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Nearly half of San Francisco drug users are visitors, fueling debate on aid to poor and addicted

Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Nearly half of the individuals cited for drug usage in San Francisco over a 12-month period ending in February were not residents of the city, according to a report released Thursday that sparked a debate over how to care for poor and drug-addicted people in one of the nation's most progressive cities.

That data led to speculation from the mayor's office and allies that abuse of free money offered to low-income residents was driving substance abusers to the Bay Area. But San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin called the statistics released by the office of Mayor London Breed "highly suspect" and said the report was a cynical attempt to attack the city's public safety net.

San Francisco police cited 718 individuals for drug use between March 30, 2023, and Feb. 2, 2024, with 47% of the violators stating "they reside in another county or declined to say," according to Breed's office. A slight majority of the citations were given to violators who identified themselves as San Franciscans.

Of that group, 20% or 141 were recipients of a government assistance program intended for San Francisco residents. The mayor's office said that about 33% of those 141 people, however, were not residents and "self-disclosed they lived outside of San Francisco."

"These numbers serve as proof that we must continue doubling down our efforts to shut down our drug markets that are attracting people to come here," Breed said in a statement.

She added that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have increased drug seizures and arrests over the past year.


"We can't let up until those dealing drugs and using them openly on the street understand that San Francisco is closed for this type of activity," Breed said.

Drug use and overdose deaths have been an increasing problem in San Francisco in recent months, drawing harsh criticism from conservative politicians and others who blame lax police enforcement and the city's liberal social welfare policies.

But since May, Breed said drug enforcement has been directed at the high-crime Tenderloin and South of Market, or SOMA, areas.

Law enforcement agencies made more than 2,000 arrests for drug sales or use in the Tenderloin area, while seizing 260 pounds of fentanyl, according to city figures.


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