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San Francisco (BCN)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed stepped up efforts to crack down on public drug use and other unrest in the city’s net, announcing an official state of emergency in the neighborhood on Friday.

According to Breed’s office, the emergency declaration would work the same as the city’s COVID-19 emergency declaration and allow the city to respond to health and safety concerns on the streets quickly and without bureaucratic barriers. .

More specifically, the declaration allows the city to derogate from the rules regarding public procurement and zoning codes in order to quickly open a “liaison site” to voluntarily connect people living on the streets and struggling with drug addiction problems. and mental health to services.

The statement comes just two days after Breed, along with emergency and law enforcement officials, announced several new initiatives to address neighborhood health and safety concerns, including public drug use and vendors. illegal street vendors selling stolen items.

“When we look at the conditions on our streets, it’s really unfortunate; it’s sad; it’s heartbreaking, ”Breed said in a briefing at city hall on Friday. “We have to go fast. Too many people are dying in this city. Too many people are spread out in our streets. And now we have a plan to fix it.

According to Breed, an emergency response is needed in the region, as the opioid crisis has worsened in recent years, with the highly addictive synthetic opioid fentanyl contributing to a sharp rise in overdose deaths.

“This is needed to see a difference, to reverse some of the deaths from overdoses, as well as assaults and attacks that are happening in this community,” she said. “When people walk the streets of San Francisco, they should feel safe. They shouldn’t have to look over their shoulders; they shouldn’t have to be hit in the face at random; they shouldn’t have to see someone stick a needle in various parts of their body; they shouldn’t have to see someone lying in the street… ”

The supervisory board is due to approve the emergency declaration within the next week, and if approved, the declaration will last 90 days, according to Breed’s office.

Supervisor Matt Haney, whose district includes the Tenderloin, is in favor of the statement.

“The overdose epidemic kills nearly two people a day in our city. Most of these people are in the net and the south of the market and are mainly from fentanyl, ”he said. “As the supervisor of the Tenderloin, but also as a resident of the Tenderloin, we need an emergency response at the crisis level to deal with this deadly epidemic on the scale of the problem we are facing. “

Emergency Management Department executive director Mary Ellen Carroll said the liaison site will not only help people coordinate health services from community organizations and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, but the site will also help people obtain food, hygiene supplies and connect them with housing programs.

“The declaration of emergency is really about removing the barriers so that we can come in and do the work that we need to do. [to] help the residents of Tenderloin. Our goal is to coordinate these services as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the overall suffering experienced by people in the neighborhood, ”she said.

On Wednesday, Breed announced the Emergency Response Plan for the Net, which involves several approaches to tackle crime and drug use in public and improve the neighborhood. Part of this is increasing the police presence in the area.

In addition, Breed on Wednesday proposed amending the city surveillance technology ordinance – passed by supervisors in 2019 – to allow police access to more surveillance cameras throughout the city. She also proposed increased funding for law enforcement training, hiring and increased overtime.

“At the end of the day, the people in this community are not safe and that’s not good. Part of the answer to this is definitely from police officers, ”Breed said on Friday.

“We have to stop the drug dealers. We need to stop the people who assault people, ”Police Chief William Scott said. “Our agents have said time and time again, ‘Let’s have a system where we can involve social workers’, and that’s exactly what it does up front so that we can go and do whatever the public wants us to do: stop the people who hurt people; stop the outdoor drug use; and stop some of the madness that is happening on our streets.

Defund SFPD Now group criticized Breed’s newly announced initiatives on Friday.

“The mayor’s plan includes measures to allocate additional funds to the San Francisco Police Department, expand coordinated sweeps of homeless people, expand surveillance and target unlicensed street vendors. While we believe in doing all we can to secure basic resources and dignity, Mayor Breed’s latest proposal hijacks the city’s neoliberal policy failures by trapping vulnerable people in the net, ”Defund said SFPD Now in a press release.

“We are disappointed that Mayor Breed is using the declaration of a state of emergency to increase the scope of criminalization rather than using it to meet people’s needs with respect and compassion,” the group said.

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