District Attorney Debate: Candidates discuss San Francisco homelessness, drug use, drunk driving

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The four candidates for San Francisco District Attorney faced off Friday afternoon in a debate at the KRON4 studio, discussing a range of topics, including the city’s homeless crisis, drug use on city streets and fatal drunk driving collisions.

Homelessness

Candidate Leif Dautch said he’s seen the city’s homeless crisis firsthand everyday while working in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District at the California Attorney General’s Office. To address the problem, Dautch plans to turn San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall, which the city has voted to shut down, and use it to house and treat those suffering from mental illness.

Candidate Chesa Boudin said the county jail is the no. 1 provider of mental health services — which he calls inhumane and ineffective. He said those suffering from mental illness need to be treated before someone is victimized. He says he has a plan to address the city’s homeless crisis, including universal access to care and drug treatment.

Candidate Suzy Loftus believes the city’s homeless crisis is about two things — prevention and accountability. During the debate, she called for crisis intervention and training to help law enforcement become better equipped to help the homeless and mentally ill on the city streets.

In terms of addressing the city’s homeless crisis, candidate Nancy Tung believes advocacy and prevention are key. She said the city needs more mental health beds and on demand treatment for those suffering.

Public Drug Use

Candidate Tung said San Francisco’s Tenderloin District has the highest number of kids in the city and the second highest elderly population. Firstly, as district attorney, she said she would work to repair the relationship between the police department and district attorney’s office. She said by creating a partnership, the two agencies could work to curb crime rings and drug use in the Tenderloin.

Loftus said the district attorney is a boundary setter in terms of crime and drug use in the Tenderloin — and must work to protect kids in the area. She said drug dealing tends to happen in neighborhoods where people are struggling. She would work to prosecute drug dealers, while diverting those who need to be diverted.

Boudin said San Francisco is spending about $20,000 per drug arrest — but questions how the city is benefiting. He said city leaders must work smarter, more effectively and humanely to deal with city’s drug crisis. He emphasized how the problems should be addressed from a public health perspective.

Dautch said he sees drug transactions each day on his walk to work at the Attorney General’s Office in the Tenderloin. According to the candidate, fatal drug overdoses in San Francisco outnumber the number of homicides and fatal traffic collisions combined. He intends to create a comprehensive drug reform plan.

Traffic Fatalities & Drunk Driving

Loftus said she has a plan to address the rising number of deadly traffic collisions in San Francisco. She believes fatal crashes should be investigated with the same importance as any other fatality in the city. If elected as District Attorney, she plans to work with the community and the city to ensure safety on San Francisco streets.

Tung said she would work to fully staff traffic enforcement crews in San Francisco so citations could be issued to those who run through red lights and endanger pedestrians. She said California’s laws in prosecuting drunk driving, specifically, are strong for a reason and would stay that way.

Boudin said drunk driving is a critical issue in the city and as district attorney, he would work to hold everyone who drives under the influence accountable for their actions. He said in current drunk driving cases in San Francisco, that’s not what’s happening, specifically in misdemeanor cases, where the DA is not securing convictions, he said.

Dautch believes drunk driving is one of the most serious offenses in San Francisco — and as district attorney, he said he’ll treat drunk driving crimes with a high level of importance.

>> To watch the full San Francisco District Attorney Debate on KRONon, click here.

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