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San Francisco to Boost Police, Safety Patrols in Tenderloin and Mid-Market

Updated: May 21, 2021

  • In response to rising safety concerns, SFPD will deploy additional officers to the Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas starting May 19

  • Urban Alchemy, which staffs community and safety ambassadors at UC Hastings and other local sites, will also expand its presence throughout the area

  • Residents and merchants have pressed the City to do more to deter the dense, open-air drug markets concentrated in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas

In response to rising public safety concerns in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said that the police department and Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit that provides security and community services in the area, will boost their operations to deter crime and make the area more welcoming.

SFPD said it will increase foot patrols, motorcycle, bicycle and horseback deployments in the troubled Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas, which are home to frequent criminal activity and dense, open-air drug markets. Year to date, about 15% of all reported violent crimes in the City have occurred in the Tenderloin, according to police data, along with a lion's share of felony drug arrests and fatal overdoses.

The police department is precluded from announcing specific numbers of additional officers staffed in the area, but will deploy uniformed officers at "different times of the day and evening hours," said spokesperson Robert Rueca. The increased police deployment will begin on May 19.

“The pandemic’s stifling impact on the positive life in our neighborhood has created a new, unacceptable paradigm for our city. This is about giving our communities the calm and confidence they need to recover," said Simon Bertrang, executive director of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District. "This is about our families getting back to school, our seniors walking to the local park, about the businesses that sustain our neighborhoods. We have the opportunity to deliver a new model for public safety in our city.”

Tenderloin residents and merchants, who cope with a daily gauntlet of drugs and squalor exacerbated by the spread of fentanyl, have pressed the City for more resources to deter crime and mitigate the harms associated with the drug trade. The Tenderloin is home to about 2,300 children, the highest number per capita of any San Francisco neighborhood, along with many seniors, immigrants and people with disabilities.

Urban Alchemy, which currently contracts with UC Hastings as well as additional sites in the Tenderloin, will deploy safety ambassadors to each block stretching from Powell Station (5th Street) to 8th Street on Market Street, as well as adjacent areas south of Market Street, at UN Plaza, and Tenderloin blocks bordered by Larkin and Eddy Streets. The ambassador expansion will begin on June 15.

The expanded SFPD foot patrols will be funded through existing City resources, and Breed is proposing a carve-out of $5 million in the upcoming budget cycle to sustain the safety programs long-term. UC Hastings received $3 million in funding from the state to fund Urban Alchemy's services contiguous to its Tenderloin campus.

Local residents and merchants expressed optimism that the safety investments will help the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods recover from a particularly challenging period.

"Since mid-2020, the group Urban Alchemy has been patrolling the first block of Sixth Street and Market Street around that area," said Dan Jordan, a resident of Sixth Street. "I have found that it is safer to walk through the area because there are far less drug dealers and users out on the sidewalks and that these people stop those people from hassling other people.”

To help address skyrocketing overdoses in the Tenderloin, Breed also announced a proposal to fund a new overdose response team that would be managed by the San Francisco Fire Department, which typically has contact with people who overdose. More than 50% of people who died of an overdose in 2019 and 2020 has prior contact with emergency medical personnel, according to the Mayor's office.

The program would cost $11.4 million over two years, and include two response units, three follow-up units and a supervisory team. If approved in the upcoming budget cycle, the City aims to launch at least one response team by August 1.


Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup

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