National Guard explains their role in fighting San Francisco's fentanyl crisis

Liz Kreutz Image
ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Saturday, April 29, 2023
National Guard explains their role in fighting SF's fentanyl crisis
California National Guard explains how they will carry out their roles in fighting San Francisco's fentanyl crisis.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We're now learning more about San Francisco's new plan to crackdown on drug dealers and combat the fentanyl crisis, including how the CHP and California National Guard will be used in this effort.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott and Mayor London Breed joined California Highway Patrol, the California National Guard and other city officials on Friday to offer more details on the new plan.

Governor Gavin Newsom first announced it late last week, but there were many questions left unanswered.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom calls in CA National Guard to help combat SF's ongoing fentanyl crisis

"I know there's a lot of questions," Chief Scott acknowledged to reporters. "What's the the National Guard's role? What's the CHP's role?"

According to city officials, this coming Monday, May 1, the CHP will begin deploying officers to specific high crime areas of San Francisco, including the Tenderloin and South of Market. CHP would not say exactly how many officers, but the agency currently has 75 uniformed officers in San Francisco.

"Just the mere presence of us being there with the San Francisco Police Department officers, we believe, will help deter and disrupt criminal activity," CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee said.

Asked if CHP officers will be making arrests, Duryee replied: "Our officers are trained in criminal apprehension. They will take action if they see it and make appropriate arrests.

"Let me be clear," he added, "We're not coming in here to take over. The highway patrol is going to supplement San Francisco's efforts and we will compliment them in those efforts."

RELATED: Mixed reaction to Gov. Newsom's plans to combat San Francisco's fentanyl crisis

California National Guard Major General Matthew Beevers also explained their agency's role. He said they have a team of 14 national guard members who will work behind the scenes to gather intelligence on cartels and drug trafficking.

"What I want to do upfront is dispel a lot of rumors," Major General Beevers said. "The California National Guards' presence in this is not going to be boots on the ground in San Francisco."

"The support that we're going to provide really consists of very talented soldiers and airmen that do essentially criminal analyst work," he explained. He added that they use their analysis to map cartel efforts operating both in the city and outside of the city "and then work to dismantle those networks."

Beevers' remarks clarifying the role of the California National Guard appeared to be in response to concerns some have raised about the presence of the agency.

San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston called it a "military intervention" and said the effort is a way of "declaring war on a diverse low-income, urban neighborhood."

At the press conference, ABC7 News asked Mayor Breed how she responds to those concerned this could lead to another "war on drugs."

"As far as I'm concerned, my plan is part of what's been missing. Because this city has been extremely generous with regards to social services," Breed said.

"We will continue to invest heavily in providing opportunities for people and second chances, which is different from what was happening in the 80s...everything was about arrest, lock people up," she added. "This is different. This is programs, services, second chances, opportunities, but also accountability and what's been missing has been accountability. And that's what this is all about."

MORE: San Francisco's drug overdose crisis shows no signs of slowing in 2023, reports reveal

Chief Scott said ultimately the new, inter-agency effort is about targeting and dismantling drug trafficking networks both in and outside of San Francisco.

"Our attention needs to be on the drug dealers that are making all this happen, and that is exactly where our focus will be," he said.

Asked how the city will measure success, officials did not give clear goal-posts. But Chief Scott said, for him, it's seeing visible change.

"The most immediate measure of success is we have to see a change in the streets," he said. "We have to see a change in the streets and we have to see a change in behavior, more importantly. It's not okay to do what people are doing."

He projected optimism it would happen.

"These things take time," he added. "But we do expect to see some immediate changes."

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