San Francisco Public Safety Initiative to Disrupt Open Air Drug Markets Seizing Fentanyl at Record Levels

SFPD has seized over 60 kilos of fentanyl this year so far – an increase of 160% over the same period last year and more than 640% since 2021
June 21, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London Breed announced progress from the City’s multiagency initiative to address open-air drug markets made up of local, state, and federal public safety partners focused on a more coordinated enforcement and disruption of illegal activities.   

As part of this work, SFPD has focused enforcement in the Tenderloin and South of Market Area, where officers have seized over 60 kilos of fentanyl year to date, amounting to over 30 million lethal doses of the deadly drug. This is an increase of 160% over the same time period last year, and more than 640% seized year over year since 2021.    

Additionally, 28% of those cited for public drug use under new enforcement efforts have had existing warrants for other crimes and are now being charged under those warrants. Only 8% cited for public drug use identified as San Francisco residents.   

This effort is part of Mayor Breed’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.   

“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. We will continue to offer help to people in crisis, but we must hold people accountable who are hurting our communities.”  

Coordinated Response to Fentanyl   

A coordinated City initiative to address open-air drug markets led by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) began ramping up in April. Starting June 12, this effort expanded to include more city agencies as well as regional and state partners, and is focused on enforcing existing laws, as well as continuing street outreach and offers of services to those in need of care.    

DEM is coordinating local and state agencies involved in this effort, including enforcement agencies such as the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office (SFSO), the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the Adult Probation Department, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the California National Guard. It also involves agencies providing outreach and services, including the Department of Public Health (DPH), Human Services Agency (HSA), and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH).   

Open Drug Sales  

In the first six months of 2023, SFPD has focused enforcement efforts in the Tenderloin and South of Market areas. This work has yielded in these areas alone:  

  • 390 arrests for sale  
  • 61 kilograms of fentanyl seized  
  • 95 kilograms of narcotics seized   

This data does not include arrests and seizures in other parts of San Francisco. Through ongoing City public safety coordination, the agencies will work more closely with state and federal law enforcement partners to identify and arrest drug dealers and traffickers, disrupt the supply chain, and reduce the profitability of this criminal operation.   

Last week, the CHP announced the seizure of 4 kilograms of fentanyl since May 1 when the State announced its plans to direct resources to San Francisco to support efforts targeting open-air drug markets. The California National Guard has been deployed to provide investigative support for dismantling drug rings.   

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi has also announced that San Francisco will be 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.   

Public Drug Use  

SFPD and SFSO have launched a new coordinated effort to arrest and detain those who pose a danger to themselves and to others through their public drug use.  Between May 30 and June 18, this team of officers trained to identify narcotics use completed 58 total encounters, resulting in 5 medical transports to local hospitals, 11 misdemeanor citations, and 42 misdemeanor bookings into county jail for temporary detention due to narcotics intoxication.    

Of the 53 cited or booked for public drug use: 

  • 28% had outstanding warrants. These individuals were then held on these warrants. Only one of these 15 individuals identified as San Francisco residents.   
  • 8% overall identified as San Francisco residents. 51% came from another California county, and 34% came from out of state. The remaining came from out of country or didn’t identify their residency.     

None of those detained under public intoxication laws accepted services for treatment offered to them upon release. Anyone detained in San Francisco’s jails are supported by Jail Health Services, and offered access to voluntary services upon release. Additionally, City health and homelessness outreach teams will continue routine daily outreach to offer services and treatment linkages in targeted neighborhoods.   

Next Steps  

As part of the City’s efforts to streamline and coordinate efforts, regular data updates on key metrics around these efforts will be shared publicly as they become available. The Mayor’s Budget, which is currently before the Board of Supervisors, provides key funding to continue this work, as well as broader support for law enforcement and public health needs.