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Alleged drug lab bust at San Francisco motel used to house homeless during pandemic

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – “During our investigation we discovered chemicals that were known to be used to make narcotics,” Officer Robert Rueca said. 

A suspected drug lab was uncovered by police at a motel being used to house the homeless during the pandemic.

“They put one person in handcuffs and then a few minutes later the fire truck came,” witness Eric Johnson said. 

A witness across the street saw some of the action unfold on 9th Street at the Civic Center Motor Inn.

Police officers, fire crews and a hazmat unit responded to a 911 call about a strong chemical odor coming from a room Saturday afternoon. 

The guests and some workers at a nearby business were evacuated.  

Inside the room, police say they found the chemicals known for making drugs and equipment for drug production set up.

“Suspected meth and suspected heroin. Two adults were taken into custody for narcotics-related charges which include the possession of controlled substances. The manufacturing of controlled substances having narcotics for sale as well as for conspiracy,” Rueca said. 

“It is what it is you know I wasn’t surprised that there was a drug lab,” Johnson said. 

This building is one of several hotels being leased by the city to house the homeless and those who need to be quarantined during the pandemic.  

Many who work on this street say they haven’t noticed much of a change since the city took over the inn a few months ago, and were surprised by the discovery since security guards are visibly present.  

The city says after a review of Saturday’s incident they will be making changes to their COVID-19 Alternative Housing Program, including making sure wellness checks of guests include visual inspections of the rooms.  

Now, the making and distribution of certain illegal drugs will join acts of violence, threats, and weapons possession as a reason to get booted from the site. 

This bust happened during a time when hotels in this program had lost a level of oversight from March until June.

Sheriff’s deputies checked in on these shelters in place sites every few hours since they were not needed in the shuttered court system. 

As the city has reopened, they’ve been pulled back to their regular duties as of July.  

In a statement, the sheriff says he expects to be able to free up deputies to patrol those sites again once the Hall of Justice Jail is closed, which is expected to happen sometime in August.

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