Tenderloin Observes Rise in Open-Air Drug Dealers Despite Record-Number of Arrests Last Year

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San Francisco’s fight against homelessness and open drug dealing in the streets have begun to lose traction as tents are once again showing up and individuals are starting to sell drugs once again.

Authorities noted that there were 38 tents and 26 makeshift structures built along the sidewalks of the city on Friday. “That’s way down from the 448 we had in May, but it is also a big increase from the daily count of 20 or so tents that we had in the fall,” UC Hastings College of the Law Chief Operating Officer Rhiannon Bailard said.

Rise of Drug Dealers

Nonprofit organization Urban Academy, which works with city officials in reducing the number of people left on the streets without a home, was responsible for monitoring the number of tents in Tenderloin.

In May, UC Hastings partnered with neighborhood residents and business owners to file suit in federal court against the city to force officials to remove tents off of sidewalks, give homeless people a roof over their heads, and put a stop to open-air drug dealing.

Both parties of the argument reached an out-of-court settlement, where city officials immediately began placing homeless people in hotel rooms or inside designated sleeping sites. The areas were constructed across the neighborhood and provided services such as toilets. The Public Works Department also increased it’ street and sidewalk cleaning operations.

However, Bailard noted that more and more people have been sleeping in the streets in recent weeks. The executive director of the Tenderloin Merchants and Property Owners Association, Rene Colorado, agreed with the statement.

“There have been improvements. Larkin Street and Golden Gate Avenue were riddled with tents and drug dealers. Right now, they look like streets from any other American city. But then you turn the corner, and you can’t walk down the sidewalk because five, six, or more drug dealers are blocking the way,” Colorado said.

On January 17, the Tenderloin Police Station released a statement that read: “Operations by Officers from TL, Southern, Northern, & Narcotics have resulted in 5 dealers in custody over last 2 days. 4 of 5 booked are known/repeat dealers. One has been booked 5x in 7 months. 4 of 5 are violating SA (stay-away orders), (are) fugitives, (or) have open cases and/or on probation.”

Additionally, the police station noted on January 19 that last week, they had 44 felony bookings in Tenderloin, 18 of which were drug dealers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Officials are noting the constant rise of dealers who are returning to the streets even after Tenderloin police officers made 600 drug arrests last year. Authorities were able to confiscate 18.1 kilos of several drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.

City officials also argue that the death toll due to drug overdose continues to overshadow the fatalities from the COVID-19 virus. “Drug dealing, drug use, and the associated large groups’ gatherings is as bad or worse, which continues to be awful, dangerous, and entirely unacceptable,” Supervisor Matt Haney said.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.