This unit will be dedicated to investigating deaths resulting from Fentanyl overdoses.
The proposed task force will comprise members from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), the San Francisco district attorney's office, and several statewide law enforcement agencies, as per a press release from the governor's office. The unit will approach opioid-related deaths with the same protocols used at homicide scenes, gathering evidence to identify and potentially prosecute drug dealers as murderers.
"The opioid crisis has claimed too many, and Fentanyl traffickers must be held accountable including, as appropriate, for murder," Governor Newsom stated in the press release. "This task force is fighting for those affected by this crisis — for victims and loved ones who deserve peace. Working together, we will continue providing treatment and resources to help those struggling with substance use — and secure justice for families who have lost loved ones."
The task force members will aim to identify drug distribution "networks" that could be the primary sources of Fentanyl in the city. This initiative will be part of a broader effort to suppress "large crime syndicates" in the area. The task force is expected to be fully operational by 2024.
Sean Duryee, the commissioner of the California Highway Patrol, expressed his pride in being part of this innovative law enforcement collaboration in San Francisco. "Our skilled investigators are unmatched in their commitment to serve the people of California, solve crime, and bring justice," he said in the press release.
San Francisco began its partnership with the California government in May due to the city's high number of overdose deaths. Since then, officials have made 364 felony and misdemeanor arrests related to Fentanyl overdoses and have recovered 18.5 kilos of the drug.
However, residents of the Tenderloin district and other drug-plagued areas of San Francisco argue that these efforts have done little to address the ongoing problem. "The streets are the same," Amin Hadwan, a restaurant owner in the Tenderloin district, told The San Francisco Chronicle in September. "I see the same faces doing the same things."
Data from the city's government showed that at least 620 people in San Francisco have died from drug overdoses since January, with 506 of those deaths attributed to Fentanyl. The city is projected to record a staggering 850 deaths related to drug use by the end of 2023.