Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) directed the state National Guard and California Highway Patrol to help in the fight against fentanyl trafficking in San Francisco.
As part of a new partnership, the agencies are tasked with identifying personnel and resources to assist San Francisco following a 41% spike in fentanyl overdose deaths in the first few months of this year.
“We are providing more law enforcement resources and personnel to crack down on crime linked to the fentanyl crisis, holding the poison peddlers accountable, and increasing law enforcement presence to improve public safety and public confidence in San Francisco,” Newsom said in a statement on Friday.
Newsom’s office said the collaboration, which also includes the San Francisco Police Department and and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, will be focused on drug suppliers and traffickers rather than seeking to criminalize those struggling with substance abuse in a city that has recorded several hundred accidental overdose deaths annually in recent years.
The agreement will “lead to the formation of a new collaborative operation between all four agencies focused on dismantling fentanyl trafficking and disrupting the supply of the deadly drug in the city by holding the operators of large-scale drug trafficking operations accountable,” the governor’s office said.
Newsom paid a visit on Wednesday to San Francisco, a city he once led as mayor, and surveyed the Tenderloin neighborhood, which has been hit hard by crime and the fentanyl crisis. The trip took place a couple weeks after San Francisco Mayor London Breed requested federal assistance to arrest and prosecute drug dealers while the city contends with a short-staffed police department, according to local ABC affiliate KGO.
“I want to thank Governor Newsom for this critical support to help break up the open-air drug dealing happening in our city,” Breed said in a statement Friday. “Our Police Department and District Attorney have been partnering to tackle this issue and increase enforcement, but our local agencies can use more support. With the Governor’s leadership and clear direction, our state enforcement agencies can partner with us to make a difference for our residents, businesses, and workers who are living with the impacts every day.”
During Newsom’s visit to Tenderloin, activist JJ Smith pressed the governor on what he is doing to stop the fentanyl crisis, according to CBS News Bay Area. JJ Smith recalled Newsom saying he is working on the issue, a response which the activist felt was inadequate.
“They’re so busy worried about giving them a safe place to use drugs,” Smith said. “Why not find out let’s give them a safe place to get off drugs.”
Newsom, who is widely seen as a top future presidential contender for the Democrats, says he has already invested more than $1 billion to tackle the opioid and fentanyl crisis in California. His new budget request seeks another $96 million in funding to tackle the problem.