City leaders called out at San Francisco Tenderloin meeting on public safety

Concerned community members called out city leaders at a town hall safety meeting in San Francisco’s Tenderloin Thursday.

"We in the Tenderloin want children to be able to walk, bike, play, thrive, and grove in a safe environment," said one woman.

The St. Anthony Foundation hosted the event and invited the Police Chief, Sheriff, and District Attorney to take questions from the public and explain efforts to crack down on a variety of issues plaguing the area, including the fentanyl crisis and violent crime.

"You have got to get a handle on this problem. Not only drug abuse but homelessness," said one resident. "You go to Walgreens, everything is locked up."

"The situation has deteriorated," said Nils Behnke, CEO of the St. Anthony Foundation. Behnke said conditions in the Tenderloin are the worst they have ever been. He said there has been a rise in crime, open drug use, and on July 18, there was a daytime shooting half a block away in the area of Leavenworth Street and Golden Gate Avenue. 

Behnke said, "That is a danger to everyone and to our community. We had some people on our staff assaulted. Volunteers don’t want to come here anymore. Probably most sad is some of our guests are too afraid to come and see us here."

The nonprofit provides services like warm showers, meal, and addiction recovery.

"We certainly are most interested in the people who are selling and who are peddling death on our streets that is killing our most vulnerable populations," said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.

Jenkins said her office has filed more than 100 motions for egregious crimes and repeat offenders but said sometimes those efforts are impeded by the courts.

"We are going in filing these motions arguing about the deadliness of fentanyl and about the dangerousness of this conduct and yet and still the judges are ignoring it,," said Jenkins.

Recently, the city launched a collaborative effort led by SFPD and other agencies to disrupt and dismantle drug markets. The CHP and National Guard have also been called to the area to crack down on fentanyl dealing.

"We are arresting people who are using in public," said SFPD Chief Bill Scott. "We barely did that at all last year. We have made hundreds of arrests. And really this collaborative effort is only two months in the making."

Some residents argued arresting people will not solve the larger issue of addiction.

"Drug war mentality does not work. It’s short term. Nothing you’re proposing is sustainable in any way," said one speaker.


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