District Attorney Chesa Boudin joined other elected officials and activists on Monday in criticizing the mayor of London Breed’s plan to flood San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood with police officers and crack down on drug traffickers as well as people who use drugs outdoors.

Breed announced a series of initiatives last week, including asking for overtime for the police, seeking more social workers and public toilets for the net and declaring a state of emergency there. Breed said the city will continue to provide services and housing for people on the streets and those struggling with drug addiction, but will become tough on those who refuse shelter and treatment.

Boudin, supervisory board chairman Shamann Walton and public defender Mano Raju said at a press conference on Monday that the plan was flawed because it relied on flawed policies to solve the problems.

Leaders and professionals who provide substance abuse treatment or harm reduction services have called on the mayor to quickly accelerate “evidence-based” alternatives, including treatment, housing, education and employment. The city is chronically short of treatment beds for the thousands of people who suffer from homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

The Mayor of London Breed speaks to the media during a press conference announcing plans to tackle crime in the Tenderloin neighborhood at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., On Tuesday. December 14, 2021.

Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle

Boudin’s decision to join the press conference underscores that while many city leaders agree on the biggest challenges San Francisco faces, they have fundamental disagreements on how to resolve them. As leaders are divided on the best way forward, some Tenderloin residents and business owners have advocated for months for safer, cleaner streets in the face of shootings and outdoor drug use.

Boudin told the press conference he was “outraged” by the human suffering, gross violations of laws and safety concerns faced by the families of the net. But he also said: “We cannot stop and sue to get us out of the problems that plague the net.

“Stopping drug addicts, jailing people with mental health problems, putting people who sell hot dogs or other food on the streets in cages won’t solve these problems, and they are certainly not the only ones. tools available, ”he said. noted.

Earlier reports from the city showed that nearly three-quarters of those incarcerated struggled with drug addiction and mental illness, and nearly a third were homeless. Boudin said the city was short of treatment and housing, with some inmates waiting months to participate in rehabilitation programs, and urged more investment in mental health care and the opening of a supervised drug use site. .

“Right now in San Francisco it’s easier to get high than to get help. This has to change, ”he said. “I will do everything in my power to make the Tenderloin safe for all of San Francisco.”

Boudin noted that his office had “prosecuted for sale and possession of drugs with the intention of selling at higher rates than my predecessor in 2018 and 2019” and planned to continue to enforce the law.

When asked if he would prosecute drug addicts, he said possession is a misdemeanor, which means someone arrested for the crime is given a citation and then told to appear in court. He said that given “what we know about drug addiction, the chances of these people even appearing in court are very low”, reflecting that the approach was not a “useful response” to a health crisis. public.

Oliver Dolan, assistant in Glide's Harm Reduction Program, packs a bag with unused needles while preparing for an awareness walk at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, Calif. On Friday, October 23, 2020. The team Glide's Harm Reduction Center works three times a week to roam the Neighborhood Net to deliver harm reduction services and supplies to people who live and use drugs on the streets.

Oliver Dolan, assistant in Glide’s Harm Reduction Program, packs a bag with unused needles while preparing for an awareness walk at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, Calif. On Friday, October 23, 2020. The team Glide’s Harm Reduction Center works three times a week to roam the Neighborhood Net to deliver harm reduction services and supplies to people who live and use drugs on the streets.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Boudin said he was focusing on serious and violent crime, especially with limited judicial capacity in the context of the pandemic.

“The last thing we need is to obstruct all available courts with a possession offense of a driving charge,” he said.

Police chief, sheriff and supervisors Ahsha Safaí and Catherine Stefani stood with Breed last week when she pledged to give people who use drugs on the streets the opportunity to visit a focal point yet to be created where the city will provide referral to treatment and refuge – or go to jail.

Breed warned on Friday that the city would be “much more aggressive in implementing existing laws on the books to get people off the streets,” including a controversial city ordinance that prohibits people from lying or lying. ‘sitting on sidewalks, which generally affects the homeless. people.

His administration is working on adding additional resources: the city has approved the purchase or lease of nearly 1,200 of the 1,500 permanent supportive housing beds planned over the next two years, and just under a quarter. beds provided for addiction and mental health treatment. A drug rehab center and supervised drug use site where people could use drugs under the care of health professionals are planned for next year.

Critics have said these and other interventions are needed.

Walton said the board urged the mayor to declare a state of emergency for the overdose crisis – not “to increase law enforcement budgets here in San Francisco and arrest the people who use drugs when we currently do not have sufficient resources to meet their needs “.

The board of directors will hold a special meeting to decide whether to ratify the mayor’s declaration of emergency, which would remove bureaucratic barriers so that the city can quickly open the liaison site and begin police enforcement in force, at 2 p.m. Thursday. Walton told The Chronicle that he had not decided how he would vote and that he did not know the votes of his 10 colleagues, but that he wanted to “explore alternatives to what was on offer.”

Supervisor Matt Haney supports the mayor’s declaration of emergency. He told The Chronicle last week that he supported the police in cracking down on the drug supply, but not in criminalizing users.

“I don’t support putting people in jail or jail for being addicted,” said Haney, who did not attend Monday’s press conference.

Instead, he said he wanted to “bring people inside” with alternatives such as the supervised drug use site and the sobering up center, treatment and a massive increase in street workers. to put people in touch with help.

Del Seymour, a member of the Tenderloin community for 35 years, told Monday’s press conference that being arrested 12 times in the late 1990s “made me no less of a demon. dope until I’m in rehab “.

Todd Meshekey, sitting at the corner of Jones and Turk streets on Monday, said: “We need the police,” but was skeptical that flooding the neighborhood would make any difference in helping his personal struggles or the neighborhood’s problems.

“It’s impossible,” he said. “The drugs are there before us, they will be there after us. Why should they continue to bother us? “

Meshekey said he used methamphetamine and marijuana and had been homeless for 20 years across the country, including 15 in San Francisco. He said he had been arrested and jailed in all cities, but that San Francisco’s approach was more lax.

“In other cities you can’t do what we’re doing right now,” he said before taking a puff of his pipe.

Meshekey said he did not want to continue using drugs, which he said wasted his life, and that he has quit before, but said recovery is a “long road” .

The former waiter at the restaurant said his New Years plan was to find a job and “change everything.”

Mallory Moench is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @mallorymoench

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story distorted District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s position on prosecuting drug traffickers. He supports the prosecution of drug traffickers.

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