Crackdown on Tenderloin drug sales

September 4, 2009 7:29:56 PM PDT
There are new details emerging about hundreds of suspects caught up in a San Francisco police operation the past few weeks. Court documents show that many of them are career criminals who will probably be back on the street soon.

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Three hundred people were arrested in the 21-day sweep which ended this week in the Tenderloin.

"What is going on in the Tenderloin is unacceptable in any American city," said Police Chief George Gascon.

District Attorney Kamala Harris says she is charging most of the arrests.

"Of the cases in which there had been an arrest, 87 percent of those cases my office took action," said Harris.

Almost half of those arrested are on probation or parole. Many have long, long rap sheets. Here are just a few examples.

Forty-seven-year-old Tracy Flintroy -- since 1992 he has been arrested 58 times and been convicted only 10 times. His crimes include drug possession and sales, stolen property and grand theft. He has done time in jail and prison and been on probation and parole.

Forty-seven-year-old Billy Cunningham -- the past 27 years, he has been arrested 59 times and convicted seven times. His crimes include drugs sales, burglary, false imprisonment and sex offenses. Cunningham has been in and out of jail and prison for the past 23 years. He has also been on probation and parole.

Most of those arrested in the Tenderloin were charged with drug offenses. Harris's predecessor, Terence Hallinan, rarely pursued those cases. Harris says that has changed.

"The early years of 2000 and now, we have increased the conviction rate for drug crime by almost 90 percent," she said.

But court records show that San Francisco judges and juries tend to go lightly on low-level drug cases.

"For example, drug court," said Harris. "It is more likely those cases will go through a diversion system."

She says most of those arrested in the Tenderloin sweep will be back out on the street.

"The American prison sentence is 24 months, so the reality of it is that they're all coming out at one time or another, except for the most serious and violent offenders," she said.

Harris says the challenge is to stop them from committing more crimes -- a serious challenge.

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