San Francisco's new district attorney tours Tenderloin, pledges action to stop 'open-air drug sales'

San Francisco's new district attorney toured the city's Tenderloin District and got a first-hand view of so-called open-air drug dealing and use. The district attorney says she's already reviewing cases in the criminal justice system, saying her office will prosecute drug offenses. The DA says her office is already working to hold lawbreakers accountable, even going over plea deals that are already in the works to see if they are appropriate.

Tuesday morning, the D.A. Brooke Jenkins walked through the city's troubled neighborhood to see for the drug dealing and use in the streets for herself. She says her pledge to take action to stop open-air drug sales and use is already underway. Her office is now reviewing plea deals that have been offered, but not yet accepted to see of those deals should still be on the table. 

"I am aware of the data that only three offenders were required to plea to drug sales charges in the year 2021 and I am committed to making sure that we restore accountability with respect to drug dealing in San Francisco," said District Attorney Jenkins. 

The D.A. also said her office will work on rebuilding relationships with law enforcement agencies as part of a broader effort to combat drug sales and use. "Working with the other agencies that is going to be necessary to solving this problem, right," said District Attorney Jenkins. "To start working with SFPD with their narcotic unit, with their Tenderloin unit with the US Attorney's office."

Randy Shaw from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic led the district attorney on her tour, and said for too long the city has allowed the Tenderloin to descend into squalor as long as it was contained. He says he hopes District Attorney Jenkins will take the steps needed to clean up the Tenderloin. "We need a district attorney who will prosecute drug dealers so these drug dealers know if they get arrested, they're going away. They're not coming back on the street the next day," said Shaw.

The Tenderloin was subject to a 90-day emergency declaration proclaimed by Mayor London Breed. The emergency order expired in March. The declaration sought to address open-air drug use, but also allowed the Tenderloin Linkage Center to open. The center became a source of controversy for allegedly allowing drug use, in effect becoming a prototype of the safe-consumption sites the mayor has long been a proponent of. 

Del Seymour says he's frustrated. He says he runs three businesses in the Tenderloin. So far he says he has reserved his judgment on whether the new district attorney will help the area. "We'll see politics gets involved with our situation," said Seymour. "Politics should never be part of treatment of the Tenderloin but tends to always get there."

Some residents in the Tenderloin say they hope the new district attorney will pursue medical interventions for drug users in the area, rather than jail. "The people who are using still are using still," said one resident who goes by the name Cat. "You know, addiction is a disease. They have to address the disease."

As for how this new D.A. says she'll know if she's succeeding, she says that can't be measured by convictions or jail sentences, she said she will look to the community to tell her if they're seeing positive change.