Famous San Francisco Neighborhood Grapples With Drug Dealing

By Victoria Kim 05/14/19

Tackling drug dealing in the Tenderloin district cost the city more than $12.5 million from 2017-2018.

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San Francisco neighborhood

San Francisco is home to the priciest apartment rental market in the country—but it is also home to “widespread and endemic” drug dealing relegated to the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

A report by the SF budget and legislative analyst revealed details of drug dealing activity in the Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district where more than half of drug arrests were made from 2017-2018.

Of 883 people who were arrested or cited in San Francisco for selling drugs during that time period, 56% were from Tenderloin, according to the report.

“There are dozens of people selling drugs at any given hour, including around our parks and schools and in the neighborhood,” said district supervisor Matt Haney, who represents Tenderloin.

Haney held a Board of Supervisors hearing in April to discuss the drug problem in Tenderloin, Mid-Market and South of Market—which are all within Haney’s District 6. Haney acknowledged that “what we’re doing right now is not working,” hoping to develop a “comprehensive citywide strategy” that is currently lacking.

“I’m not saying that people need to get a long-term prison sentence,” Haney said. “But each arrest costs us something like $10,000, so when we do arrest someone we should be smarter about what happens next.”

According to the report, tackling drug dealing in Tenderloin, South of Market and Mid-Market cost the city more than $12.5 million from 2017-2018.

Prosecutors say that “current sentencing practices do not deter” drug sellers from returning to their posts—which has resulted in what SF Chronicle has called a “revolving door of drug dealers.”

As The Chronicle reported, “Prosecutors… say it takes an average of 244 days—about eight months—for a felony like selling drugs to make its way through the courts. Often as not, the suspected dealers are released by a judge pending the outcome of their cases. And just as often, the dealers head back to the Tenderloin and start selling drugs again.”

Of 173 convictions cited in the report, 80.3% (or 139) of them received probation with some time served while just 18.5% (or 32) received longer sentencing.

“Most of the people arrested or convicted get probation, which begs the question, How can we make probation effective and not have these guys go right back on the street?” said Haney.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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