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San Francisco Arrested or Cited 53 People for Drug Use. All Refused Treatment

Written by David SjostedtPublished Jun. 21, 2023 • 11:52am
Police officers standing in a circle between two cars.
San Francisco Police Department officers meet along Seventh Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District on Dec. 14, 2022. | Jason Henry for The Standard | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

Mayor London Breed's office said Wednesday that under a new program to combat drug-dealing and drug use, the San Francisco Police Department and Sheriff's Department "encountered" 58 people who were intoxicated in public since May 30.

Of those, five people were taken to local hospitals, 11 were given misdemeanor citations and 42 were booked into jail for temporary detention. Among those cited or booked for public drug use, 28% had outstanding warrants and 8% identified as San Francisco residents, according to police.

But none accepted offers of treatment upon their release from jail, said the Mayor's Office in a press release Wednesday.

The focus on public intoxication is part of a larger effort involving local, state and federal resources to clear the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods of open-air drug use and dealing. In a statement, Breed called the effort "critical to the safety of our neighborhoods and the overall health of our City."

On June 12, the city opened a command center in the mid-Market area to coordinate the Sheriff’s Office, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the Adult Probation Department, the California Highway Patrol and the California National Guard in the effort.

The center also involves agencies offering services, such as the Department of Public Health, Human Services Agency and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. San Francisco will also be included in Operation Overdrive, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative that deploys federal law enforcement to help dismantle criminal drug networks.

Breed has taken an increasingly hard line on public drug use, directing the Department of Emergency Management to coordinate an effort to arrest and detain people whose public drug use is deemed risky to themselves or others.

Under that program, anyone detained will be monitored by Jail Health Services and offered access to voluntary services upon release.

But the increased enforcement has also generated heated debates over the effectiveness of detaining people addicted to drugs, with public health advocates contending that such tactics will not make drug users more likely to accept treatment.

In May, 74 people died in San Francisco of fatal overdoses, putting the city on track for a record number of overdose deaths this year.

David Sjostedt can be reached at

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