May 4, 2023 - News

Multi-agency effort against fentanyl trafficking begins

Photo of a billboard that shows the Golden Gate Bridge and text that says: "Famous the world over for our brains, beauty and now, dirt-cheap fentanyl." Two SFPD officers are in the foreground of the photo.

A billboard warns against fentanyl on April 4 in San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The California Highway Patrol and California National Guard members in San Francisco this week became part of a new multi-agency operation aimed at cracking down on fentanyl trafficking in the city.

Why it matters: The drug crisis in SF has spiraled in recent years, with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner recording 640 overdose deaths in 2021 and 647 in 2022. In each year, almost half of the deaths took place in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods.

Driving the news: The new deployment comprises volunteers from CHP's 75-officer team in SF as well as 14 CalGuard officers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

  • CHP officers are expected to focus on the Tenderloin and SoMa areas.
  • CalGuard will primarily serve to analyze drug trafficking operations and train local police to improve case-building against cartels across jurisdictions.

Yes, but: The Chronicle reported on Monday, the first day of the deployment, that it failed to "spot any patrols on a three-hour morning walk through the two neighborhoods."

  • There were a few social media reports of people seeing CHP cruisers — including a photo provided to the Chronicle by Code Tenderloin founder Del Seymour, who said he saw a few officers on motorbikes — but there was "no sign that any arrests occurred," SFist wrote.

Zoom in: SFPD's crime incident reports for Monday list one drug offense in the Tenderloin — possession of narcotics paraphernalia — and four in SoMa, which in addition to a case of paraphernalia involved possession of methamphetamine, opiates and cocaine for sale.

  • A CHP spokesperson told Axios that the agency does not yet have statistics or other information to provide on the deployment. CalGuard did not respond to a request for comment.

The big picture: District Attorney Brooke Jenkins highlighted the need for extra support in the two neighborhoods at a press conference last week, noting that the partnership was offered to her office "about a year or two ago and was declined."

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom has championed the collaboration as a way to disrupt the supply of deadly drugs and hold accountable the operators of trafficking rings.
  • California Attorney General Rob Bonta has also directed the state's Department of Justice to provide legal expertise and assistance in prosecuting any multi-jurisdictional cases resulting from the operation.
  • A recent poll by KGO-TV ABC-7 found overwhelming support for Supervisor Matt Dorsey's proposal to add fentanyl-dealing felonies to the existing exceptions to San Francisco's sanctuary city policies.

What to watch: Local health groups have warned that enforcement won't solve the problem alone and that the city will need to continue investing in mental and behavioral crisis centers as well as safe consumption sites.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios San Francisco.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More San Francisco stories

No stories could be found

San Franciscopostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Francisco.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more