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

Local and state law enforcement have seized over 100 kilos of narcotics in the Tenderloin and SOMA over last three months – including over 56 kilos of fentanyl.
September 01, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Local and state law enforcement agencies have made a significant increase in drug seizures and arrests in the first three months of the City’s efforts to shut down open-air drug markets. The multiagency initiative made up of local, state, and federal public safety partners 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 30.  

During the last three months, both local and state law enforcement agencies combined have made hundreds of arrests under drug laws and for outstanding warrants, and seized 103 kilos of narcotic, including 56 kilos of fentanyl. These numbers don’t include additional federal efforts being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The SF District Attorney’s Office has seen a record number of felony narcotics cases.    

SFPD officers in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods have seized over 64 kilos of narcotics from those neighborhoods, including nearly 38 kilos of fentanyl. Overall citywide this year, San Francisco police officers have seized over 135 kilos of narcotics, including over 89 kilos of fentanyl – more than all of last year’s drug seizures combined.   

Police and Sheriff’s Deputies have also increased efforts to hold the criminals profiting from distributing these drugs accountable, arresting more than 300 dealers in the last three months. SFPD officers have also arrested 123 wanted fugitives in the Tenderloin and South of Market during the same time period.   

Governor Gavin Newsom’s deployment of the California Highway Patrol and the National Guard have supported and expanded these efforts. As part of this joint operation, California Highway Patrol has made 100 drug arrests, seizing 39 kilos of narcotics, including 18 kilos of fentanyl. They’ve also seized firearms and partnered with local agencies on training and other enforcement efforts.   

San Francisco has also been included in Operation Overdrive, a federal initiative under the Department of Justice that deploys federal law enforcement resources to help local and state authorities identify and dismantle criminal drug networks. These partnerships play a critical role to develop long-term, sustainable strategies to maintain clearance from drug sales.    

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 August 23, of this year 656 felony narcotics cases were presented of which 566 were filed (86% filing rate) compared to the previous record of 574 cases presented in 2018 and 476 cases filed.   

Additionally, SFPD has made over 450 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. Additionally, City health and homelessness outreach teams will continue routine daily outreach to offer services and treatment linkages in targeted neighborhoods.   

“Shutting down open air drug markets is critical to the safety of our neighborhoods and the overall health of our City,” said Mayor London Breed. “The work that our city agencies and state and federal partners are doing to confront this crisis has to be sustained and expanded and we can’t continue to accept the existence of these drug markets on our streets. I want to thank Governor Newsom for his support in delivering resources, as well as our federal leaders, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. We will continue to offer help to people in crisis, but we must hold people accountable who are hurting our communities.”    

"We refuse to sit on the sidelines as the fentanyl crisis intensifies,” said SFPD Chief Bill Scott. “The introduction of this poison into our drug supply has changed the game and we’re responding. Anyone who seeks to profit from selling drugs in our city will be held accountable. We are also taking bold steps to get people who are addicted to fentanyl the help that they need. The people who live, work and visit San Francisco deserve to be safe as they enjoy this beautiful city.”   

“We are aggressively targeting drug dealers who prey on those suffering from substance use disorder,” said Sheriff Paul Miyamoto. “We are also focusing on drug users because it is not humane or compassionate to allow them to languish on our streets controlled by their addictions.  Justice-involved persons with substance use disorder sometimes need the threat of jail time to compel them to remain in programs that successfully address the root causes of addiction.” 

“I am grateful to all local, state and federal partners who have come together to share resources and work collaboratively to close open-air drug markets and take our neighborhoods back;” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.  “The current conditions on our streets are unacceptable.  Drug dealers have operated with impunity, while profiting from death and holding entire neighborhoods hostage.  This crisis will not be solved overnight.  I have prioritized this work since taking office over a year ago and am committed to seeing it through.  We will not let up and continue to do everything we can to make sure that suspected drug dealers are held accountable and that our most vulnerable who are struggling with addiction have the opportunity for recovery.”  

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.