Feds announce crackdown on San Francisco's Tenderloin district saying it has been 'smothered by lawlessness'

San Francisco’s Tenderloin district is home to the city’s dirtiest street, according to the NY Times. Last October the San Francisco Chronicle quoted a police officer who called the Tenderloin “an open-air narcotics market.” Now the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Northern California is vowing to crack down on crime in the district which he describes as having been “smothered by lawlessness.”

U.S. Attorney David Anderson said the federal government was targeting the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood — a roughly 50-block area — with arrests of drug traffickers as the first step in cleaning up a roughly 50-block area he says is “smothered by lawlessness.”

Federal authorities also announced that 32 people have been charged with selling drugs in the Tenderloin.

Chris Nielsen, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Francisco, said that most of the dealers were Honduran nationals and part of an operation that stretched from Mexico to Seattle.

Nielsen said an investigation that began in 2017 uncovered two independent drug trafficking networks that operated in the same way. The feds said that people living in the eastern end of the San Francisco Bay Area crossed into the Tenderloin daily to sell cocaine, meth, heroin and fentanyl.

Naturally, since this is San Francisco, there is concern about criminalizing the homeless who live in the Tenderloin. Immigration agents are part of the task force that will be conducting sweeps in the area. But as the Associated Press points out, the homeless living there aren’t just drug consumers, they are also low-level participants in the trade, with about half of all drug-related arrests in the city taking place in this one neighborhood:

The drive is not aimed at the area’s massive homeless population or people addicted to drugs, Anderson said in remarks prepared for his first news conference since being appointed to the post by President Donald Trump in January…

Supervisor Matt Haney said in April that he would create a task force to come up with a plan to tackle the problem. More than half the nearly 900 people booked into jail or cited for incidents tied to drug sales in 2017-18 were cited or arrested by police in the Tenderloin, according to an April report.

It said a high percentage of drug sales involve organized crime and “sellers often give drugs to homeless people who are addicted in exchange” for holding the drugs.

The focus on the Tenderloin is set to last for at least a year, with 15 new prosecutors devoted to the area. But the focus won’t remain solely on drugs. US Attorney Anderson says the sweeps will also focus on guns, human trafficking, identity theft, and other crimes.

This is the best thing that could happen to San Francisco. The city has serious drug, homelessness, and crime problems, all of which are intertwined in the Tenderloin. Having the feds come in and make a real effort to clean up the problem may give the city some respite from the crime and the mess these problems create. If some homeless people go to jail or some drug dealers are deported in the process, so be it. Winking at the problem, as the city has been doing for years, is not going to improve anything.