Police in San Francisco said last week that they have already seized more narcotics this year than in all of 2022, representing what they described as an “unprecedented amount.”

The city’s police department announced in a news release on Friday that its officers have seized more than 123 kilograms of narcotics so far in 2023, saying that the drug seizures “come amid an ongoing focus by SFPD and partner agencies to dismantle the open-air drug markets in the [Tenderloin District],” one of the city’s art and music enclaves that has been plagued by crime, and other adjacent neighborhoods. 

The department said that 80 kilograms of the seized narcotics were fentanyl. 

Officers at Tenderloin Station “have arrested 533 people for selling narcotics so far in 2023, nearly surpassing the 566 total arrests for narcotics sales in all of 2022,” the San Francisco PD said in the release.

“I want to thank our officers for their incredible work,” San Francisco police chief Bill Scott said in a statement. “We are committed to getting these drugs off our streets, and we are holding these dealers accountable. San Francisco should be a safe place for residents, businesses, and visitors to enjoy. Together with our partner agencies, we are making a difference in our downtown corridor.”   

In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed noted that drug enforcement in the Tenderloin District remains a high priority for the city.

“I applaud the San Francisco Police Department and all of our public safety partners for their focused work to get fentanyl and other drugs plaguing our communities off the streets,” said Breed. “Their collaborative efforts demonstrate the City’s commitment to making the neighborhood safer for residents, families, and children who call the Tenderloin home. We will continue to build on this momentum to disrupt open-air drug markets and the sale of illegal goods to make San Francisco safe for everyone.”  

Friday’s news release noted that, since late May, the San Francisco Police Department “has worked collaboratively with other city, state, and federal partners to increase enforcement efforts in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods.”

“SFPD officers have been increasing patrols, buy-busts, warrant operations, and larger narcotics investigations, leading to more deadly drugs being taken off the streets amid an ongoing overdose crisis in San Francisco,” the release said. “The introduction of fentanyl into the city’s drug supply has caused fatal overdoses to dramatically increase in San Francisco in recent years. The SFPD recognizes that we must take a more aggressive approach to combat the crisis and improve street conditions and public safety.”

Fentanyl-related overdoses have risen significantly in the United States in recent years. A report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May showed that 69,943 died of a fentanyl-induced overdose in 2021, representing a rate of 21.6; in 2016, 18,499 died of an overdose from fentanyl at a rate of 5.7.

“The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than tripled over the study period, from 5.7 per 100,000 standard population in 2016 to 21.6 in 2021, with a 55.0% increase from 2019 (11.2) to 2020 (17.4), and a 24.1% increase from 2020 to 2021 (21.6). The rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine more than quadrupled, from 2.1 in 2016 to 9.6 in 2021,” the report said. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine more than doubled, from 3.5 in 2016 to 7.9 per 100,000 in 2021. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin decreased by 40.8%, from 4.9 in 2016 to 2.9 in 2021, although this decrease was not statistically significant. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving oxycodone decreased 21.0%, from 1.9 in 2016 to 1.5 in 2021.”

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