Newsom enlists CHP, National Guard to help San Francisco tackle fentanyl crisis

Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling on the California National Guard and the California Highway Patrol to help San Francisco police and prosecutors fight back against the ongoing fentanyl crisis facing the city.

The new partnership is meant to target traffickers, dismantle the supply of fentanyl into the city and address drug-related crime, the governor’s office announced Friday.

“We are providing more law resources and personnel to crack down on crime linked to the fentanyl crisis, holding the poison peddlers accountable, and increasing law enforcement presence to improve public safety and public confidence in San Francisco,” Newsom said in a statement.

Some local officials criticized the announcement, saying it lacked details about how exactly state agencies would help tackle the crisis.

“This latest publicity stunt will not meaningfully improve conditions in the neighborhood,” said San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes the Tenderloin, one of the most overdose-plagued parts of the city. “It is a transparent effort to appease national conservative media by declaring war on a diverse, low-income, urban neighborhood, exploiting the struggles of the Tenderloin rather than investing in the community.”

According to Newsom, the law enforcement partnership will focus on traffickers and suppliers of the drugs, not people struggling with substance abuse.

Newsom directed the CHP to provide personnel and resources to assist the San Francisco Police Department, especially in areas such as the Tenderloin that have been hit particularly hard by the presence of fentanyl.

The California National Guard was asked to support the analysis of drug trafficking operations. The Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force has worked local law enforcement agencies to target drug trafficking rings.

The announcement from the governor’s office comes after Newsom visited the Tenderloin last week with Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

“Our Police Department and District Attorney have been partnering to tackle this issue and increase enforcement, but our local agencies can use more support,” Breed said in a statement. “With the Governor’s leadership and clear direction, our state enforcement agencies can partner with us to make a difference for our residents, businesses, and workers who are living with the impacts every day.”

San Francisco recorded 200 accidental overdose deaths from January to March, according to data from the medical examiner’s office. That represents a 40% increase from the same time period last year.

An analysis conducted by the San Francisco Chronicle shows that 52 of those deaths involved fentanyl. The Tenderloin has been one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, representing about 23% of San Francisco’s overdose deaths in 2020 and 2021, according to the Chronicle.

With the toll of the overdose crisis mounting, some local officials welcomed Newsom’s announcement.

“THE CAVALRY IS COMING,” San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey tweeted.

But others derided the plan as a detail-thin publicity stunt and criticized the governor for vetoing a bill in 2022 that would have allowed supervised injection site programs in California’s major cities.

“I hope that once the governor has gotten what he wants from this news cycle, he will partner with us on real solutions to improve health and safety in the Tenderloin,” Preston said.

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