One week ago the Mayor of San Francisco, Mark Farrell, announced a new crackdown on homeless camps in the city after embarrassing report about drug needles and human excrement found on city streets downtown. Wednesday a CBS affiliate in the city published video showing drug addicts shooting up in tunnels of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train system. The video wasn’t shot by the station but by a regular commuter who walks through it every day on his way to work.
Regular commuter Shannon Gafford knows people have to see it to believe it. “One morning I said, ‘I got to pull out the camera and show my friends this. They’re not going to believe it,’” he said.
And over the course of a week, Gafford documented his trip to work. His videos show dozens of people slumped along a hallway, open IV drug use, unconscious men and women, and piles of vomit on either side of the hallways…
“The situation in our BART stations is simply unacceptable,” said San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell. “Borders on disastrous.”
This week, Farrell unveiled a $13 million plan to get needles – among other things – off of city streets. But the city’s jurisdiction ends when you head down those BART stairs.
“I don’t care, at the end of the day, if now we have jurisdictional issues,” said Farrell. “As mayor, I want to get something done, and I want to make sure these BART stations are cleaned up.”
As you can see for yourself in the report below, this isn’t just one or two people on scattered mornings. This is a dozen people, some shooting up as commuters walk past. Others are already passed out. A spokesman for BART told CBS, “It’s a real concern for our riders, and we appreciate that.” He added, “But what we have to do is make the most of the resources, the limited resources that we have.”
This is obviously a spill-over from two problems that exist outside of these tunnels. The first is the increasing homelessness in the city and throughout California. That’s something the mayor has vowed to crack down on. The other issue is the opioid abuse problem which is hooking (and killing) thousands of people nationwide. Neither of these problems is going to be solved by BART. All they can do is move people along so that critical city infrastructure doesn’t permanently become a flop house.
San Francisco is a wealthy, progressive area. No doubt that’s why this has been tolerated for as long as it has. But tolerating it isn’t the same as dealing with it or actually trying to solve the problem (though it will never completely be solved). But even trying to deal with this is going to be very expensive. So the question remains: Where will famously progressive, wealthy San Francisco draw the line between compassion and crackdown? Clearly what they’re doing now isn’t working.