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In letter to Boudin, Humboldt County links Tenderloin drug sales to rise in local fentanyl cases

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 30: San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin speaks at a press conference in protest of Mayor London Breed's plan for more policing and enforcement of laws that could affect drug users in the Tenderloin neighborhood on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Gabrielle Lurie/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

City officials in Humboldt County penned a letter accusing District Attorney Chesa Boudin of presiding over “brazen” open-air drug dealing that is overflowing into their towns and leading to a rise in fentanyl cases.

The Humboldt Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to approve sending the letter to Boudin after spending nearly an hour weighing the effectiveness of criminalizing drug use and sales, as well as the political implications of tying fentanyl cases to San Francisco’s controversial district attorney. 

The letter points to an increase in fentanyl overdoses and arrests in Humboldt county since 2020, and claims that the Humboldt County Drug Task Force linked alleged drug dealers back to the Tenderloin neighborhood, considered the epicenter of San Francisco’s drug trade. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, Humboldt Sheriff William Honsal alleged that “virtually every one of our arrests is coming from the Tenderloin District in San Francisco.” 

Humboldt city officials didn’t reach out to Boudin’s office prior to publicizing the letter nor has Boudin received the letter, said Rachel Marshall, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office. The letter was published on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ website and circulated online. 

U.S. fentanyl overdoses increased 28.5% between April 2020 and April 2021, breaching 100,000 deaths nationwide with 640 fatal overdoses occurring in San Francisco in 2021. The Tenderloin accounted for 20% of those deaths, and officers from SFPD's Tenderloin police station seized more than 11,000 grams of fentanyl between January 3 and April 4. 

Nineteen people died from fentanyl overdoses so far this year in Humboldt County, according to Honsal. He said that the number of fentanyl-related arrests in Humboldt County also ballooned in the last three years, jumping from two arrests in 2019 to 40 occurring thus far in 2022.  

The letter also cited an injunction by former San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera that sought to ban convicted drug dealers from entering the Tenderloin neighborhood, and asked Boudin’s office to support Mayor London Breed’s emergency declaration on drug overdoses and prosecute drug dealers “to the fullest extent of the law.”

Herrera’s injunction, which was filed in September 2020, was found to be “not an authorized remedy” by an appeals court on Friday. 

“We are happy to brief [Humboldt County Board of Supervisor Chair Virginia Bass] on the work our office has been doing and correct the misinformation she has,” Marshall said. 

David Sjostedt can be reached at