In a “Full Measure” report, host and investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson details the tolerance of open-air drug trafficking in the San Francisco neighborhood known as the Tenderloin.1
Once known for trendy restaurants and jazz clubs, the area has long had some “dangerous areas” but it only really started going downhill right before the COVID-19 pandemic. “By most reports, during COVID and a change of mayors, there has been an explosion of drug trafficking that is tolerated by almost every authority for many,” Attkisson said.2
Today, Tenderloin resident Katherine Vaughn, who was once homeless, says it’s gotten so bad she’s afraid to walk her pit bull nearby. “Constant garbage on the street, people shooting in front of the building, people passed out on the street,” she said.3 Despite being notorious for drug dealers and users, the police presence in the area is non-existent.
City pays $60K per tent to support crime
The city of San Francisco has six “safe sleeping villages” where homeless people can sleep in tents, with three meals a day, security and bathrooms. Although the program currently costs the city $60,000 per tent to run, and there are about 260 tents in total, they are trying to revamp the program to bring the cost down to $57,000.4
The New York Post reported that this is twice the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment, and that more than $1 billion will be spent on homelessness in San Francisco over two years. Funding comes from Proposition C, a 2018 corporate tax.5 San Francisco Mayor London Breed described it as a “historic investment” and said:6
“For those who engage in harmful behavior, whether to themselves or to others, or those who refuse help, we will use every means we have to get them into treatment and services, to get them in. We don’t accept people just staying on the street if we have a place to go.”
According to area experts, however, the tents are mainly used for drug trafficking.
Drug Dealer Tolerance Destroys Neighborhood
Randy Shaw heads the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a low-income housing advocacy group. He believes the “hyperfocus” on homelessness diverts attention from the real problem plaguing the area, which is the drug trade. It has gotten so bad, he said, that a sub-economy has sprung up, referring to the billion dollars spent on so-called “safe sleeping villages.”
“Everyone says, ‘Oh, weren’t those tents for the homeless?’ They deal drugs from the tents. Because you can have a drug deal in a tent, the police can’t see you,” Shaw told Attkisson. He continued:7
“If you take out drug dealers in the Tenderloin, you’ll be fine. We shouldn’t have to do anything else. That’s 90% of the problem. But people, for whatever reason, need to talk about homelessness, people with mental health problems. They are all over San Francisco. What sets the Tenderloin apart is its tolerance for massive open-air drug trafficking.
… It really started to change in 2019. And then it got really bad during the pandemic. People always say, ‘Well, Tenderloin’s had a long history of vice.’ Yes it has. But the worst it was in the 80’s and 90’s has nowhere to be compared to how bad it got.”
Ex-cons hired to change the neighborhood
San Francisco has also invested millions more in taxpayer money in Urban Alchemy, a social enterprise that sends teams mostly made up of ex-convicts serving life sentences onto the streets to de-escalate conflict.8
“Their workers, mostly ex-cons, line the streets of the Tenderloin District, dressed in uniforms with fluorescent yellow stripes. They are tasked with peacefully transforming difficult neighborhoods by cleaning them up, having conversations and providing support,” Attkisson reported.9
However, Urban Alchemy only operates during the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Shaw said. “We need the police to get in within other hours. And they are just nowhere to be found. You’re here now – do you see police?’ Attkisson said they spent hours in the Tenderloin but saw no uniformed police officers in that time, even along the “most infamous strip.”
“We saw people queuing up to use drugs in broad daylight and many drug dealers doing business without fear of being stopped,” she said.10 Meanwhile, Urban Alchemy has an estimated 20 contracts with the state of California – with 1,500 ex-convicts – to improve “rough” neighborhoods. The contracts are valued at $50 million and are expected to increase to $100 million in the coming years.11
State of emergency declared for 90 days
On December 17, 2021, Breed declared a state of emergency in the Tenderloin, “allowing the city to suspend certain laws to quickly address the crisis of people dying of drug overdose on the neighborhood’s streets as part of the mayor’s emergency response plan.” .”12
A press release from the mayor’s office noted: “Like the city’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, this action will remove bureaucratic barriers, allowing the city to respond quickly to conditions related to people’s health and safety.” in the city. loin.”13
Part of the motivation for the state of emergency came from the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, which organized escorts for schoolchildren so they could get home safely from school. “One of the reasons we wanted the state of emergency is because we want the kids in the neighborhood to feel safe walking to and from school,” said Elise Gorberg of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District.14
Though the state of emergency has since passed, the city claimed it was a success: 345 people were placed in shelters and 154 moved to permanent supportive housing.15 But according to Shaw, “The state of emergency would be accompanied by police crackdowns on drug dealers. That never happened. The bottom line is that San Francisco has always had the resources and personnel to stop the drug trade, except it allows it in the Tenderloin.”16
Gorberg added: “I think there are definitely areas around where we’ve seen some improvement. But I think we’re really concerned about what’s going to happen after such a three-month period that we’re in.”17
As an aside, it’s increasingly common for governments to use emergency powers to direct resources toward a particular goal — not always positive ones. In April 2022, President Biden extended the emergency law for the eighth time, and this time he didn’t even pretend it was related to a public health emergency.
He said it was due to the instability in Iraq. By expanding his emergency powers, he can funnel millions of dollars, without accountability, into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Naomi Wolf, author of “The End of America,” published in 2007, and “The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, COVID-19 and the War Against the Human,” released in late May 2022, said: in fact HHS, all the way to the health boards, which have been armed during the pandemic.”18
Wolf, a former Clinton administration adviser, argues that leaders who want to destroy a democracy will always take 10 steps. We are now in Step 10, part of which is the proposed World Health Organization Pandemic Treaty, which would give WHO an unfettered privilege to declare an emergency and then have full power to dictate the global response. , even if that response is contrary to the constitutional rights of a Member State.
A containment zone
Why don’t the police convene in the Tenderloin to shut down drug dealers? Shaw believes the city is sacrificing the area so it doesn’t spread and infect the rest of the city. He told Attkisson:19
“I think in the end it comes down to City Hall accepting that the Tenderloin is a containment zone and feeling, ‘I’m really scared they’re going to a different neighborhood.’ But they don’t want to say that publicly because it sounds like they don’t care about low-income families, but how else do you explain it?
And here’s the kicker: We sent 40 to 80 officers to Union Square after the Louis Vuitton handbags were stolen on a video. I mean, we’re essentially protecting vacant stores. They weren’t even people or families. Nobody lives, you know, they were businesses.
So what does that say about what the city’s priorities really are? It’s very sad because San Francisco called itself a progressive city. It says, ‘We care about working people. We care about low-income people.’
So why do families and children have to walk through drug dealers? … They accept it. They think, don’t touch it, because they might move to another area where they definitely don’t want it. I mean, it breaks my heart to watch stuff like this.”