Federal prosecutors in California announced on Aug. 7 that 17 law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service will be teaming up to curb rampant drug use, robberies, gun sales and other crimes in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. The crackdown is expected to last for at least a year. A representative from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said the multi-agency operation was being launched to improve the lives of local residents and not to harass the area's large homeless population.
The news is likely to be welcomed by the residents of one of San Francisco's few neighborhoods where working people can still afford to live. Children in the 50-block neighborhood have complained about having to step around human excrement on their way to school, and business owners say their customers have to be careful to avoid criminals when visiting their establishments. City officials have tried to address these problems in recent years by launching needle exchange and portable toilet programs.
Federal agents will have no shortage of locations to target. The Tenderloin area is home to a large number of single-room hotels that are popular with drug users and petty criminals. In 2017 and 2018, more than half of the people jailed in San Francisco for selling drugs were picked up by police in the Tenderloin district.
Many of the people apprehended in sweeps like this one have been condemned to desperate lives by the evils of addiction. Experienced criminal defense attorneys could urge prosecutors to take a lenient approach to individuals charges with committing minor drug crimes and consider an approach geared toward rehabilitation rather than punishment.