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San Francisco ‘drug tourism’ report would track address history of city users

A man hunched over on the steps in UN Plaza in San Francisco on October 13, 2023.
A man hunches over on the steps at U.N. Plaza in San Francisco in October 2023. The area has been a hot spot for drug use and overdoses. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

In order to quantify so-called “drug tourism,” a San Francisco supervisor wants the City Controller’s Office to produce an annual report tracking the home addresses of people who have been arrested for drug use or who have died from overdoses in the city.

District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey said in letters Thursday that an anonymized report would help inform city policymakers about the consequences of San Francisco’s drug crisis.

“The report I’m requesting from the City Controller is necessary to more accurately quantify the extent to which San Francisco is a destination city for open-air drug scenes,” Dorsey wrote to Angela Calvillo, clerk of the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey speaks at a press conference concerning the city’s thousands of unapproved housing projects, in San Francisco, on June 29, 2023. | Jeremy Chen/The Standard
Supervisor Matt Dorsey speaks at a June 2023 press conference. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

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The requested methodology would use commercially available databases to research the residential histories of three populations: those arrested for public drug use, those whose cause of death was an overdose, and recipients of the County Adult Assistance Program.

It would quantify how long they lived in San Francisco and track their county, state and national origins.

There were 806 overdose deaths in San Francisco in 2023, a record number, up from 647 deaths in 2022, the Department of Public Health reported. The deaths were mostly due to fentanyl.

Dorsey said that current city reporting provides divergent data on what percentage of arrested drug users or overdose victims are San Francisco residents, as opposed to out-of-town visitors who may be attracted by permissive drug policies or a robust social safety net.

His request cited a June 2023 report that 95% of recent arrests for drug use in the city were of non-San Francisco residents, which the supervisor contrasted with a proposed city resolution stating that 95% of deadly overdoses last year happened to residents.

Dorsey said more reliable statistics could bring overdue scrutiny to unintended consequences of the city’s struggles with open drug scenes and free assistance programs.

The Coalition on Homelessness said they are deeply concerned about the number of lives being lost to the overdose crisis and said the request for the report amounts to political tactics.

“Political tactics such as these that attempt to shift blame and divert attention away from real solutions such as the implementation of the DPH overdose prevention plan are irresponsible and misguided,” Jennifer Friedenbach of the coalition said in an email. “In addition, looking into ‘home addresses’ not only wastes time and energy when lives are at stake—it often misrepresents the real situation, such as individuals who were forced to leave their homes due to abuse are counted as housed from out of town.”

George Kelly can be reached at