SF Police Abandon Drug War, Focus on Serious Crimes

Drug arrests have dropped 75 percent over past five years


On his way out of City Hall on a recent evening, Police Chief Greg Suhr encountered a crime in progress — a man sitting on the steps of a basement entrance, syringe in hand. Suhr said he handled it in the way the Police Department currently deals with drug crimes.

"We disposed of the narcotics, and we had [the man] safely dispose of the syringe," the chief recalled Monday.

In other words, nobody was arrested and nobody went to jail for a nonviolent, low-level drug offense — the types of crimes increasingly seen as low-priority for law enforcement, by both the public and police.

Drug arrests are on a steep decline in the Bay Area and in San Francisco, where such arrests — for felonies and misdemeanors — have dropped 75 percent over the past five years, according to California Department of Justice data.