San Francisco mayor declares state of emergency in response to drug overdose deaths
More than 600 people have died from a drug overdose in the city this year and more than 700 died in 2020
San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Friday declared a state of emergency in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood, an area that sits near City Hall and that officials have long said is rampant with drugs and crime in response to overdose deaths.
The policy came days after Breed promised an aggressive crackdown on crime in the city in which she specifically cited the Tenderloin as an area plagued by open-air drug dealing, crime and unsanitary conditions on the streets.
"There is clearly in the Tenderloin community, with the conditions of not just the people in the streets, but the people living there and the people suffering that we are in a crisis and we need to respond accordingly," she said at a news conference Friday. "Too many people are dying in this city, too many people are sprawled all over our streets."
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The declaration would expedite emergency programs by waving zoning and planning codes – in effect cutting through red tape – in an effort to open sites "where people with substance use issues can receive behavioral health services and get off the street," a city news release said.
It must be ratified by the Board of Supervisors within seven days and will exist for no longer than 90 days.
In 2020, the city experienced 700 drug overdose deaths, Breed said. She said more than 600 people have died from an overdose this year, FOX 2 San Francisco reported.
On Tuesday, she announced a series of crime-fighting initiatives to combat a wave of organized retail thefts, crime and the sale of stolen goods. She noted that San Francisco is a compassionate city but "not a city where anything goes."
During her initial announcement earlier this week, Breed called for more funding for police. On Friday, she noted that the city spends more on social services in the Tenderloin than in any other community.
"We are losing over two people a day to drug overdoses, mostly to fentanyl, and mostly in the Tenderloin and SoMa (South of Market), Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin, said in a statement. "We need an emergency response for drug overdoses, with immediate rapid crisis intervention, outreach and coordination on our streets, with expanded treatment and detox. We have to act now with everything we have to save lives."
Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which provides housing and legal services to low-income people, said Friday the area has been in an emergency for the better part of two years.
"You don't need a declaration of emergency to arrest drug dealers on a corner but if that's what it takes to motivate everyone to move forward, great," he told Fox News. "All this is encouraging. It's obviously positive that it continues to bring attention to the crisis… but we want to see results."
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Some crimes were down in the city prior to 2020 but homicides were up slightly from 46 to 53 this year as of Dec.12. Robberies were down but there have been nearly 29,000 reports of larceny theft compared to under 25,000 last year, according to police data.
"The most important job that I have as mayor is that when people walk down the streets of San Francisco, they should feel safe," Breed said. "They shouldn't have to look over their shoulders. They shouldn't be punched in the face randomly. They shouldn't have to see someone sticking a needle in various parts of their body, laying out in the streets and wondering ‘What can I do to help them.’"