Feds' enforcement highlights night ops combatting Tenderloin fentanyl trafficking

Approximately 300,000 "rainbow fentanyl" pills and 20 pounds of powdered fentanyl were seized in the Bronx. (NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor)

Enforcement of nighttime fentanyl trafficking recently surged in San Francisco's Tenderloin District under a joint law enforcement operation called All Hands on Deck, U.S. District Attorney Ismail Ramsey announced at a Thursday press conference alongside DEA and FBI agents. The joint initiative between local, state and federal was announced in November of 2023.     

Night operations have resulted in the alleged seizure of over 11 pounds of fentanyl and 5 pounds of methamphetamine, alongside $20,000 in cash, resulting in over 20 federal criminal complaints.     

Ramsey has charged more than 90 people with drug distribution-related charges in the Tenderloin District since the program's inception last November, resulting in more than 70 convictions, according to the press release.     

"Federal agents are now being deployed to hold drug dealers accountable regardless of the time of day," DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian Clark said in the Thursday press release. "Our presence makes it clear there is no time to be safe from law enforcement in our neighborhoods."   

Since the program's inception, courts have handed down lengthy sentences for drug dealers, extradited alleged drug dealers from Honduras, prosecuted money service operators turning a blind eye to drug trafficking and money laundering in their networks, according to Ramsey.   

"Our objective is to change the equation for drug dealers," FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Tripp said. "As the consequences of choosing to supply drugs in the Tenderloin become more severe, dealers and suppliers are going to have to reassess their risk.  Is it worth it? We aim to show the answer is no."

Investigators used wiretaps, arrests, and searches throughout the Bay Area to enable drug seizures, stemming the flow of drugs and distributors coming into San Francisco from nearby counties, according to the Thursday press release. Other features of the program include expanding efforts to track down fentanyl suppliers, conducting joint federal and SFPD operations to make on-the-spot arrests for open-air drug dealing.   


"Our drug crisis has been fueled in part because selling fentanyl has become a lucrative vocation for people who have found our neighborhoods, and principally the Tenderloin District, to be a convenient and risk-free marketplace," Ramsey said at the program's announcement in November. "Today's message is simple: selling fentanyl in the Tenderloin will result in your arrest and prosecution."     

As a part of the program, Ramsey's office federalized and fast-tracked some cases traditionally handled by state and local governments, speeding cases up so that as little as one month passed between the arrest and disposition of a suspect.   

"Law enforcement approaches traditionally applied to drug dealing in our neighborhoods simply have not caught up the challenges presented by this new drug," Ramsey said. "Yet, the tools of law enforcement can address some of the root causes of this epidemic."   

Arrests of street dealers and fentanyl suppliers who operate near federal buildings are also a focus of the operation. These buildings include the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse at Seventh and Mission Streets, the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building on Seventh and Mission Streets, and the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Avenue.   

Federal, state and local officials and community leaders who pledged to contribute to All Hands on Deck operations attended both press conferences.     

"Current conditions on our streets are completely unacceptable and require all levels of government to work together to close open-air drug markets and hold suspected drug dealers accountable for the unprecedented death and addiction that their trade has wrought on our city...," said San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins in November. "Every legal resource available to us must be used to deter and disrupt the flagrant drug trafficking in our community."