San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in an interview Wednesday that 25 people have been arrested for public intoxication as agencies test the waters on a tough-love approach to the city’s drug crisis.
“Recently, we made an arrest of about 25 people for public intoxication,” Breed told KQED host Alexis Madrigal on the station’s Forum broadcast. “Nine of those people [...] had warrants, and only one of those persons had an address where they said they lived in San Francisco.”
Later on, the mayor said that some of those arrested were released and offered services, but none accepted offers for help.
Breed has increasingly voiced support for a harder stance on drugs, though that approach has garnered pushback among some progressive members of the Board of Supervisors.
As part of her proposed budget, the Department of Emergency Management is working on a pilot program that would allow city personnel to "address" situations when a person’s drug use poses a danger to themselves or others.
Members of the Board of Supervisors said they were informed that the program would allow for the enforcement of public intoxication laws by police. People arrested would be taken to jail and then released within the same day, they said. Supervisor Dean Preston called the program "reactionary, cruel and counterproductive" in a Twitter post.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Matt Dorsey has said that more aggressive enforcement could help save lives. In a recent interview, Dorsey—a former spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department—said that police had arrested 16 people for public intoxication in the prior week.
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Breed elaborated on the role the arrests could play in dealing with public drug abuse and street conditions in the Wednesday interview, saying that they could be used to offer alternatives.
“We are providing wellness hubs in my budget to help those people who are struggling,” Breed said.
“But ultimately, when we have people who cross a particular line and commit a crime, not new laws but things that are on the books, then the ability for us to basically say, look, you either go to this alternative program or we're gonna have to move forward with charges necessary to ensure that you are held accountable,” she said.
Mike Ege can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org