U.S. Attorney and Federal Law Enforcement Officials Assemble with State Law Enforcement Officers and Local Dignitaries in Show of Unity Against Fentanyl Trafficking in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco
“All Hands on Deck” Joint Law Enforcement Initiative Centers on Pledge by Law Enforcement Personnel and San Francisco Mayor to Collaborate, Cooperate, and Coordinate Law Enforcement Response to Fentanyl Epidemic
SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey convened a press conference bringing together numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities to announce “All Hands on Deck,” a law enforcement initiative to address what has become endemic drug dealing in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. U.S. Attorney Ramsey explained that the new joint initiative, focused on the Tenderloin, is designed to change the basic cost/benefit analysis for fentanyl dealers throughout the Northern District of California.
Representing several state and local entities were notables including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Chief of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) William Scott, San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, Commander Sunshine Garside of the California Highway Patrol, and Deputy Chief of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Chris Vogan. They were joined on stage by federal law enforcement personnel: Brian Clark of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Robert Tripp of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Jennifer Cicolani of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Tatum King of Homeland Security Investigations; and Shawn Bradstreet of the U.S. Secret Service, as well as Acting U.S. Marshal Jay Bieber, Executive Director of the Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Mike Sena, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez, and Internal Revenue Service– Criminal Investigation Supervisory Special Agent Steve Martins.
Although All Hands on Deck focuses on drug dealing in the Tenderloin, several of the elements have reach outside of the San Francisco neighborhood and throughout the Northern District of California. Elements of the initiative include the following:
• ramping up arrests of street dealers and suppliers of fentanyl who sell fentanyl near federal buildings (including near the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse at 7th and Mission Streets, the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building on 7th and Mission Streets, and the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Avenue);
• expanding efforts to track down and hold accountable suppliers of fentanyl;
• bringing additional charges against persons operating money services operations who turn a blind eye to drug trafficking and money laundering transactions on their networks;
• using targeted wiretaps, arrests, and searches throughout the Bay Area to enable drug seizures and to stem the flow of drugs and dealers coming into San Francisco from nearby counties;
• conducting regular joint federal and SFPD “jump out” operations in the Tenderloin to make on-the-spot arrests for open-air drug dealing;
• “fast-tracking” certain federal cases so that they take as little as a month from time of arrest to disposition; and
• federal “adoption” of state cases to raise the stakes by holding drug dealers accountable in the federal system.
U.S. Attorney Ramsey stated that “our drug crisis has been fueled in part because selling fentanyl has become a lucrative vocation for people who have found our neighborhoods, and principally the Tenderloin District, to be a convenient and risk-free marketplace.” The U.S. Attorney disclosed that several of the participants at the press conference have been coordinating closely for months to disrupt fentanyl distribution in San Francisco and to remove fentanyl dealers from San Francisco neighborhoods. The result, U.S Attorney stated, has been an increase in collaboration, cooperation, and coordination between all the participants at the press conference. “All Hands on Deck,” said U.S. Attorney Ramsey, “is designed to change the basic cost/benefit analysis for fentanyl dealers. Today’s message is simple: selling fentanyl in the Tenderloin will result in your arrest and prosecution.”
“The Tenderloin has become ground zero for drug tourism. On average, we lose three lives a day to drug poisoning from sales connected to this area,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian Clark. “The community has said, loud and clear, that they are sick and tired of the death and destruction caused by this lawlessness. As leaders in law enforcement, I can tell you we are working tirelessly to hold accountable the people responsible for this devastation.”
“We’ve seen an increased and significant presence from federal law enforcement taking on drug enforcement,” said Mayor Breed, “and we greatly appreciate their partnership in this city. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney and his team and the DEA for dedicating resources to disrupting the flow of drugs on our streets and for their commitment to San Francisco. Their work, along with our state and local law enforcement, is having an impact on our streets.”
“Law enforcement approaches traditionally applied to drug dealing in our neighborhoods simply have not caught up the challenges presented by this new drug,” stated U.S. Attorney Ramsey. “Yet, the tools of law enforcement can address some of the root causes of this epidemic. We in law enforcement are determined to double-down, triple-down, and take all necessary steps to prevent this poison from reaching our streets.”
“Current conditions on our streets are completely unacceptable and require all levels of government to work together to close open-air drug markets and hold suspected drug dealers accountable for the unprecedented death and addiction that their trade has wrought on our city,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “I would like to thank Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi for her steadfast leadership and tireless advocacy on behalf of San Franciscans, which accelerated the federal government’s approval of San Francisco for Operation Overdrive. Working together with our partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, these federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies, we will be more able to identify, arrest and prosecute suspected drug traffickers at all levels. Every legal resource available to us must be used to deter and disrupt the flagrant drug trafficking in our community.”
“The SFPD will not tolerate people dealing drugs on our streets, and we will hold these dealers accountable, and sustain the effort over time,” Chief Bill Scott said. “I want to thank our federal partners and our officers for their hard work in helping make our beautiful city safe for everyone to enjoy.”
The participants at the press conference stressed that a new reality for San Francisco drug dealers exists and that the consequences for dealing drugs in the Tenderloin are changing. The chances of getting caught have increased and any hope for profits must now be weighed against unacceptable losses in time, money, seized drugs, and other disruptions that criminal convictions present. Over the past four months, nearly 50 kilograms of fentanyl were removed from the streets in the Tenderloin, nearly double the amount taken off the streets in the same area during the same period last year. Similarly, 12 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized in the last four months—a 169% increase from the same period last year.
Information shared at the press conference made clear that greater resources from each of the represented law enforcement partners are being deployed. U.S. Attorney Ramsey pledged that every criminal Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of California will be involved in this fight in one way or another. In addition, the DEA described how additional resources are being contributed through Operation Overdrive, and Mayor Breed, Chief Scott, and DA Jenkins all described devoting additional resources to respond to the fentanyl crisis. As stated by U.S. Attorney Ramsey, “‘All Hands on Deck’ means we are using our resources in a way that addresses the magnitude of the problem that fentanyl presents.”