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San Francisco Mayor’s Drug Crackdown Meets Criticism

San Francisco Mayor London Breed's new plan to crack down on open-air dealing and drug use is being criticized by drug policy and criminal justice experts, Courthouse News reports. Nonetheless, Breed is still committed to her plan, which involves escalating arrests in the hardest-hit areas, such as the Tenderloin and South of Market (SoMa) neighborhoods. Breed’s plan will now have added support from the federal government. Operation Overdrive will provide federal assistance to the city to help stop drug use in the coming months. “Tackling open-air drug dealing requires coordinated local, state, and federal efforts, and we welcome this additional support,” Breed tweeted. Breed is not waiting for federal assistance to fight the drug problem, however. According to the city, 53 people were cited or booked for public drug use between May 30 and June 18.

Most were not residents of San Francisco, and 28% had outstanding warrants. Critics of Breed’s new plans say drug addiction is very complicated and that there is little to no data that more arrests lead to better outcomes. The Drug Policy Alliance and the National Harm Reduction Coalition released a joint statement condemning Breed’s methods and citing data that about 60% of those arrested under the new polices were people of color. Jonathan Simon, a law professor at UC Berkeley, said that cities have attempted to arrest their way out of drug use, most notably in New York City in the 1990s, with little success. “The mayor talks as if she has a bigger ambition to not just hide the problem, but to solve it, and I think there’s virtually no evidence in support of the proposition that you can arrest your way out of drug dependence,” Simon said. “You can disrupt people’s lives in ways that make them more vulnerable to drug overdoses.”


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