San Francisco’s new DA kicks off tenure with major plan to crack down on crime

The new San Francisco DA left Chesa Boudin's office last year over 'mounting dissatisfaction'

The newly-minted San Francisco district attorney kicked off her tenure by voicing support for a plan that would allow police officers access to real-time private security cameras to help curb crime.

"I believe this policy can help address the existence of open-air drug markets fueling the sale of the deadly drug fentanyl," DA Brooke Jenkins wrote in a letter to city supervisor Aaron Peskin, according to SFGate. 

"Drug dealers are destroying people's lives and wreaking havoc on neighborhoods like the Tenderloin. Mass organized retail theft, like we saw in Union Square last year, or targeted neighborhood efforts like we've seen in Chinatown is another area where the proposed policy can help," she continued. 

Jenkins was sworn into office on Friday after San Francisco voters recalled former DA Chesa Boudin in response to progressive policies some activists say emboldened criminals. Jenkins was appointed by Mayor London Breed after serving as an assistant DA from 2014 to 2021. She resigned from the office in October 2021 citing "mounting dissatisfaction with the direction of the office," according to a press release from the mayor’s office. 

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Former prosecutor Brooke Jenkins talks about the upcoming recall of district attorney Chesa Boudin during an interview in San Francisco on May 26, 2022.  (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)

Former prosecutor Brooke Jenkins talks about the upcoming recall of district attorney Chesa Boudin during an interview in San Francisco on May 26, 2022.  (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File) (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)

The letter sent Monday marks one of the first actions Jenkins has taken since being sworn in. 

Currently in San Francisco, police are able to access real-time private surveillance video in cases of serious risk of physical injury or death. Breed proposed expanding this access in 2021 so that police could see private security footage in real-time to respond to crimes stretching from looting to drug deals, SFGate reported. 

Breed’s proposal was met with backlash, including from Peskin and the ACLU, over privacy concerns. Peskin subsequently announced a competing proposal to Breed’s, but both San Francisco leaders pulled their proposals in March in favor of a compromise. 

The duo ultimately unveiled a plan in May that would limit how long the cameras could be used, how data would be stored and reporting stipulations. 

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"The people of San Francisco deserve to see their elected representatives working together toward shared public safety goals, and that’s what we’ve been engaged in," Peskin said in a statement with Breed at the time. "Public safety in this context is about ensuring an effective response to crime on our streets while safeguarding against the real threats of a surveillance state."

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEB. 16: San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at a press conference regarding the next steps she will be taking to replace three school board members who were successfully recalled at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEB. 16: San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at a press conference regarding the next steps she will be taking to replace three school board members who were successfully recalled at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images) (Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

In Jenkin’s letter, which was sent the day the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee held a hearing on revising the ordinance, she voiced support for the proposal as a "responsible tool" to curb crime. 

"As prosecutors, we can deliver justice for residents when our Police Department is able to make arrests, and provide sufficient evidence to support a conviction," Jenkins wrote in her letter to Peskin. "This policy will help us promote public safety, while also maintaining strong safeguards to prevent any misuse of technology. I know this balance is important to you, and that you have been working diligently with the Mayor's Office, the Police Department and others to achieve it."

The ACLU, however, strongly condemned the proposal as diminishing privacy and said it could target "LGBTQ people, abortion seekers" and "any other frequent targets of state violence."

"As written, SFPD’s proposal would allow officers to use private cameras to monitor people going about their daily lives and to request troves of recorded footage, keeping it for years," members of the ACLU’s Northern California office said Friday. "It does not set any meaningful limits on how SFPD can share this video footage. So, in practice, local police could conceivably turn over stockpiled and time-stamped footage to prosecutors from other states." 

"It would be one of the largest expansions of surveillance in city history," the ACLU office said on Twitter. 

Breed's press secretary Parisa Safarzadeh told Fox News Digital that "City has embedded strong guardrails in this law against misuse of technology and video footage to protect people's civil liberties because we know that residents and businesses are entrusting the City with their technology."

Safarzadeh added that businesses and residents would need to grant permission authorizing police to use non-city camera "to temporarily monitor activity during significant events with public safety concerns, investigations relating to active misdemeanor and felony violations, and investigations into officer misconduct." 

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Jenkins has vowed to crack down on San Francisco’s rampant crime following Boudin’s tenure. Besides Monday's letter, one of Jenkins' first actions included telling staffers to review all unclosed plea offers to see if they should be withdrawn. 

Chesa Boudin during an appearance on the SF City Insider podcast at the San Francisco Chronicle in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, August 28, 2019.

Chesa Boudin during an appearance on the SF City Insider podcast at the San Francisco Chronicle in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, August 28, 2019. (Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Her first meeting with her staff, most of whom were hired by Boudin, was described as "icy" and "uncomfortable" by those in attendance, KTVU reported. 

Jenkins was among a bevy of employees who resigned from Boudin’s office, publicly spoke out about his management of the office and helped lead the recall effort. 

"Under my leadership the San Francisco District Attorney's office will work diligently every single day to restore order to our city and to bring our city back to being the beautiful city that we know it is and the world renowned place that everybody loves to come visit," she said Friday. 

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Jenkins will be up for election in November. The proposal on security footage will need to be approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors before it proceeds.