SF mayor's Q&A on drug crisis from UN Plaza cut short after pushback from public

Wednesday, May 24, 2023
SF mayor's Q&A on drug crisis cut short after pushback from public
Mayor London Breed's outdoor question-and-answer session with county supervisors about the city's drug crisis at UN Plaza ended abruptly.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Mayor London Breed's outdoor question-and-answer session with county supervisors about the city's drug crisis at UN Plaza ended abruptly amid shouts and yells from the public.

Following a fiery statement about the crisis, Mayor Breed then attempted to take questions on San Francisco's drug problem from UN Plaza, but soon decided it was not the proper forum.

The board started their meeting offsite to observe and discuss public safety with the mayor. But shortly after pushback from the public following a question, Breed responded: "I do think that... the fact is... I'm not sure without listening to the public that this is going to be the right forum to be able to answer your question thoroughly."

Board President Aaron Peskin then called for a recess and for the meeting to resume indoors.

Police say during the session a person threw a brick at people, nearly striking a juvenile. Someone who spoke to ABC7 News reporter Melanie Woodrow said that this person was initially tackled by someone in the crowd and officers arrested them.

Peskin released a statement in response to the incident above saying in part, "If we can't guarantee everyone's safety when the Mayor and her security team are present - we have lost control of our public realm. And that is our shared mission: to regain control of all of our public spaces, so that they are safe and clean for everyone always. We simply can't defend this status quo and we must continue to demand change."

Peskin said he had considered the Plaza the most fitting spot since it's been one of the worst, longtime hotspots for open-air drug dealing and using -- at this point, for decades.

During Tuesday's session, Mayor Breed said something has to change.

"We can't keep speaking out of both sides of our mouths on the one hand we want change and we want to hold people accountable and on the other hand we're willing to let people get away with murder," said Breed.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said the open-air drug problem is not a new one but one that has become so visible many San Franciscans do not feel safe.

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"Even though San Francisco in most of its neighborhoods is as safe or safer than it was prior to the pandemic," said Peskin.

We've seen efforts ramp up recently to address San Francisco's drug crisis.

At the start of the month, the CHP began deploying officers to specific high crime areas, including the Tenderloin and South of Market, as part of a collaborative effort with national guard members and the city to crackdown on dealers.

In a statement to ABC7 News, Supervisor Preston said the Department of Emergency Management is coordinating a pilot program, though it's unclear what they are piloting beyond arrests of drug users.

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He tweeted in part, "Arresting people for drug addiction is not moderate nor commonsense. It's reactionary, cruel, and counterproductive."

Supervisor Ahsha Safai told ABC7 News, "We have some proposals that are on the table that will work with adult probation, that will work with the Sheriff's Department that will say if you are an addict if you are in the process or on the verge of overdosing we need to have public health, sheriff's department and probation work together so we can compel people into treatment."

The SF Chronicle points to new city statistics, which show a 41% spike in San Francisco's overdose deaths over the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year - with 200 people dying between January and March.

By their calculations, the city is on pace to exceed last year's total.

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