the City’s efforts to shut down open-air drug markets. The multiagency initiative has focused on more coordinated enforcement and disruption of illegal activities.  

As part of this work, San Francisco law enforcement agencies have worked with state and federal partners to focus on drug enforcement in the Tenderloin and South of Market area. This effort brought together different agencies for better coordination starting on May 3.  

In the last six months alone, since the launch of this coordinated effort, both local and state law enforcement agencies combined have:

  • Arrested nearly 700 people for drug sales
  • Arrested nearly 800 people for public drug use
  • Arrested over 420 wanted fugitives in the Tenderloin and South of Market  
  • Seized 148 kilos of narcotics, including over 80 kilos of fentanyl

These numbers don’t include additional federal efforts being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Drug Enforcement Agency.

Local Law Enforcement Efforts

Since May, SFPD and Sheriff’s Deputies alone have seized 119 kilos of narcotics from the Tenderloin and SoMa neighborhoods, including 64 kilos of fentanyl.

Police and Sheriff’s Deputies have also increased efforts to hold the criminals profiting from distributing these drugs accountable, arresting more than 556 dealers in the last six months. SFPD officers have also arrested 407 wanted fugitives in the Tenderloin and South of Market during the same time period.

In 2023 overall, SFPD officers have arrested more than 900 dealers in the Tenderloin and South of Market, nearly doubling the number of arrests from last year.

As a result of this operation the District Attorney’s Office has seen a record number of felony narcotics cases presented and filed year to date since 2018. Through December 14 of this year, 952 felony narcotics cases were presented of which 827 were filed (87% filing rate) compared to the previous record of 880 cases presented in 2018 and 731 cases filed.

The District Attorney’s Office has also been seeking to detain suspected egregious and repeat offending drug dealers who peddle death to protect public safety. Detention is sought for suspects after careful individualized assessments of the risk they pose to public safety. The District Attorney’s Office has filed over 350 motions to detain dangerous drug dealing suspects and the courts have only granted 34 thus far.      

Additionally, SFPD has made nearly 800 arrests under public intoxication laws for public drug use. Individuals who are detained under public intoxication laws are offered services for treatment that they access upon release. Anyone detained in San Francisco’s jails are supported by Jail Health Services. City health and homelessness outreach teams conduct daily outreach to offer services and treatment linkages in targeted neighborhoods.

State Law Enforcement Efforts

Governor Gavin Newsom’s deployment of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the National Guard have supported and expanded these local law enforcement efforts. As part of this joint operation, Highway Patrol has made 119 drug arrests, seizing 30 kilos of narcotics, including 18 kilos of fentanyl.  

Overall since it launched its increased deployment in San Francisco, CHP has made 430 arrests for various violations of the law, including those for drug laws. CHP has also seized firearms and issued thousands of citations for violations of the law.  

The California National Guard and CHP are coordinating with the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office on a new coordinated task force that will investigate opioid deaths in San Francisco similar to homicide cases, and employ standard operating procedures to document deaths, gather relevant evidence, and process intelligence to further map out the supply of fentanyl and large crime syndicates, and hold drug traffickers accountable.    

Federal Law Enforcement: All Hands On Deck

In November, U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey announced the federal government was providing major resources to assist in the City’s drug dealing epidemic. The “All Hands On Deck” initiative combines federal, state and local resources to ramp up arrests of street dealers. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also increasing federal charges against drug traffickers, raising the stakes by holding dealers accountable.  

“We are bringing together local, state, and federal law enforcement to coordinate and hold those breaking the law in our city accountable,” said Mayor London Breed. “We want people who need support to get help and we will continue to offer people second chances, but San Francisco can’t be a place where anything goes and allow harmful behaviors to become the norm. These first six months are just the start of the work we know we need to continue. I want to thank our local law enforcement partners for their work, as well as Governor Newsom and U.S. Attorney Ramsey for their continued support in our efforts to make our neighborhoods safer for all.”

“Our efforts to dismantle the drug markets in San Francisco are intensifying every day,” said Chief Bill Scott. “We are continuing to see progress as we seize an unprecedented amount of deadly fentanyl off our streets and hold dealers accountable. We've nearly doubled the amount of narcotics seizures, as well as the number of drug dealer arrests, compared to last year. I want to thank our officers for their tireless work to make the communities in the Tenderloin and South of Market safe for residents, businesses and visitors to enjoy.”

“Together, we see the collaborative efforts of all our agencies yield transformative, tangible results for public safety,” said Sheriff Paul Miyamoto. “While we prioritize getting people the help and services they need, those who continue to repeat criminal behavior will end up in custody. Arrest levels and our jail population have increased now that people face multiple court cases, and are held to answer on charges of repeat behaviors. A proactive and impactful approach to law enforcement focusing on specific bad actors and our continued presence in the community will be an ongoing commitment.”

“Through this unprecedented partnership across all levels of government we have demonstrated to Tenderloin residents and those most impacted by the rampant open-air drug dealing that we are committed to taking back our streets from brazen drug dealers and we will,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “We have also demonstrated to drug traffickers who continue to peddle death that we are aligned and will not relent.  As they adapt and try to wait us out, we will adapt and continue to do everything we can to identify, arrest and prosecute traffickers.  We recognize that there is much more work to be done and will do everything we can to accelerate our efforts so that we can make more progress for our residents and communities.”

This data does not include arrests and seizures in other parts of San Francisco. It also doesn’t include efforts made by the federal agencies. This collaborative effort is part of the City’s commitment to enforcing laws to make our streets safer for residents, small businesses, and workers, to offering help to people in crisis, and holding people accountable for the harm that they do to everyone when they refuse help and continue to deal or use in public. This initiative is focused on addressing drug markets in three key areas: open drug sales, public drug use, and fencing of stolen goods in drug market areas.