SF DA details how her office is cracking down on drug dealers, retail thefts and more

Lyanne Melendez Image
Saturday, December 9, 2023
SF DA answers questions about public safety, drug crisis
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins answers questions about public safety, drug crisis and more in sit-down interview with ABC7 News.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Following Monday's Town Hall, Take Action San Francisco, ABC7 News has committed to following up on the issues that affect the Bay Area. We thought it was important to address more of the city's concerns over public safety and the fentanyl crisis with San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.

It's been 17 months since Jenkins was appointed San Francisco's top prosecutor, replacing progressive reformer Chesa Boudin.

TAKE ACTION SF: Mayor, city leaders answer questions about future of city

At the top of her agenda was doing away with the open-air drug market and holding drug dealers accountable for their crimes.

DA Jenkins sat down interview with ABC7 News reporter Lyanne Melendez to answer some of our follow-up questions.

Melendez: "How's it going for you so far,? What grade would you give yourself?"

Jenkins: "At this point, I would give myself an 'A' for effort. I don't want to make it seem as though we have completed the task but we now have more law enforcement partners at the table assisting with addressing this issue than this city has ever had."

In fact, it's quite common to see both the police chief and Jenkins at events addressing public safety.

On Thursday night they came together for another town hall in the Bayview neighborhood.

This year, Jenkins has filed 798 drug dealing cases, more than Boudin ever did in a single year.

But that's also because police have made more arrests.

Still, Jenkins faces the same issue that Boudin did when trying to convict drug dealers. Even motions to detain dealers are rarely granted.

RELATED: What is the current and future outlook on tackling SF's drug crisis?

Melendez: "Now where's the problem there? Who is the problem?"

Jenkins: "The judges who are hearing these motions are the problem. We are articulating a public safety reasoning behind asking that these drug dealers be kept in custody. We're explaining that many of them have been arrested not once, not twice, even three times for dealing fentanyl in our city and these judges are not taking it seriously."

Criminalizing drug use during the crack cocaine epidemic of the '80s put more low-level offenders in prison, which took a toll on the justice system.

Jenkins says she steers away from that level of prosecution. But she insists fentanyl is too deadly to ignore.

"The public safety risk that they pose is nothing like drug dealers of the past. We have two to three deaths from overdoses every day in the city from fentanyl," said Jenkins.

She says her office tries to off-ramp as many drug users into treatment programs.

MORE: Prosecuting a SF repeat offender: How 1st bait car arrest gets out of jail again and again

"Yes, this criminal justice system has to be a tool for intervention with the drug addiction community. We're trying to save their lives," said Jenkins.

Concerning public safety, Jenkins does not apologize for taking a different approach when charging the people involved in organized retail theft rings.

Melendez: "How are they being prosecuted today versus let's say two years ago?"

Jenkins: "We are going to be asking that offenders who are committing organized retail theft as a crew be held in custody while those cases are open as we believe they pose a significant risk to shoppers, to working in these stores and we also have to make sure that on the back end, we have appropriate consequences."

That brings us to Proposition 47, making some property crimes a misdemeanor if the value doesn't exceed $950.

"Prop 47 was a ballot measure that was passed by voters across the state and so now we didn't necessarily understand what the long-term impact would be and now we're discussing how we may have to repeal portions of that but as voters," said Jenkins.

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