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SFPD deploys mobile unit to disrupt drug dealing in the Tenderloin

SFPD's mobile command van posted at the intersection of Turk and Hyde streets on October 6, 2020 | Photos: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline
By Carrie Sisto - Published on October 08, 2020.

San Francisco police are parking a mobile command van on the corner of Hyde and Turk streets to disrupt an uptick in open-air drug dealing.

The mobile command unit was launched on Monday, October 5, and is intended to be operational for four hours a day, three days a week, according to Tenderloin station captain Carl Fabbri. It’s a direct response to a recent increase in open-air drug dealing which has been accompanied by a rise in violent crimes and robberies, Fabbri said.

“We have never tried this strategy before,” Fabbri said. He added that if it is deemed successful based on the community's response, a similar deployment may be pursued in other locations. 

The mobile unit was previously stationed at UN Plaza as a semi-permanent effort intended to protect the safety of city workers working to upgrade Market Street infrastructure, and to address chronic public health issues around the Civic Center BART entrances there. 

The presence of the mobile unit in the neighborhood now is intermittent and “designed to disrupt drug dealing,” Fabbri said. “The issues and community around UN Plaza and Turk and Hyde are very different,” he added.

SFPD bike police stationed across Turk Street from the mobile unit in front of the Turk-Hyde mini-park.

The presence of the mobile unit at Turk and Hyde streets has pushed dealers to other parts of the Tenderloin over the past two days, according to Fabbri. SFPD narcotics officers are patrolling the surrounding streets and making arrests as a result of this operation. 

Residents of the neighborhood have noted the difference when the mobile command unit is there, and some wonder why the increased presence can’t be more full-time. 

A foot-patrol office opened in the bottom floor of the Proper Hotel (1100 Market St.) in February, but had to close down when the hotel shuttered due to the pandemic. It does not have a timeline for reopening.

The decision to launch the mobile unit is unrelated to the recently announced legal effort by City Attorney Dennis Herrera to ban 28 known, repeat dealers from coming into the Tenderloin, according to Fabbri. Each civil lawsuit filed by Herrera names a specific individual dealer, and seeks to prohibit them from entering the 50 square-block Tenderloin district and part of the nearby SoMa neighborhood. It remains to be seen whether the District Attorney's Office will cooperate with Herrera's effort. 

As KQED reported, following Herrera's announcement of these civil injunctions, both DA Chesa Boudin and SF Public Defender Mano Raju issued statements dismissing the effort as doomed to fail.

Those injunctions filed in late September came in response to a growing number of overdose deaths in the city, according to Herrera’s office. Most of these overdoses have been attributed to an increased prevalence of fentanyl both being sold to opioid addicts and being purposely and inadvertently mixed with other drugs.

The Tenderloin police station reports that its officers have seen a 33-percent increase in the use of Narcan to save lives from drug overdoses this year to date, relative to 2019.

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