Mayor London Breed made a dramatic departure from the liberal traditions that have led her city for decades on Friday by declaring a state of emergency in one of the city’s most crime-ridden districts, a move that has been widely criticised.
Mayor London Breed’s declaration comes only a few days after she underlined the importance of the police department’s efforts to clean up what she has characterised as “nasty streets.” During a press appearance at City Hall, which is only a few blocks from from a street corner where drug dealers openly hawk fentanyl and methamphetamine, she said, “We are in a crisis, and we must react appropriately.” It was also said that “too many people are dying in our city, and too many people are sprawled on our streets.”
The Tenderloin, a district on San Francisco’s Lower East Side, has long been a focal point for drug selling, overdose fatalities, and homelessness. Despite this, Ms. Breed said in an interview that she had reached her “breaking point” in recent weeks after meeting parents of young children who reside in the Tenderloin and who expressed a sense of being continuously endangered.
A significant shift in tone and policy in a city that has been split by issues such as homeless encampments and open-air drug use was signalled by her actions and strikingly forthright rhetoric. In her first week in office, she spoke out against “a reign of criminals,” rubbish dumped across neighbourhoods that included “faeces and urine,” and stealing at high-end establishments that she described as “mass looting events.” She was elected as a liberal Democrat.
SF tourist bureau president and chief executive Joe D’Alessandro acknowledged that the city has a public image issue and applauded Mayor Ed Lee for taking steps to rectify the situation.
As he put it, “we are happy and enthused about seeing some big actions taken to make San Francisco a safer city.” “People are just fed up with some of the things they’ve seen and want to see something done about it.”
The declaration of a state of emergency was focused primarily at the drug overdose crisis: Overdoses from drugs claimed the lives of more than twice as many individuals in San Francisco last year as deaths from the coronavirus. However, Friday’s statement is part of a larger, more aggressive effort to clamp down on drug trafficking and improve living conditions in general. In practise, Ms. Breed said that the city would no longer accept illegal drug users on the streets, and that they would be given the option of treatment or arrest if they did not comply.
Ms. Breed recognised earlier this week that many of her progressive supporters would oppose her initiatives, but she said that “we can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.” She described San Francisco as a kind city that took pleasure in giving people second opportunities in life. Nevertheless, she said, “we are not a city where everything goes.”
The circumstances in San Francisco have served as grist for Fox News and other conservative media sources around the country as indicators of disorder allegedly brought about by liberal government policy. In San Francisco, opponents of the district attorney, Chesa Boudin, have attempted to capitalise on a sense of chaos as well as high-profile episodes of retail theft in order to advance a recall campaign against her. Ms. Breed used more vehement words this week than even the most outspoken detractors of her hometown.
Ms. Breed presented a number of actions designed to disrupt the sale of stolen items on the street, increase police surveillance capabilities, and compel individuals who use narcotics to seek medical treatment. In her statement, Ms. Breed said that declaring a state of emergency would reduce red tape and enhance money for the police, who she claimed had already begun arresting “those who have been holding this community captive” during felony warrant raids.
Hanh Huynh, 33, who lives a block away from an empty playground, claimed that the Vietnamese grocery shop where she works was routinely robbed, and that she had just relocated because she was concerned about raising her 2-year-old son in the neighbourhood where she worked. “I’m a big fan of the mayor,” he remarked. Pay attention to what she says, obey the rules, and do what you’re supposed to do.
The city, according to Ms. Thomas, should focus its efforts on implementing existing projects, such as one that would extend mental health treatment, and on building supervised injection facilities, which would help to minimise overdose fatalities. By replacing faulty streetlights and eliminating garbage and human waste, the mayor has also pledged to improve the overall quality of life in the city.
Some of the homeless persons who live in the Tenderloin chose to ignore the mayor’s declaration, as did others. It’s “grandstanding,” said Tom O’Doherty, 48, who claimed to be homeless and lived on Treasure Island in the Tenderloin, but who often travelled to the Tenderloin to hang out with pals. In the vicinity of their friend’s tent, Mr. O’Doherty and his buddies were repairing their bicycles and playing music, while a few others in the vicinity were using methamphetamine.
He described the location on the street as being similar to the bar from the television show “Cheers,” with regulars coming and departing. When compared to other major cities such as Chicago or Atlanta, his buddy Jeff Crowell, 65, minimised the violence and claimed it was “small.” Moreover, Mr. O’Doherty said that anytime the police entered a neighbourhood and swept out the homeless people and narcotics, the homeless people and drugs just migrated a few streets away.