SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco City Attorney Denis Herrera filed a lawsuit against 28 suspected drug dealers to prevent them from entering the Tenderloin neighborhood, he announced Thursday, Sept. 24.

Herrera seeks to stop the drug market that he said has “plagued this historic neighborhood at the center of the City’s opioid crisis.” The dealers that have been sued are said to be from around the Bay Area and to travel to the Tenderloin only for their business. 

“We know who these predators are, and we will not allow them to victimize Tenderloin residents with impunity,” said Herrera. “Dealers take note: If you come to the Tenderloin, you will be arrested and your drugs will be confiscated.”

The injunctions would prohibit the dealers from entering a 50 square block area in the neighborhood. They could receive up to $6000 in penalties for each violation of the ruling, or they could be arrested. If they are arrested and they have illegal drugs or contraband in their possession, these would be taken from them. The attorney’s office said each of the lawsuits contains evidence of drug dealing in the Tenderloin from each of the individuals, while they also safeguard their rights as defendants. 

The announcement comes after San Francisco’s overdose deaths spiked 70% in 2019 and fentanyl overdoses doubled from the previous year. According to officials, 441 people died that year, and of those, 239 deaths were due to fentanyl. In the Tenderloin, 81 people have died this year because of drug overdoses. City officials say this market targets the vulnerable members of the community, housed and unhoused. 

During the announcement, Herrera recognized the lawsuits were not a “silver bullet.” He said this move was meant to be a tool to prevent the Tenderloin from being used as “the Bay Area’s open-air drug market.” He added that to stop the drug problem, mental health and drug treatment options should be expanded, and there needs to be a focus on big suppliers as well. 

Mayor London Breed commented on the lawsuits and called it a creative approach to stop the open-air drug dealing in the Tenderloin. 

“While we absolutely need to continue to invest in treatment and push for innovative public health solutions like safe injection sites to help those struggling with addiction, we also need to stop the rampant drug dealing that Tenderloin residents see outside their windows every single day,” said Breed. “This neighborhood deserves better, and our City needs to do better.”