SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — San Francisco’s new District Attorney, Brooke Jenkins, walked through drug-plagued streets of the Tenderloin Tuesday and vowed to shut the open-air drug market down.
Jenkins lead a successful recall campaign against her former boss, Chesa Boudin, and blasted him for being soft-on-crime. With Boudin booted from office, the city’s new top prosecutor said she will take a radically different approach by cracking down on drug dealers.
The days of giving dealers a free pass to flood the streets with fentanyl are over, Jenkins told reporters gathered in the Tenderloin Tuesday.
Jenkins stated, “I told the public that on day one I will begin enforcing drug crime law. I mean what I say and I am focused on delivering on my promise to hold serious and repeat offenders accountable for wreaking havoc in our communities like the Tenderloin.”
“We cannot allow our residents to die on the street of overdose … without holding those who sell fentanyl accountable. We had 45 overdose deaths in May — 33 of which were from fentanyl,” she said.
Jenkins met with Tenderloin residents and business owners to hear their concerns about public safety first-hand. “I committed to them just like I did the entire city to making sure that we end these open-air drug markets. That we clear these streets. So that kids and people who live here can go about their daily lives without being scared, and without thinking that this is normal,” she said.
Tenderloin Housing Clinic Director Randy Shaw said if illegal drugs are not a “normal” part of life in San Francisco’s affluent neighborhoods, they should not be considered “normal” in the Tenderloin.
“I don’t know where it got this idea that it is progressive to allow drug dealing. But, if you think it’s progressive, then put it out in Bernal Heights. Put it out in the Haight Ashbury. Take it away from the Tenderloin, because we don’t accept it here,” Shaw told reporters.
Jenkins said she plans to review all pending plea deals offered during Boudin’s tenure to people charged with drug offenses.
Cracking down on drug dealers will help people struggling with addiction, she said.
“I’m also committed to doing what we can to ensure that those who are struggling with addiction are able to enter into recovery, and are able to engage in recovery, without having to walk out of the front door of where they live, and seeing drug dealers again,” Jenkins told reporters.
Jenkins was chosen as San Francisco’s new district attorney by Mayor London Breed. Breed declared a state of emergency in the Tenderloin last year because of a rising tide in fentanyl overdose deaths. Nearly 500 people died from fentanyl overdoses in the city in 2021.
According to an investigation by San Francisco Standard, that same year, zero fentanyl drug dealers were convicted under Boudin’s watch. Only three drug dealers were convicted, one for possessing methamphetamine with intent to sell, and one for heroin.
Tenderloin neighborhood watchdogs regularly record disturbing videos of addicts overdosing in the streets and drug dealers openly operating without interference from law enforcement.
Jenkins told the New York Times in a recent interview that San Francisco has a small pool of repeat offenders. “One of the things that you learn really quickly as a D.A. is that there are certain crime drivers in a city. And oftentimes, a lot of the statistics are driven up by a small pool of repeat offenders. That very quickly needs to be addressed,” she told the Times.