SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco is about to receive help from state authorities, including the California National Guard, to combat the city’s deadly fentanyl epidemic.

Governor Gavin Newsom made a surprise visit Wednesday when he toured the city’s drug-plagued Tenderloin neighborhood. On Friday, the governor revealed why.

Newsom announced an agreement between the California National Guard, California Highway Patrol, San Francisco Police Department, and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office to assist the city with its ongoing fentanyl crisis.

Newsom described fentanyl street drug dealers as “poison peddlers.”

Between January and March this year, 200 victims died from accidental drug overdoses in San Francisco, according to data released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Of those deaths, 159 were caused by fentanyl, a highly addictive and cheap synthetic opioid.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters on October 06, 2022 in San Francisco. (Photo by Justin Sullivan /Getty Images)

“San Francisco has seen an alarming rise in fentanyl-linked deaths, with a more than 40% jump in overdose deaths from January through March of this year alone,” the Governor’s Office wrote.

Open-air drug markets continue popping up nightly in the city.

The new operation will focus on disrupting the supply fentanyl into the city “by holding the operators of large-scale drug trafficking operations accountable,” the Governor’s Office wrote.

The governor directed the California National Guard to identify specialist personnel and resources to support analysis of drug trafficking operations, with a particular focus on dismantling fentanyl trafficking rings.

Man on sidewalk in San Francisco
A man lies on the sidewalk beside a trash bin in San Francisco. (AP Photo /Ben Margot, File)

Newsom said, “Through this new collaborative partnership, we are providing more law enforcement resources and personnel to crack down on crime linked to the fentanyl crisis, holding the poison peddlers accountable, and increasing law enforcement presence to improve public safety and public confidence in San Francisco.”

The new partnership will not seek to criminalize people struggling with substance use, according to the Governor’s Office.

San Francisco’s fatal drug overdose rate spiked to an all-time high in 2020 with 725 deaths. According the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, San Francisco recorded 640 overdose deaths in 2021, and 638 in 2022. Fentanyl-linked deaths are largely been concentrated in or near the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods.

“The San Francisco Police Department has been working hard to stop drug trafficking by making countless arrests and narcotics seizures,” Police Chief Bill Scott said. “Despite our ongoing work and close collaboration with the District Attorney, the fentanyl crisis has contributed to hundreds of drug overdose-related deaths. We welcome the support of our state partners because when we work together we can make a significant difference to make our city safer.”

San Francisco’s police department is currently 562 officers short, Scott said.

“The CalGuard is seeing significant success supporting multiagency task forces interdicting fentanyl across our state,” said Major General Matthew Beevers of the California National Guard. “We expect to achieve the same success working with our partners in San Francisco.”

Mayor London Breed said, “I want to thank Governor Newsom for this critical support to help break up the open-air drug dealing happening in our city.”