San Francisco expanding jail space due to surge in drug arrests, sheriff says

Luz Pena Image
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
SF expanding jails due to surge in drug arrests, sheriff says
San Francisco sheriff's officials say the city is expanding jails due to surge in drug dealer arrests.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The battle against open-air drug dealing in San Francisco has been a focus of city leaders for the last several years with an intense amount of resources dedicated to this problem. But the question remains: is it working?

It's been five months since San Francisco declared war on drug dealers in the Tenderloin and there seems to be signs of progress.

"I have noticed that there is more enforcement for the police," said Aref Egalli.

Egalli is the president of the Tenderloin Merchants Association and the owner of Z Zoul Cafe.

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In the last months, he has seen sheriff deputies, CHP and SFPD officers make multiple arrests right outside of his restaurant. He says the enforcement is slowly changing the area, but some streets continue to be hot spots for drug dealing.

"In those corners - they are always there," said Egalli.

Luz Pena: "Have you noticed a decrease?"

Aref Egalli: "Yes, there is a decrease, but it's always on and off."

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More arrests mean more people in jail. A trend Sheriff Paul Miyamoto confirmed Tuesday.

"We've had about a 32% increase in our population since this time last year," said Sheriff Miyamoto, "The Tenderloin is part of the effort that we are involved in. Currently, we have a squad of deputies that go out and work in the community on foot patrol and in these areas to try to get people into services and disrupt drug sales."

This new surge of inmates has forced them to reopen an annex at their San Bruno jail location.

"The challenge for us is that we have limited space with the two jails that we operate currently. The annex gives us the opportunity to open up some bed space for people," said Sheriff Miyamoto.

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Photos released by the sheriff's office gave a glimpse into what the annex looks like.

"It's a dormitory-style setting so we have an open space and it's a dorm space for up to 50 people right now. Currently today, we have 46 in that housing space and we have the capacity to open additional dorms if the count continues to increase," said Sheriff Miyamoto.

San Francisco's District Attorney Brooke Jenkins is also reporting an uptick in drug dealer arrests.

Since May 29, 2023 when the crackdown in the Tenderloin began, the DA's office has received 447 felony narcotics cases and filed 368 cases. But to business owners, enforcement is necessary to actually see a drastic and lasting change in the Tenderloin.

"We should raise the volume of enforcement. This is my opinion. Some people may not agree with me because they don't want to take their freedom. It's not about freedom. It's about saving others," said Egalli.

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