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Gov. Newsom sends National Guard and CHP to tackle San Francisco's fentanyl crisis

Pedestrians walk along the edge of a sidewalk to avoid tents and sleeping bags, on April 13, 2020, in the tenderloin area of San Francisco.
Ben Margot
/
AP
Pedestrians walk along the edge of a sidewalk to avoid tents and sleeping bags, on April 13, 2020, in the tenderloin area of San Francisco.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is directing the California Highway Patrol and National Guard to assist San Francisco authorities in combating the fentanyl crisis in the city.

The two agencies will be partnering with the local police department and the district attorney's office to attempt to stem trafficking of the deadly synthetic opioid.

"Two truths can co-exist at the same time: San Francisco's violent crime rate is below comparably sized cities like Jacksonville and Fort Worth — and there is also more we must do to address public safety concerns, especially the fentanyl crisis," Newsom said in a press statement on Friday.

The four agencies are expected to "crack down" on crimes linked to fentanyl and increase law enforcement presence in public areas. However, Newsom's office vowed that the operation will not target those with drug addictions and instead focus on drug suppliers and traffickers.

CHP will assist local police in drug trafficking enforcement in key areas of the city, including the Tenderloin district, where Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency in December 2021 over crime and drug overdoses.

Meanwhile, the California National Guard will offer support in analyzing drug operations, with a particular focus on fentanyl trafficking rings.

Newsom's announcement did not include details on the number of personnel involved, funding and what enforcement will look like. The governor's office did not immediately respond to NPR's request for a comment.

The multiagency effort comes as San Francisco grapples with an alarming rise in deaths linked to fentanyl, a drug known for being more potent and deadlythan heroin.

In 2021, 474 people diedfrom fentanyl-related overdoses in the city. Between January and March of this year, 200 people died from accidental drug overdoses, with a vast majority of deaths involving the synthetic opioid, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Matt Dorsey, a San Francisco supervisor, thanked Newsom on Twitterfor providing the city "much-needed state resources to disrupt, dismantle and deter brazen open-air drug markets."

State Sen. Scott Wiener said he also welcomed the coordinated effort, but also noted that the governor vetoedhis legislation to create a pilot program for safe consumption sites in the city, the San Francisco Standard reported.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.