Only On 7: In-depth look into the life of drug dealers in SF


We'll call him Dave. He doesn't want his real name used. We've also disguised him because he fears for his life if the dealers know who he is.

"It's free enterprise," Dave said. "You do what you do."

Dave calls himself an associate of the Tenderloin drug trade. He's been in the business for decades.

Dave says the dealers are just trying to make a living to pay rent, food, the necessities. On a good day, it's really good.

"Top end any day you could come home with $20,000 or $30,000 by the end of that day," he said.

Dave says many of the customers would surprise you.

Dave: "You don't really take a second look at someone pulling up in a BMW with a suit on."
Vic: "Professionals?"
Dave: "Professionals, people that have good money."

But it's also a risky business.

Vic: "Have you ever been afraid?"
Dave: "Every day."
Vic: "Of being shot or injured?"
Dave: "Every day."
Vic: "Or attacked?"
Dave: "Every single day."

And there's always the risk of getting arrested.

Most have long rap sheets. But they serve little time and are quickly back on the streets. It's even been a learning experience in jail.

"Now you're putting skill sets to use in there," Dave said. "You know, you're making connections. You're mounting up for the next run."

Dave says crack cocaine used to be the most popular drug. Now, it's prescription pills.

"It's not thought of to be oh, you know, as bad as crack or heroin," he said. "It's more acceptable."

ABC7 News reported this week that a task force of federal agents and San Francisco narcotics officers arrested chronic drug dealers in the Tenderloin after obtaining federal indictments.

Those targeted now face stricter and longer federal sentences.

Word spread quickly among drug dealers.

Vic: "Are they afraid of the federal indictments?"
Dave: "Yes. It was a wakeup call. Like, it's not business as usual anymore."

Still, Dave believes it won't stop the drug trade.

"That money out there is always going to be there," he said. "Always goin be there. And you take us away. Somebody else will take our place."

By the way, Dave was not a target of the federal indictments.

He says he'd like to leave the trade and get a legitimate job. But he says many drug dealers, even if they wanted to get jobs, can't because of their long rap sheets and lack of skills. And who'd want to flip burgers at minimum wage when you make so much on the streets. So it's hard to break that cycle.

To read and watch ABC7's exclusive report on how the Tenderloin drug trade impacts children, click here.

To read and watch ABC7 News' exclusive report on the federal agents' sweep in the Tenderloin, click here.

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